Breast health during a pandemic

By: Angela Sie, M.D., Medical Director, Breast Imaging, MemorialCare Breast Center, Long Beach Medical Center

This year has completely turned the world upside down, but one thing that hasn’t changed is that breast cancer remains the second most common cancer occurring in women, just behind skin cancer. A pandemic won’t stop breast cancer, so it’s important to continue with annual screening mammograms and monthly self-breast examinations.

Screening mammography remains the only technology proven to improve a woman’s chance of surviving breast cancer. Clinical trials have shown a 40 to 50 percent higher likelihood of surviving breast cancer in women who undergo regular mammography. We recommend annual screening mammography beginning at age 40, or earlier under certain circumstances. Don’t let the fear of a pandemic stop you from getting screened.

Safety Measures for Your Annual Mammogram

To safely provide potentially lifesaving breast cancer screening during the era of COVID-19, the following additional safety measures have been introduced:

  • Reduced number of appointments to ensure social distancing in waiting rooms
  • Face masks are required of patients, visitors, and staff within the Breast Centers
  • Rooms and equipment are disinfected thoroughly after every appointment
  • All women are screened for COVID-19 symptoms prior to their scheduled appointment upon building entry

Get to Know Your Breasts Year Round

In addition to annual mammography, it’s also important for women to be familiar with the look and feel of their breasts. Performing a self-breast exam the same time each month will help you learn what is normal for your body. There is no right or wrong way to check your breasts, as long as you examine the entire area of your breast tissue – from your collarbone, to under your armpits and your nipples – well enough to notice any changes. If you have questions regarding the proper way to perform a breast exam, ask your physician.

Breast awareness is vital for breast health. You should report to your physician if you note any of the following:

  • Lumps, hard knots or thickening in the breast or underarm area
  • Swelling, warmth, redness or darkening of the breast
  • Change in the size or shape of the breast
  • Dimpling or puckering of the skin
  • Itchy, scaly sores or rash on the nipple or areola
  • Pulling in of your nipple or other parts of the breast
  • Nipple discharge that is spontaneous
  • New pain in one spot that doesn’t go away

The risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer increases with age, particularly after menopause. While numerous risk factors exist that can’t be controlled (aging and family history), leading a healthy lifestyle can help lower your chances of getting breast cancer.

By adopting healthy behaviors and being proactive with your breast care, you can help to lower the possibility of a cancer diagnosis, and increase the likelihood that if breast cancer is diagnosed it’s found early and is curable.

Comprehensive Breast Care

The MemorialCare Breast Centers, with locations at Long Beach Medical Center and in Los Alamitos, are among the most comprehensive breast centers in the region with caring and compassionate physicians and staff that are solely dedicated to the prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. Women enjoy a safe, comfortable, spa-like environment at our easy-to-access locations and are provided screening results with a fast turnaround time.

Call 800-MEMORIAL or click here to schedule your mammogram at the MemorialCare Breast Center in Long Beach or Los Alamitos.

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