What You Should Know About Breast Health

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It can be hard to discuss the difficult topics, especially when it comes to things like cancer, and well, to be frank, breasts. We know you’ve got questions, and your friends at Hoboken Girl have your back — and your front! Since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we decided to chat with our girl Dr. Meika, the Chief Medical Officer at CarePoint Health in Hoboken, to tackle the basic question that should be asked by every woman {and man} of their own doctors:

Dear, Dr. Meika –

What do I need to know about breast health?

Sincerely,

Every Woman Ever

Dr. Meika says…

Dear, Every Woman Ever,

So, a few years ago I had a mammogram — and like most women, I dread going for my mammogram. Just the thought of having my breasts pinned between two cold, hard plates, with one hand gripping a bar overhead while a technician tries to shove them into position, is enough to make me sweat. It’s painful, embarrassing, exhausting, and personal. Talk about exacting a pound of flesh! But, regardless, I get my mammogram religiously because I am at high risk — with dense breasts and a family history of breast cancer — and because the alternative is obviously worse than 15 minutes of pain.

Two years ago after years of normal mammograms, I found a lump in my left breast. I waited about a month to see if it would go away. It did not. I made an appointment for a 3-D mammogram with an ultrasound directly after. Upon completion of my ultrasound, the tech came back and said the radiologist wanted to take a closer look at the lymph nodes in my armpit. Then, I had to wait to speak to the radiologist — a tortuous five minutes. He came in and said I had something there, but it didn’t look like cancer. My lymph nodes were fine, but I should have a biopsy to be sure.

I called my husband.

I had a biopsy four days later, and the results came in one day later. So in all, it was 35 days from when I felt the lump to when I found out the final result. I spent most of those days oscillating between how I was going to tell my mother, to worrying about how I’d beat this cancer, to thinking it was just a false alarm, to wondering if I could still go to work through chemo. My thoughts were racing. It was an agonizing 35 days. The results came back negative, but I still get my mammogram annually, and I get anxious every time while waiting for the results.

American Cancer Society recommends that:

  • Women ages 40 – 44 should consider annual screening mammograms.
  • Women age 45 – 54 should get annual screening mammograms.
  • Women 55 + older {with negative mammograms} can switch to mammograms every two years, or can continue yearly screening.

So, here are some things you need to know:

  1. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide and the second most common cancer for women in the United States. An estimated 200,000 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer every year. Even though mortality from breast cancer has declined steadily since 1990, an estimated 40,290 women in the United States will die of breast cancer this year.
  2. Breast self-exams {BSE} are no longer recommended as your only screening. Although these seemed promising when they were first introduced, studies have shown BSE don’t offer the early detection and survival benefits of other screening tests.
  3. Most importantly, know what’s normal for your body. It’s important to become familiar with the way your breasts normally look and feel. Knowing what’s normal for you may help you notice a change in your breasts.
  4. And if you see something or feel something… tell your doctor.

It’s important to make your personal health a priority, so be sure to make your annual appointments to make sure that everything is working right!


This information should not be used or relied upon for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. Dr. Meika expressly disclaims responsibility and shall have no liability for any damages, loss, injury or liability whatsoever suffered as a result of your reliance on the information contained in this site. Dr. Meika does not endorse specifically any test treatment or procedure mentioned on this site. If you are having a medical emergency please call 9-1-1.

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Meika {or rather Dr. Meika} is an emergency medicine physician turned administrator. She is currently the chief medical officer at CarePoint Health in Hoboken and she loves her job and the patients. When she's not at CarePoint, she dedicates her time and career to help against rape and human trafficking. Though originally from Boston, Meika lives in Hoboken with her husband and their dog Brooklyn. You may see her around town walking the dog, jogging or cycling through the streets, or just walking to work. If she hadn’t become a doctor she would have become a photojournalist with a camera and a backpack traveling to barely seen areas of the world {like Sean Penn in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty}.


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