First, let’s look back at how a mammogram was created. In 1917 a German named Albert Salomon actually performed the first mammograms on mastectomy specimens in an attempt to see if he could detect cancer cells. He identified breast cancer cells as appearing as grains of sand or calcifications. Unfortunately, the Nazis interrupted Salomon’s studies in the mid-1930s. By the mid-1960s, mammography returned to X-ray clinics in the United States through the work of Dr. Robert Egan in Houston, Texas. His mammograms could detect tumors as small as a grain of barley. During this time period a large prospective randomized trial was conducted with women between 40 and 64 years of age. By 1971 the results of this trial showed that a mammogram produced a survival benefit. Consequently, the American Cancer Society launched a massive campaign to promote screening with mammograms.
Nearly 50 years later, the trial now shows a survival benefit for women over the age of 50, but minimal benefit for younger women. Thus, the question remains: when should a woman have her first mammogram? Recently, a Harvard University study looked at the same question from a different perspective. This study identified women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer between 1990 and 1999. These patients were tracked until 2007. The results showed that out of 609 breast cancer deaths, 395 of these women (71%) never had a mammogram prior to the diagnosis. The most important finding, however, was that more than half of these breast cancer deaths were in women younger than 50, while only 13% occurred in women over 70. Also important to note is that this study used “modern” mammography, which has continued to evolve over the last 50 years.
Today, the American Cancer Society recommends yearly mammograms starting at age 40 and continuing for as long as a woman is in good health. October is breast cancer awareness month—so be “aware” and get your mammogram.
A: Lymph is a fluid that flows through a low pressure system of attached lymph nodes. Lymphedema is a swelling in a part of the body having a blockage of this lymph flow. Breast cancer patients are particularly prone to lymphedema, typically occurring in the arm or the breast itself. Once lymphedema develops, stabilizing it is extremely difficult. A recent study shows that the use of manual lymphatic drainage performed within days after surgery, by a certified massage therapist, can prevent lymphedema in breast cancer patients. At Fort Smith Radiation Oncology, we are proud to have a certified massage therapist trained in manual lymphatic drainage on staff. If you are experiencing lymphedema, please call 479-648-1800 to set up an appointment with our therapist.
Q: Is there treatment for arm swelling after breast cancer treatment?
A: If arm swelling, known as lymphedema, develops, certified massage therapists who are specifically trained in lymphedema management may help you. Using special massage techniques to move the fluid through the body to reduce swelling, these specially trained massage therapists also keep track of the swelling with the use of measurements and wraps. Additionally, these therapists can use this technique on other parts of the body, such as the legs, back, and neck.
Q: Can having breast implants affect my risk of getting breast cancer? If I get breast cancer, can the implants impact my survival?
A: Cosmetic surgery for breast implants has seen a 227% increase since 1997. Last year in the US alone over 330,000 implant surgeries were performed, with one million performed worldwide. Studies have shown that women who have breast implants are at no greater risk of developing breast cancer. However, an extensive review of these studies by a Canadian team of researchers has shown that women with implants are more likely to have a later stage of cancer at diagnosis. Additionally, the researchers found a decrease in survival in women with implants. With the number of breast implant surgeries increasing every year, additional studies will be on going.