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Early detection key to defeating breast cancer

Dr. Colleen McCurry

Dr. Colleen McCurry

Each year in the United States, more than 200,000 women get breast cancer and more than 40,000 women die from the disease. Most women who get breast cancer have no known risk factors and no history of the disease in their families so early detection remains the best way to fight the disease.

"At Gundersen, we support the American College of Radiology and Society of Breast Imaging screening guidelines that recommend that once a woman turns 40 years old, she should receive a yearly mammogram," states Colleen McCurry, MD, the newest family medicine physician practicing at Gundersen Boscobel.

In addition, Dr. McCurry urges monthly breast self-exams starting at age 20. "Remember that the breast tissue starts just below the collar bone. Pay special attention to the area between the breast and armpit as well as the armpit itself," says Dr. McCurry. "What you're checking for in the armpit is enlarged lymph nodes – this is the first place breast cancer spreads."

While the frequency of screening varies according to other national guidelines, Dr. McCurry suggests talking to your primary care provider to work out a plan that is best for you.

Most mammograms reveal no problems. However, if an abnormality or questionable finding is detected (about 1 in 10 women), additional screening, such as a diagnostic mammogram, diagnostic ultrasound or ultrasound-guided biopsy, often is necessary.

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This is a chance to raise awareness about the importance of early detection of breast cancer.

If you feel a lump, or experience pain or discharge, contact your primary care provider right away. If it's time to schedule your mammogram, call Gundersen Boscobel at (608) 375-4144.

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