Cutting through the Mammography and Breast Cancer Confusion
October is breast cancer awareness month. This year an expected 231,840 cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women, along with 62,290 cases of non-invasive, or in-situ, breast cancer. About 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer. More than 40,000 women will die from breast cancer this year. Early detection is vital. Unfortunately, recent American Cancer Society (ACS) changes to recommended guidelines for mammography are fraught with controversy and are adding to confusion for patients and the public.
As a pathologist and critical member of cancer care teams, I urge women to understand that there is no “one size fits all” approach to diagnosing and treating all types of cancer, particularly breast cancer.
All women can and should communicate with their primary care physicians and assess their personal levels of breast cancer risks based on a variety of components that include family and health history as well as genetic factors such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutations. Pathologists help care teams identify these risks and are the specialized doctors that help radiologists, oncologists and other physicians resolve mammography findings when biopsies are required.
So rather than be alarmed, be informed. Communicate with your physician. Ask about your personal risks based on your health and history. Understand lifestyle factors that may contribute to your risks and take the steps you need to stay healthy.
To learn more about the vital role of the pathologist, visit cap.org. And when a biopsy is required, the College of American Pathologists also provides a helpful resource to understand the details behind your biopsy and pathology report to help make informed decisions about your health.
Get the facts about your health. Get a copy of your pathology report. Understand it and ask questions. Discover the other member of your care team, the pathologist.
Stay tuned to Path Report during the month of October for continuing stories on breast cancer. What you need to know and how pathologists are working to make patients healthy.