Maria Knight with Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center

Maria Knight sat down with Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center’s Dr. Julie Billar, Breast Surgeon, and Dr. Mary Cianfrocca, Oncologist, to discuss Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October and a few key things everyone should be aware of.

Early Signs

Dr. Julie stressed the importance of mammograms because initial symptoms typically are not associated with pain. She recommends at age 40 to begin annual mammograms along with clinical breast exams, however those younger than 40 should still be aware of their own breast health in general. Along with following these tips it is also important to consult your doctor.

Who’s at Risk?

Age, ethnicity and genetics play the largest role when determining one’s risk of cancer.  Dr. Mary noted that it is difficult to provide a percentage for those at a genetic risk for a general population. Pinpointing the cancer source can be difficult because it’s “sporadic, we can’t identify why an individual got it.” Don’t be too quick to rule out men though! Males can carry the cancerous gene; it is not limited to women. Men do not have a lot of breast tissue so typically men don’t think about the possibility of being diagnosed.

Steps to Take

Get a mammogram annually. It is important to get screening yearly. If you get a call back Dr. Julie says not to worry, “call backs don’t translate into diagnosis.” Keep in mind the breast is a cone shape, so for an x-ray there can be overlapping tissue that can produce an abnormal mammogram. After a second look there is a cancer diagnosis, Banner Health MD Anderson Cancer Center offers numerous resources including: social work services, nurse navigators, psychology services, increase risk,, and diagnosed/undiagnosed clinics.

The most important thing is to be proactive and catch it early. Breast cancer is an active area of research and advancements are being made every year.

“Women need to be aware of their breasts in general and not just in October.” – Dr. Mary Cianfrocca

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