According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer death rates decreased steadily from 1989 to 2015 because of improved treatments and early detection by mammography. In 2015, relative survival rates for women diagnosed with breast cancer were 91 percent at five years after diagnosis, 86 percent after 10 years, and 80 percent after 15 years.

But what is involved in screening?
Parkwest Comprehensive Breast Center offers high quality services, an outstanding staff and the latest in screening technology. If an abnormality is detected, the Breast Center follows a woman through all her testing and in some cases, treatment.

How Does Breast Cancer Screening Work?
A mammogram is a specialized medical imaging tool that uses a low-dose X-ray system to see inside the breast. It’s a quick and easy test that can save your life.

In addition to imaging, Parkwest Breast Center provides a Lifetime Breast Cancer Risk Assessment at the time of a mammogram. From that assessment, practitioners may recommend that certain patients who may be at a high risk of developing cancer seek genetic counseling and testing, especially if they have a family history of cancer. Patients can begin the genetic counseling process that day while at the Breast Center if they choose.

What is Genetic Counseling?
William C. Gibson, MD, FACS, general surgeon at Premier Surgical at Parkwest Medical Center, says, “I spend time counseling and discussing the risk of developing breast cancer with those who may have a high risk due to a genetic mutation.”

Who Should Seek Genetic Testing?
Dr. Gibson advises, “A lot of times, the genetic mutation is not discovered until after someone receives a cancer diagnosis. This is why we recommend that family members of someone diagnosed with a breast cancer abnormality also seek genetic testing and counseling.”

When is Surgery Recommended?
A prophylactic (preventive) mastectomy, or removal of one or both breasts, is a surgery women may undergo when they test positive for the BRCA gene.

Dr. Gibson says, “For some, the decision to pursue preventive surgery is right for them. My role as a counselor is to explain the risk and statistics of malignancy. We also follow young women whose mothers have been diagnosed with breast cancer and present genetic testing as an option.”

Dr. Gibson says, “Whether or not you have family history and genetic mutation, be diligent with annual mammograms. These screenings detect cancer early, and early detection leads to good outcomes and excellent long term survival.”