Fox Chase Cancer Center Encourages Women to Schedule a Breast Cancer Screening

October 9, 2020

PHILADELPHIA (October 9, 2020)—October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and Fox Chase Cancer Center encourages women to schedule a screening mammogram for breast cancer. Screening mammograms can help detect breast cancer early, before any symptoms appear, and when there is better chance for successful treatment.

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women, except for skin cancers. It is the second leading cause of cancer death in women after lung cancer. It is estimated that about 42,170 women will die from breast cancer in 2020.The average risk of a woman in the U.S. developing breast cancer sometime in her life is about 13%, or a 1 in 8 chance.

There are more than 3.5 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S. today, including women still being treated and those who have completed treatment. “With so much publicity leading to a heightened awareness of breast cancer over the years, many women are getting screened for the disease, resulting in early detection,” said Catherine Tuite, MD, Section Chief for Breast Radiology and associate professor of Diagnostic Imaging at Fox Chase. “We’re seeing better outcomes as a result of early detection combined with state-of-the-art treatment options and less extensive surgery.”

Breast Cancer Risk Factors

Being a woman and getting older are the main risk factors for breast cancer, with most breast cancers found in women ages 55 and above. Personal/family history, race, breast density, and menstrual period history are other uncontrollable factors that can increase risk. Additionally, having changes in certain breast cancer genes (for example, BRCA1 and BRCA2) increases the risk of developing breast cancer.

Lifestyle-related risk factors include the use of birth control pills, hormone therapy after menopause, having children, drinking alcohol, being overweight or obese, and not being physically active. “Having one or several risk factors does not mean a woman will develop breast cancer,” said Tuite. “However, women should familiarize themselves with all of the risk factors and make any lifestyle adjustments to help lower their risk.”

To lower the risk of breast cancer:

  • Get to and stay at a healthy weight. Balance your food intake with physical activity in order to avoid excess weight gain.
  • Be physically active. Every week, get at least 150-300 minutes of moderate intensity or 75-150 minutes of vigorous intensity activity (or a combination of these).
  • Limit or avoid alcohol. The ACS recommends not drinking alcohol, but if women do drink, they should have no more than one alcoholic drink per day.

Breast Cancer Signs and Symptoms

Women should know how their breasts normally look and feel so they can recognize any changes that occur. Symptoms of breast cancer include:

  • A new lump or mass
  • Swelling of all or part of a breast (even if no lump is felt)
  • Any change in the size or shape of the breast
  • Skin dimpling (sometimes looking like an orange peel)
  • Breast or nipple pain
  • Nipple retraction (turning inward)
  • Redness, scaliness or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
  • Nipple discharge (other than breast milk)
  • Swollen lymph nodes (Sometimes a breast cancer can spread to lymph nodes under the arm or around the collar bone and cause a lump or swelling there, even before the original tumor in the breast is large enough to be felt.)

“I urge women to talk to their doctor if they experience any of these symptoms so the root cause can be determined,” said Tuite. “Although checking your own breasts for changes is important, annual screening mammograms are still the most reliable way to detect breast cancer in its early stages, even before symptoms appear.”

Breast Cancer Screening

The Breast Radiology Team at Fox Chase follow the screening guidelines set forth by the American College of Radiology and the Society of Breast Imaging:

  • All women over the age of 25 should have a risk assessment to see if screening earlier than age 40 is needed.
  • Women at average breast cancer risk should begin annual screening mammograms at age 40.
  • Women at high risk for breast cancer (for example, women who carry a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, or women with >20% lifetime risk for breast cancer on the basis of family history) should undergo annual mammography and annual MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) by age 30, but not before age 25.

The three most commonly used tests to detect breast cancer are mammograms, ultrasound, and MRI. Women should talk with their doctor about which tests are best for them based on their personal risk factors, including breast density:

  • A mammogram is a low-dose X-ray exam of the breast and is the gold standard for screening. It may also be used to evaluate symptoms or breast changes. Digital breast tomosynthesis (also known as “3D” mammography) is a type of digital mammography which involves taking multiple low-dose images of the breast from different angles. Computer software is used to reconstruct the images into a set of pictures that the radiologist can flip through like the pages of a book.
  • Breast ultrasound is often used along with mammography for high-risk women who cannot undergo MRI and average risk women with dense breast tissue. Breast ultrasound is also used to evaluate symptoms, such as a lump or abnormalities detected on a screening mammogram.
  • A breast MRI may be used to screen high-risk women or gather more information about a suspicious area found on a mammogram or an ultrasound.

Fox Chase offers a Risk Assessment Program for individuals and families concerned about their risk for certain types of cancer. To learn more, visit

Fox Chase Cancer Center (Fox Chase), which includes the Institute for Cancer Research and the American Oncologic Hospital and is a part of Temple Health, is one of the leading comprehensive cancer centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase is also one of just 10 members of the Alliance of Dedicated Cancer Centers. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence five consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach. It is the policy of Fox Chase Cancer Center that there shall be no exclusion from, or participation in, and no one denied the benefits of, the delivery of quality medical care on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity/expression, disability, age, ancestry, color, national origin, physical ability, level of education, or source of payment.


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