Physicians Regional Healthcare System – The Importance of Breast Exams

One out of every 8 women in the United States will develop breast cancer, which is why breast exams are important. A clinical breast exam should be done at least every three years starting at the age of 20, and every year starting at age 40. If you have a strong family history of breast cancer, clinical breast exams may be recommended more frequently.

Early Detection is Key
The risk of developing breast cancer increases with age which puts the aging baby boomers at higher risk for breast cancer incidents in the coming days. But there is good news for you baby boomers and women of all ages who have regular breast exams. Breast cancer survival is linked to early detection. If and when it is found early, it is less likely to have spread and more curable with less invasive treatments.

The American Cancer Society reports that, excluding skin cancer, breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer among women in the United States and it is the leading cause of cancer deaths in women ages 40 to 54. With this being said, the National Breast Cancer Foundation reports that there are more than 2 million breast cancer survivors living in America today. Early detection is key to increasing the number of breast cancer survivors. “Breast cancer early detection can make all the difference in a patient’s outcome; when breast cancer is caught at the localized stage, the five year survival rate is 98%,” says Lynn Hurley, Breast Health Navigator at Physicians Regional Hospital.

Early detection begins with women regularly examining their own breast combined with annual clinical breast exams. Clinical breast exams are done to find a lump or change in the breast that may mean a serious problem is present, such as breast cancer. They also check for other breast problems that may need more treatment, such as mastitis or a fibroadenoma.

Normal and Abnormal Clinical Breast
Examination Results
. Normal: The nipples, breast tissue, and areas around the breast look normal and are normal in size and shape. One breast may be slightly larger than the other. A small area of firm tissue may be present in the lower curve of the breast below the nipple.

Tenderness or lumpiness that occurs in both breasts is normal for many women. Numerous women have the same lumpiness or thickening in both breasts during the menstrual cycle. A clear or milky discharge (galactorrhea) may be present when the nipple is squeezed. This may be caused by nursing, breast stimulation, hormones, or some other normal cause. One breast may have more glandular tissue (lumps) than the other one, especially in the upper outer quadrant of the breast.

. Abnormal: A firm lump or area of thickening may be present in one of your breasts. Changes in the color or feel of your breast or nipple may be present. This can include wrinkling, dimpling, thickening, or puckering or an area that feels grainy, stringy, or thickened. A nipple may sink into the breast. A red, scaly rash or sore may be found on the nipple. Redness or warmth over a painful lump or over an entire breast may be present. This may be caused by an infection (abscess or mastitis) or cancer. A bloody or milky discharge (galactorrhea) may occur without stimulation (spontaneous).

Experts in Breast Health
If a breast problem is found, the next step depends on the problem. Keep in mind that there are factors that can affect your self examination and your clinical examination. For example, your menstrual cycle can cause your breast tissue to feel or look different. Having fibrocystic lumps can make a clinical breast exam more difficult because there may be many lumps present in the breast. With that being said, it is a good idea to have your clinical exam done by a breast specialist.

The Comprehensive Breast Center at Physicians Regional has everything you need to perform extensive and accurate breast examinations. They are led by Dr. Sharla Gayle Patterson, the only fellowship trained breast surgeon in Collier County, and their team takes a multi-disciplinary approach to breast health. Dr. Patterson is assisted by Breast Health Navigator, Lynn Hurley.

Don’t forget, early detection saves lives.

Breast Surgery Now Available!
Sharla Gayle Patterson, M.D., MBA (HOM), FACS – Breast Surgeon

At Physicians Regional, we are pleased to welcome Sharla Gayle Patterson, M.D., MBA (HOM), FACS, board certified general surgeon and fellowship trained breast surgeon, to our team of specialists.

Dr. Patterson earned both her Doctor of Medicine and Master of Business Administration degrees from the Health Organization Management program at Texas Tech University. She completed a Society of Surgical Oncology Breast Surgery Fellowship at Emory University, and her general surgical internship/residency at the University of South Alabama.

Dr. Patterson is a fellow in the American College of Surgeons and is active in the Society of Surgical Oncology and the American Society of Breast Surgeons. She is certified in breast ultrasound by the American Society of Breast Surgeons, and is a reviewer for the scientific journal Cancer.

Dr. Patterson’s current research interests include breast cancer and obesity. Specifically, she is focused on identifying the biologic link between obesity and breast cancer prognosis. Other interests include quality of life in breast cancer survivors.

Dr. Patterson’s former positions include Assistant Professor and Associate Program Director at the University of Mississippi in Jackson, Mississippi, where she won the Fred W. Rushton, Jr. Faculty Teaching Award.

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