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Seeing Pink Is a Great Mammogram Reminder

As much as the red of changing leaves and the orange of Halloween pumpkins, pink has become one of the colors of fall. The pink ribbons that abound this time of year remind us that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the fight against breast cancer isn’t over yet.

A mammogram is the best preventive tool in the fight against breast cancer. Reminding a co-worker, friend or loved one who is over age 40 to get a mammogram could help save a life. Learn more about breast cancer and mammography below:

What is Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer is a type of disease that starts in the breast. Cancer happens when cells start to grow out of control.

  • Breast cancer is the second most common form of cancer and the second-leading cause of death in American women.

  • More than 270,000 new breast cancer cases were diagnosed in 2020.

  • A mammogram is the best preventive tool in the fight against breast cancer and is the only test shown to reduce breast cancer deaths.

  • Mammograms can help find cancer early, when it is most treatable — long before it can be felt or before a person has symptoms. Early detection improves the odds of survival and can help avoid more extensive treatment.

  • There are currently more than 3.8 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.

Increased breast cancer awareness and education are essential to overcoming this disease. Knowing breast cancer symptoms, risk factors, prevention and the importance of screening can help you, your friends and your loved ones.

Risk Factors for Breast Cancer

You may be at a higher risk for breast cancer if you have any of these risk factors.

  • Getting older. Besides being female, older age is the main risk factor. The chance of getting breast cancer increases with age.

  • Women with any of the following have an increased risk of breast cancer:

    • Personal history of breast cancer or certain non-cancerous breast diseases. Women who have had breast cancer are more likely to get breast cancer a second time. Some non-cancerous breast diseases are also associated with a higher risk of getting breast cancer.

    • Inherited risk of breast cancer. This includes a family history of a mother, sister or daughter (first-degree relative), or multiple family members on a mother or father’s side of the family who have had breast or ovarian cancer, or inherited genes, such as BRACA1 and BRACA2.

    • Dense breast tissue. Women with very dense breasts have a higher risk of breast cancer than women with low breast density. Dense breast tissue will be indicated on a woman’s mammogram.

    • Reproductive history. Early menstrual periods before age 12 and starting menopause after age 55 expose women to hormones longer, raising their risk of getting breast cancer.

    • Radiation therapy of the breast or chest. Women who had radiation therapy to the chest or breasts before age 30 have a higher risk of getting breast cancer later in life.

What You Can Do to Reduce Your Risk of Breast Cancer:

While you cannot change the risk factors for getting breast cancer, there are many things all women can do that might reduce their risk.

  • Get regular exercise.

  • Keep a healthy weight.

  • Don’t drink alcohol or limit alcoholic drinks.

  • Don’t smoke or use nicotine products.

  • If you are taking or are considering hormone replacement therapy or oral contraceptives (birth control pills), ask your doctor about the risks and options.

  • Breastfeed your children, if possible.

  • If you have a family history of breast cancer or inherited changes in your BRACA1 and BRACA2 genes, talk to your doctor about other ways to lower your risk.

Staying healthy throughout your life will lower your risk of developing cancer and improve your chances of surviving cancer if it occurs.

What are the Signs or Symptoms of Breast Cancer?
  • New lump in the breast or underarm (armpit)

  • Thickening or swelling of part of the breast

  • Irritation or dimpling of the breast skin

  • Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast

  • Inversion or pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area

  • Discharge from the nipple other than breast milk

  • Any change in the size and shape of the breast

  • Pain in any area of the breast

If you have any signs or symptoms that worry you, be sure to see your doctor right away. Keep in mind that these symptoms can happen with other conditions that are not cancer.

Breast cancer symptoms vary widely, and many people diagnosed with breast cancer have no obvious signs or symptoms. This is why a screening test like a mammogram is important.

Breast Cancer Screening

Breast cancer screening is checking a woman’s breast for cancer before there are signs or symptoms of the disease.

The American Cancer Society recommends an annual screening mammogram for women age 40 and older. Your doctor may recommend screening at an earlier age, depending on your family history or other risk factors.

Screening Mammography

A mammogram is a non-invasive X-ray used to check breasts for breast cancer and other abnormalities. A mammogram is the best preventive tool in the fight against breast cancer and is the only test shown to reduce breast cancer deaths. While a mammogram cannot prevent breast cancer, it can help find cancer early, when it is most treatable — long before it can be felt or before a person has symptoms. Early detection improves the odds of survival and can help avoid more extensive treatment.

Digital 3D Mammography

3D mammography technology (or Tomosynthesis) offers the highest resolution breast scans available and is performed at BJC mammography locations. Compared to traditional mammography machines that produce one flat picture, 3D mammography produces layers upon layers of high-resolution images of breast tissue. This allows the radiologist to scroll through your digital mammogram page by page, layer by layer, to look for suspicious masses — allowing for earlier detection should cancer be present.

Find a Mammography Location in Your Community

Mammograms and other imaging test results are read by experienced, board-certified radiologists from the Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology at Washington University School of Medicine. Our multidisciplinary women’s health team supports their efforts with the latest and most comprehensive and compassionate breast health care for women throughout the area.

No doctor’s order is needed to schedule a mammography.

BJC HealthCare offers multiple mammography locations throughout the St. Louis area, including eastern Missouri and southern Illinois.

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