Making Sense Of Revised Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines

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This article was submitted by the Baylor College of Medicine, please share your thoughts below…..

didyouknow?With the recent announcement of revised breast cancer screening guidelines that lean toward a later and less frequent approach for average risk women, some may be confused about what screening plan path to take. Experts from the Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center at Baylor College of Medicine offered advice to help sort through the confusion.

“The American Cancer Society guideline changes relate only to those women of average risk,” said Dr. Emily Sedgwick, director of breast imaging in the Smith Breast Center. “Women with known risk factors do not fall into this group and should follow a different screening plan as recommended by their doctors.”

Understanding your risk

Bottom line, every woman should take a proactive role in knowing and understanding their risk for breast cancer. “Unfortunately, three out of four women I diagnose with breast cancer have no risk factors,” Sedgwick said.

It is important to note the revised guidelines said women between the ages of 40 – 44 have the choice to start annual mammograms if they wish to do so.

Those known risk factors include:

* Women with a strong family history – first degree relative such as a mother, daughter, sister

* Known genetic mutation such as the BRCA gene

* Previous breast biopsy or abnormal mammogram

* Early menstrual cycle (starting at 11 years or younger)

* Being overweight

* Having a dense breast tissue on mammogram

It has been shown that women who have dense tissue on their mammograms are at least four times more likely to develop breast cancer. If a woman does not receive her screening mammogram at age 40, she would not know if she was at increased risk of developing breast cancer.

A link to the new guidelines, announced by the American Cancer Society yesterday, can be found online here. The group calls for screening to start at age 45 for average risk women and continue annually through age 55. Patients may choose to have an annual exam or every other year after age 55. Women should continue to have mammograms as long as they are in good health.

Women with a family history should start screening 10 years younger than the diagnosis age of the first relative. For example, if mother was diagnosed at 40, daughter should begin at age 30.

The younger women issue

Younger women are still diagnosed with breast cancer, which is a constant source of confusion surrounding screening guidelines. It’s important to know the facts, Sedgwick said.

“Most women who are diagnosed are postmenopausal,” she said. “But about 25 to 30 percent of women are diagnosed below the age of 50 which is a significant number of women.”

It is important to talk to you doctor and make a decision when to start, she said.

Bottom line, every woman should take a proactive role

“The issue with younger women and early screenings is that they tend to have more false positives,” said Sedgwick. “False positives may lead to more follow up tests including additional mammograms, biopsies, MRIs and ultrasounds. This testing, even if normal, can be psychologically stressful for some time to come. We overcome some of that anxiety by providing same day mammography work-up and biopsy at the Smith Breast Center.”

Sedgwick said the introduction of new technology, such as the three dimensional mammography screening, reduces false positives, which can be a particular problem in younger women with dense breast tissue.

“The issue of cancer screening guidelines and constant revisions is heavily reported in the news,” said Sedgwick. “I encourage women to understand their own risk of developing breast cancer and to work with a physician who can help them understand. A physician can help you make sense of what may be misleading information reported on a very important topic.”

The Smith Breast Center is a major component of the Dan L. Duncan Cancer Center at Baylor, an NCI-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Making Sense Of Drug Side Effects – January 2015 Harvard Women’s Health Watch

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Thank you to PRWeb for sharing this article….please share your comments in the section below…..

doctorThe best way to understand drug side effects is to talk with a doctor or pharmacist. Older drugs generally have better information.

All drugs have effects. Some we want, others we don’t. The unwanted ones are known as side effects. The January 2015 Harvard Women’s Health Watch describes ways to limit or manage side effects.

The package insert that is supposed to give information about the potential side effects of a medication is likely to be more frustrating than helpful. Written in medicalese and printed in microscopic type, these inserts contain way too much information.
“Reading through scores and scores of side effects doesn’t help you sort out what is most likely to happen to you,” says Dr. Gordon Schiff, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. He suggests forgetting the inserts and trying the following instead:

1. Ask for a drug that’s been on the market a while. The information on the side effects of a newly approved medication is often based on clinical trials involving, at most, a few thousand people. An older drug is likely to have been used by hundreds of thousands, even millions, of people. That experience can reveal additional side effects and give doctors an idea of which side effects are most common, which are most serious, and which might occur only after months or years of use.

2. Learn what to expect. For example, if nausea is a potential side effect, it’s important to know whether to keep taking the drug because the nausea will eventually go away or to stop taking it. For some drugs, like benzodiazepines or opiates, it’s important to understand the side effects of withdrawal and develop a plan for tapering off.

3. Ask for help. Not sure if a symptom is a drug side effect or something else? Talk with a doctor. Doctors generally know what side effects their patients have experienced, how severe they were, and how they can be managed.

Read other tips in the complete article: “Making sense of side effects”

Also in the January 2015 issue of the Harvard Women’s Health Watch:

* Seven health resolutions for 2015
* Be alert to pneumonia this winter
* Help for the winter blues
* Heel pain explained: What to do for plantar fasciitis

Harvard Women’s Health Watch is available from Harvard Health Publications, the publishing division of Harvard Medical School, for $20 per year. Subscribe at or by calling 877-649-9457 (toll-free).