Breast Cancer Education: Mammograms

SGK_NBCAM_2014_EducationMammography is a screening tool that uses X-rays to create images of the breast. These images, called mammograms, are used to find early signs of breast cancer such as a dense mass or clusters of calcium.

Mammography is the best screening tool for breast cancer used today. It can find cancers at an early stage, when they are small (too small to be felt) and the chances of survival are highest.

X-ray images of the breast can be captured on film or stored directly onto a computer (digital). Film and digital mammography are similar in their ability to detect breast cancer. Because digital images are viewed on a computer, they can be lightened or darkened, and certain sections can be enlarged and looked at more closely. This ability to control the images on a computer makes digital mammography more accurate than film mammography for some women. And, because the images are stored on a computer, they can be shared more easily with another radiologist for review.

Guidelines for people at average risk vary. Most major cancer organizations, including Susan G. Komen, recommend that mammograms begin at age 40 for women who are at average risk for breast cancer.

Women who are at a higher risk for breast cancer should speak with their doctor about their personal screening recommendations. Some women ages 70 and older stop regular screening. Susan G. Komen recommends that women who are in good health and could benefit from treatment (if breast cancer were found) should continue to get mammograms.

At any age, if there is any question about whether you should have a mammogram, talk to your health care provider.

Learn more:

We’re celebrating National Breast Cancer Awareness Month for the next six weeks. Connect with and follow Komen St. Louis and use the hashtag #bcjourney to join in the conversation.


Breast Cancer Education: Clinical Breast Exam

SGK_NBCAM_2014_EducationA clinical breast exam (CBE) is a physical exam done by a health care provider as part of your regular medical check-up. Your provider should carefully feel your breasts and underarms for any changes or abnormalities (such as a lump). He/she should visually check your breasts while you are sitting up and physically examine your breasts while you are lying down. It is important to ask for a CBE if one is not offered at your check-up.

If you are 20-39 years, have a CBE at least every three years. If you are 40 or older, have your mammogram close to the time of your CBE. In women ages 40 and older, CBE combined with mammography may find more cancers than mammography alone. When used together at yearly check-ups, fewer breast cancers are missed. However, whereas CBE is an important complement to mammography, it is not a substitute for mammograms in women 40 and older.

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) recommends that men at higher risk for breast cancer have a clinical breast exam every six to 12 months, starting at age 35.

Learn more:

We’re celebrating National Breast Cancer Awareness Month for the next six weeks. Connect with and follow Komen St. Louis and use the hashtag #bcjourney to join in the conversation.

Breast Cancer Education: What is Breast Cancer?

SGK_NBCAM_2014_EducationIn a healthy body, natural systems control the creation, growth and death of cells. Most of the time cells divide and grow in an orderly manner. But sometimes cells grow out of control. This kind of growth of cells forms a mass or lump called a tumor.

Tumors are either benign or malignant. Benign tumors are not cancerous. The cells of a benign tumor do not invade nearby tissue or spread to other parts of the body. Malignant tumors are cancerous. These tumor cells can invade nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body. A malignant tumor that develops in the breast is called breast cancer.

Tumors in the breast tend to grow slowly. By the time a lump is large enough to feel, it may have been growing for as long as 10 years. However, some tumors are aggressive and grow much faster. Cells can grow out of control before any symptoms of the disease appear. That is why breast cancer screening to find early changes is so important. If breast cancer is found early, there are more treatment options and a greater chance of survival.

Between 50 and 75 percent of breast cancers begin in the milk ducts (a canal that carries milk from the lobules to a nipple opening during breastfeeding) and 10 to 15 percent begin in the lobules (spherical-shaped sacs in the breast that produce milk).

It is important to understand the differences between invasive breast cancer and non-invasive breast cancer, called ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). These differences affect treatment and prognosis.

Non-invasive breast cancer occurs when abnormal cells grow inside the milk ducts.

Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) occurs when abnormal cells grow inside the milk ducts but have not spread to nearby tissue or beyond. The term “in situ” means “in place.” With DCIS, the abnormal cells are still “in place” inside the ducts. DCIS is a non-invasive breast cancer (you may also hear the term “pre-invasive breast carcinoma”). Although the abnormal cells have not spread to tissues outside the ducts, they can develop into invasive breast cancer.

Invasive breast cancer occurs when abnormal cells from inside the milk ducts or lobules break out into nearby breast tissue.

Cancer cells can travel from the breast to other parts of the body through the blood stream or the lymphatic system (a network of lymph nodes and vessels throughout the body). They may travel early in the process when the tumor is small or later when the tumor is large.

The lymph nodes (small clumps of immune cells that act as filters for the lymphatic system) in the underarm area (the axillary lymph nodes) are the first place breast cancer is likely to spread.

Metastatic breast cancer is breast cancer that has spread beyond the breast to other organs in the body (most often the bones, lungs, liver or brain). Although metastatic breast cancer has spread to another part of the body, it is considered and treated as breast cancer. For example, breast cancer that has spread to the bones is still breast cancer (not bone cancer) and is treated with breast cancer drugs, rather than treatments for a cancer that began in the bones.

Learn more:

We’re celebrating National Breast Cancer Awareness Month for the next six weeks. Connect with and follow Komen St. Louis and use the hashtag #bcjourney to join in the conversation. 

Understanding Breast Cancer Risk Factors: Exercise

SGK_NBCAM_2014_HealthyLivingLet’s get moving and be physically active!

