What is Breast Cancer Screening?
As you age, getting routine medical screenings can be both life-changing and life-saving. While they may seem a bit intimidating at first, body scans and screenings are some of the easiest medical procedures you’ll experience, and they’ll give you answers to questions you didn’t even know you had. Today, we’re focusing on the importance of breast cancer screening and why it is integral to your health and wellness.
While Craft Body Scan cannot help you detect your early-stage breast cancer nor do we replace the need for a mammogram, we still believe it’s vital for you to have all the information you should regarding your quality of life.
So, here’s what every woman needs to know about breast cancer screenings.
Most Common Symptoms of Breast Cancer
Before we discuss the details of a breast cancer screening, let’s talk about some of the common signs and symptoms of breast cancer itself.
If you’re worried you have breast cancer, you’ll want to look out for the following symptoms:
- Thickening or swelling of the breast
- New lumps found in the breast or armpit
- Redness or flaky skin on or around the nipple area
- Change in the size or shape of the breast
- Pulling in of the nipple
- Pain in any area of the breast and nipple
- Discharge other than breast milk, including blood
- Irritation or dimpling of the breast’s skin
If you have any of these signs or symptoms, you’ll want to meet with your physician right away. While these symptoms don’t necessarily mean you have cancer, it’s always best to double-check and see what your doctor has to say. Chances are, they’re going to want you to undergo a breast cancer screening to ensure that everything is in tip-top shape.
What are the Different Stages of Breast Cancer?
In the event that you go to your physician and they find that you do have breast cancer, you’ll get diagnosed with one of four stages of cancer. But, what are the different stages of breast cancer? We’ve broken them down for you below.
If your doctor diagnoses you with stage one cancer, that means the cancer is still small and only present in the breast tissue or lymph nodes near the breast. This is the earliest stage of breast cancer and provides the best chance of survival and recovery.
Stage one breast cancer actually has two different types: stage 1A and stage 1B. Stage 1A means that they found the cancer to be 2 cm or smaller, and it hasn’t spread outside of the breast. On the other hand, stage 1B means that the cancer is present in the lymph nodes near the breast. This means that there is either no tumor found in the breast or that the tumor is 2 cm or smaller.
Stage two breast cancer is a bit more severe than stage one. This means that the cancer is in the breast, nearby lymph nodes, or both. Still, it is an early sign of cancer that you can treat quite effectively. Just like stage one breast cancer, stage two also has two different groups.
For stage 2A breast cancer, this means that there is either no tumor or a tumor 2 cm or smaller found within the breast. Along with this, professionals would have found cancer cells in 1 – 3 lymph nodes near the breastbone or in the armpit. This could also mean that doctors found a tumor larger than 2 cm but not bigger than 5 cm; there isn’t any cancer in the lymph nodes, though.
If you’re diagnosed with stage 2B breast cancer, this could mean a few things. One, the tumor is larger than 2 cm but not any bigger than 5 cm; however, there are small areas of cancer cells found within the lymph nodes. This could also mean that they found a tumor larger than 2 cm (but smaller than 5cm) and that the cancer has spread to 1 – 3 lymph nodes. Finally, stage 2B could mean that the tumor doctors found is larger than 5 cm but hasn’t spread to any lymph nodes.
Unfortunately, stage 3 breast cancer indicates that the cancer has spread from the breast tissue to the lymph nodes near the breast or chest wall. You may also hear your doctor refer to it as “locally advanced breast cancer.”
Stage 3 breast cancer is separated into three different groups: Stage 3A, 3B, and 3C.
If you’re diagnosed with stage 3A breast cancer, then cancer is found in 4 – 9 lymph glands. They may or may not find a tumor in the breast, and the tumor could be of any size. It also means that doctors found a tumor that’s more than 5 cm and has spread to 3 lymph nodes.
Stage 3B indicates that the cancer has spread to the chest wall or the skin of the breast. At this point, the cancer may have spread to up to 9 lymph nodes near the breastbone or in the underarm. With stage 3B, you’ll likely notice swelling and physical changes to your breast.
Finally, stage 3C breast cancer means that doctors have found cancer in the skin of the breast and that it’s spreading to the chest wall. The cancer has also traveled to one or more of these places:
- 10 or more lymph nodes within the underarm
- Lymph glands below or above your collarbone
- Lymph nodes in the underarm and near the breastbone
Stage four breast cancer is also called secondary breast cancer, advanced cancer, or metastatic breast cancer. It indicates that cancer cells have, unfortunately, spread to other parts of the body. The tumors can be of any size, and lymph nodes may or may not have cancer cells. At this point, cancer metastasizes to parts of the body like the brain, lungs, bones, or liver.
Of course, this is the most serious form of breast cancer and requires intense treatments to recover.
What Age Should You Be Screened for Breast Cancer?
We’re not trying to scare you; but, bringing all this information up should have you wondering, “What age should I get a breast exam? Do I need a mammogram?” So, what age should you get a mammogram, and what can you expect from the process?
Typically, starting at about age 40, you should begin having regular breast cancer screenings and mammograms. While this may be a bit early for some women, this is the perfect opportunity to pick up on problems early and get a headstart on your health. Once you hit 45, it’s integral to have a mammogram every year to ensure that everything is still going well.
In general, breast cancer screenings aren’t ideal for those under the age of 40. But, if you know you’re predisposed to breast cancer or genetic mutations, then you may be able to get your first screening at 25. However, this tends to be uncommon.
CT Scan for Breast Cancer
While mammograms are x-rays that check for breast cancer or irregularities, CT scans work to help see how much cancer has spread once you’ve been diagnosed. Typically, these screenings only pick up late-stage cancer. Thus, they’ll help indicate what stage your cancer is at, where the tumors have spread, and more.
All of this information will help your doctor understand what kind of treatment plan is best for you. Without a breast CT scan, it would be incredibly difficult to see if your cancer has metastasized. However, you cannot rely on them to find breast cancer in the first place. With that, we have to stress that while CBS specializes in body scans, our screenings are not designed to detect breast cancer nor replace your regular mammograms. If we do detect breast cancer in our body scans, this means it is late-stage.
If you’re concerned you have breast cancer, speak with your physician before coming to Craft Body Scan.
With this, you may also be wondering, “How long does a breast MRI scan take?” This depends, but most people will lie still on their breasts for about 30 minutes to one hour. The process requires that you lay unmoving and let the machine scan and take internal photos of the body. These images are what show medical professionals whether or not cancer is present, how far it has spread, and what the next steps might be.
Does Medicare Cover the Cost of Breast Cancer Screening?
Yes, Medicare covers one breast cancer screening every year for each woman aged 40 and older. Medicare even covers some of the newer, digital mammograms that you may need to get. Most women won’t pay anything for these preventative healthcare scans.