Self-breast exams key amid breast cancer screening debate

Posted on: 10:50 am, October 6, 2013, by

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) — Oncology nurse Ashley Etheridge has a much different perspective on her work with cancer patients at the Bon Secours Cancer Institute since her breast cancer diagnosis two years ago.

A painful lump she felt during a self -exam turned out to be cancerous when she was just 25 years old.

“We are seeing more women who are younger being diagnosed with breast cancer, ” said Ashley.

The young mother is among a growing number of women being treated for the disease in their 20s and 30s.

“It’s not easy at any age,” said Ashley. “But it’s really not easy when you’re young.”

And some say it’s not getting easier to understand who needs a mammogram and when.

Right now the widely accepted guideline is for most women to start annual mammograms at age 40.

But in 2009, a federal panel created an uproar when it raised that recommendation to age 50.

Now a new group says women should start mammograms early.

The Harvard researchers found many breast cancer patients diagnosed before age 50 who died had never been screened.

“It confuses people,” said Dr. Misti Wilson.

The breast surgeon with the Virginia Breast Center says the debate can cause women to question what they’ve been hearing for years.

“We still have many years of data that support age 40 and that it saves lives, ” said Dr. Wilson.

When I asked her why we’re seeing younger women diagnosed with the disease like Ashley, she said doctors don’t know.

Dr. Davidson and Ashley say that’s why a breast self-exam can be a life saver like it was for her.

“Self-breast exams, do them monthly, and do them at the same time monthly,.” said Ashley.

Right now a mammogram before at 40 is recommended for women who have a family history of breast cancer, or those who feel something unusual like Ashley did.

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