Exercise can help with weight control. For postmenopausal women, being lean lowers the risk of breast cancer. And physical activity may lower estrogen levels in all women, which can also protect against breast cancer. Physical activity may also boost the body’s immune system so that it can help kill or slow the growth of cancer cells.

Activity equal to walking 30 minutes a day may lower risk by about three percent.

For breast cancer survivors, activity equal to a 30-minute brisk walk several times a week leads to lower recurrence rates and death from breast cancer.

Being active is good for your health, but it can be hard to find time to exercise. Do whatever activities you enjoy most (for example, dancing or gardening) that get you moving.

Learn more:

We’re celebrating National Breast Cancer Awareness Month for the next six weeks. Connect with and follow Komen St. Louis and use the hashtag #bcjourney to join in the conversation.

Understanding Breast Cancer Risk Factors: Alcohol Use

SGK_NBCAM_2014_HealthyLivingNo one should drink a lot of alcohol. Drinking more than one drink per day (for women) and more than two drinks per day (for men) has no health benefits and many serious health risks, including breast cancer.

Research shows that women who had two to three alcoholic drinks per day had a 20 percent higher risk of breast cancer compared to women who didn’t drink alcohol.

Estrogen levels are higher in women who drink alcohol than in non-drinkers, which may increase the risk of breast cancer.

Drinking alcohol can reduce blood levels of the vitamin folic acid. Low levels of folic acid may make it more likely errors occur when cells divide, which can cause cells to become cancerous.

Drinking in moderation has some health benefits like lowering the risks of heart disease, high blood pressure and death. It is important to note that drinking excessive alcohol has no health benefits, only health risks.

Learn more:

We’re celebrating National Breast Cancer Awareness Month for the next six weeks. Connect with and follow Komen St. Louis and use the hashtag #bcjourney to join in the conversation.

Understanding Breast Cancer Risk Factors: Questions to Ask Your Doctor

SGK2014NBCAMNo one knows more about your body than you do – not your partner, not your parents, not even your doctor. So when you talk with any health care provider about your health, remember that you have valuable information to share. You know about changes in your body and about any problems you may be having. Share that information. Open and honest communication between you and your health care provider is one of the best ways to make sure you get the care you deserve.

To get the most out of each doctor’s visit, try following these guidelines:

  1. Be prepared. It is often helpful to gather information about your health concerns — from the library (books and medical journals), trusted Internet sites, etc. The more you know, the more comfortable you will be talking to your doctor.
  1. Organize your questions ahead of time. You should be able to talk openly and honestly with your doctor about breast health and breast cancer to make sure all of your questions are answered. To help you get started, Susan G. Komen® has a series of 17 Questions to Ask the Doctor topic cards on a variety of breast cancer issues. Each card contains important questions to discuss with your doctor. Space is provided for you to jot down the answers. Also, be sure to bring a voice recorder to capture your conversation so you can refer back to your doctor’s responses. These questions will help your doctor understand and address your specific concerns. You can download and print these cards to take to your next doctor’s appointment at
  1. Tell your story. When your doctor comes in, ask if you can take a few minutes to briefly explain your situation and concerns. Be as specific as you can. Then give the doctor your list of questions and ask them.
  1. Give feedback. If your doctor’s responses were helpful, say so. This kind of feedback will encourage your doctor to talk with you, listen to you and continue to help you. Doctors are just like anyone else; they want to do their job well. That means doing whatever they can to help you stay healthy or to get better. Remember, although doctors may know a great deal about breast health and breast cancer, they may not truly understand or be aware of all that you are going through. You can help your doctor help you by sharing your feelings and concerns.

Having a positive relationship with your health care provider can improve your chances of successful treatment and recovery.

Learn more:

We’re celebrating National Breast Cancer Awareness Month for the next six weeks. Connect with and follow Komen St. Louis and use the hashtag #bcjourney to join in the conversation.



Webinar Wednesday | October 1: Breast Health Information – Inform, Engage, Empower

WebinarWednesday_2014Join Susan G. Komen® and Susan G. Komen St. Louis as we celebrate National Breast Cancer Awareness Month with the second webinar in our series:

Breast Health Information: Inform, Engage, Empower

Wednesday, October 1

11:30 am to 12:30 pm CT

Click here to register for this webinar.

Presented by Amberlea Childs | Susan G. Komen Southeast Wisconsin

Hosted by the North Central Region of Susan G. Komen

Join this conversational-style discussion about family history, personal risk, breast screening recommendations, breast cancer signs and symptoms, and making healthy lifestyle choices. Feel empowered to be an active participant in your own health!

Amberlea Childs

Amberlea Childs oversees Susan G. Komen’s Kohl’s Conversations for the Cure, a breast health education and screening program in Southeast Wisconsin. In addition to recruiting and training a volunteer pool of diverse community health workers, Amberlea is also a breast health educator and has been talking and teaching breast health for more than 10 years. First trained as a Triple Touch Trainer through the American Cancer Society and now a 3-year breast cancer survivor herself, she knows firsthand the value of screening and advocates for women to take action and become an active participant in their health.

Childs founded a breast cancer educational nonprofit, Viva Las Chicas, in St. Petersburg, FL, and currently serves on the Board of Directors. She is an active member in many breast cancer groups and coalitions nationally and statewide. Additionally, Childs was diagnosed with breast cancer while having no health insurance and continues to advocate that just because a woman doesn’t have health insurance doesn’t mean she should have to forgo her healthcare. Childs has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from University of South Florida.

Click here to register for this webinar.