While breast cancer can be a scary subject, there is hope. When caught early, it is often highly treatable. One of the most important steps you can take to find cancer early is to have routine breast cancer screenings. Screening is a way to find cancer before symptoms occur. Locally, the Cancer Services Program of the Finger Lakes Region can connect you with resources that are close to work or home.
Breast cancer screening includes physical exams and imaging exams. Doctors may perform a physical exam of the breast to check for general signs of disease, such as lumps or anything else that appears unusual.
Imaging exams, like the mammogram, are performed at a radiology facility. X-ray pictures of the breast are taken to find signs of the disease that cannot be seen with the naked eye.
A history of the patient’s personal health as well as their family’s health will also be taken into account. Talk with a healthcare provider about when you should be screened.
For women at average risk, a mammogram is currently the best way to find changes too small for you or your healthcare provider to feel. The earlier cancer is found, the better the chances for successful treatment and survival.
Guidelines vary, but women of average risk for breast cancer should begin talking to a healthcare provider about screening mammograms starting at age 40. That’s why annual clinical breast exams and mammograms are covered for women age 40 and older (see the answer to the question below about breast cancer screening in New York State). If you have a family history of breast cancer, or other reasons for concern, you should talk with a healthcare provider about the best time to start screening.
If you don’t have a healthcare provider who can direct you to a mammography facility, there are resources available. Simply contact the Cancer Services Program of the Finger Lakes Region at 585-224-3070. They can direct you to special screening events and after-hours appointments. If you cannot afford a mammogram, the CSP-FLR can pay for your screening for you.
Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women in New York State. Unfortunately, close to 22% of women in New York State aged 50-74 have reported not being up-to-date with their screenings. New York State is improving access to screenings by removing insurance barriers such as out-of-pocket costs, and expanding screening hours at hospitals and clinics. For more on New York State legislation regarding breast cancer screenings, go to the NYS Department of Health website.
Knowing your family and personal health history helps healthcare providers better understand your potential risk for breast cancer. By completing this questionnaire prior to your visit, you will be able to help them determine the best screening schedule for you. Simply download, print, complete, and bring it with you to your appointment.