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10TV: Breast cancer – what to look for besides a lump

With so many guidelines out there for when to begin getting screened for breast cancer, it is sometimes confusing and difficult to decide when to get your first mammogram, and how often to get them. Deepa Halaharvi, DO, OhioHealth breast cancer surgeon and survivor, talks with 10TV reporter Tracy Townsend about self-breast awareness and breast cancer screenings.

According to Dr. Halaharvi, deciding when to begin getting mammograms should depend on your risk factors. She mentions that just being a female is a risk-factor.

“We recommend screening mammograms at age 40 for an average-risk individual,” Dr. Halaharvi told Townsend.

However, for women with a family history of cancer, Dr. Halaharvi suggests getting screened 10 years earlier than the person’s cancer. So if your relative was diagnosed at age 45, you should get your first mammogram at age 35. Practicing by these guidelines and recommendations from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network saved the breast cancer surgeon’s life.

“I found my cancer in a screening mammogram at age 42. If I waited and followed the U.S. Preventative Task Force’s guidelines, starting at age 50 I would be dead,” said Dr. Halaharvi.

OhioHealth recommends women follow the current National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines below.

  • Screening mammogram beginning at age 40 for women of average risk
  • An annual clinical breast exam by a doctor
  • Monthly breast self-exams
  • Specific mammogram screening guidelines should be discussed with your OhioHealth physician

There are other things you can be doing as part of practicing self-breast awareness. Most women know the basics, which can include checking for lumps and masses and doing self-examinations monthly after your menstrual cycle. One aspect that some often forget is to make sure you are checking your lymph nodes under your arms. If you find anything at all that does not feel right, you should see your doctor right away. Women should also look for dimpling, puckering, discharge or an orange peel-like texture to the skin. Those can also be symptoms of breast cancer.

“The earlier the cancer gets diagnosed, the prognosis is much better,” Dr. Halaharvi told Townsend.

She also shared how it is living as a breast cancer survivor and surgeon every day.

“You never have a day when you’re not thinking about breast cancer,” she said.

To learn more about breast cancer care at OhioHealth, click here.