MONMOUTH, NJ - October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the United States, aside from skin cancer. Currently, the average risk of a woman in the United States developing breast cancer at some point in her life is about 1 in 8.  Breast cancer starts when cells in the breast begin to grow out of control. These cells usually form a tumor that can often be seen on a mammogram or felt as a lump. The tumor is malignant (cancer) if the cells can grow into (invade) surrounding tissues or spread (metastasize) to different areas of the body. Breast cancer occurs almost entirely in women, but men can get breast cancer, too. The good news is that most women can survive breast cancer if it’s found and treated early. A mammogram – the screening test for breast cancer – can help find breast cancer early when it’s easier to treat.

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The goal of screening tests for breast cancer is to find the cancer before it causes symptoms (like a lump that can be felt). Screening refers to tests and exams used to find a disease in people who do not have any symptoms. Early detection means finding and diagnosing a disease before symptoms start. Breast cancers found during screening exams are more likely to be smaller and still localized to the breast. The size of a breast cancer and how far it has spread are some of the most important factors in predicting the prognosis (outlook) of a woman who has been diagnosed with this disease.

Regular mammograms can help find breast cancer at an early stage, when treatment is most successful. Results from decades of research show that women who have regular mammograms are more likely to have breast cancer found early, are less likely to need aggressive treatment like surgery and chemotherapy, and are more likely to be cured. Mammograms are not perfect, however. They miss some cancers. And sometimes a woman will need more tests to find out if something found on a mammogram is cancer. It's important that women getting mammograms know what to expect and understand the benefits and limitations of screening and talk to your provider if you have any questions.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists maintains its current advice that women starting at age 40 continue mammography screening every year and recommends a clinical breast exam.  So how do you get a screening mammogram? Prescriptions for mammograms can be written by either your gynecologist or your primary care provider. You may be eligible for free mammogram screenings, please check out this website for further information: web.archive.org/web/20111003025933/http://www.state.nj.us:80/health/cancer/njceed/index.shtml

Alexandra “Lexie” Ruane is a Nurse Practitioner who received her B.S. in Biology from Muhlenberg College, and her Bacherlor’s of Science in Nursing from Drexel University. She has extensive experience in Emergency Care and Intensive Care. She completed a Master’s Degree in the Family Nurse Practitioner track at Drexel University, while working full time as a nurse at Jersey Shore University Medical Center. Lexie joined Mulholland Medical Group in 2017, and works at Hazlet Urgent Care/Hazlet Family Care, 3253 Route 35, in Hazlet, NJ, and at Shrewsbury Family Medicine, 655 Shrewsbury Ave, Suite 201, Shrewsbury, NJ.  Lexie is a member of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.