Breast cancer is the second most common form of cancer in women, skin cancer being the first. It is also the second deadliest. One in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. In 1 out of 36 women diagnosed, it will be deadly. According to the American Cancer Society, “Estimates for breast cancer in the United States for 2016 are: About 246,660 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women. About 61,000 new cases of carcinoma in situ (CIS) will be diagnosed (CIS is non-invasive and is the earliest form of breast cancer). About 40,450 women will die from breast cancer.” Currently, there are 2.8 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.
Courtney Miller WHNP, BC, joined Elite Women’s Heath in 2014. She worked previously as lead nurse practitioner at a breast health clinic in Chicago, Illinois (2009-2014), and has specialized training in benign and malignant diseases of the breast. At Elite Women’s Heath, Miller and uses her training to identify patients who are at high risk for breast cancer and develops care plans based off that patient’s personal health history. Those high risk patients are offered on-site counseling, BRCA testing and other specialty referrals.
She, alongside a team of dedicated OB/GYNs at Elite Women’s Heath, are diligently working to educate local women on breast health breast cancer prevention.
Tell us a little about what makes Elite Women’s Health stand out.
Our goal at Elite Women’s Health is to provide exceptional care to each patient who walks through our doors. We are a smaller practice, which allows patients to see the same provider frequently and make a personal connection. We also have same-day appointments with our nurse practitioners, which allows patients flexibility and ease of care. We strive for each patient to leave our office feeling that she had an ELITE experience, from beginning to end.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. What are three things you wish women knew about their breast health?
First, get to know what’s normal for you by performing Self Breast Exams (SBE) monthly. There’s no wrong way to perform them and SBE can detect abnormalities that your health care provider will address.
Second, know your family history! Talk with the women in your family if there’s a family history of breast cancer. Learn which type is was and how old that person was at diagnosis. This is helpful information for all women to know. If you have a strong family history, patients may qualify for genetic testing. Talking with women in your life is so helpful!
Lastly, don’t put off getting your yearly mammograms! The American Cancer Society (ACS) still recommends yearly mammograms for women starting at the age of 40. Screening mammograms provide early detection of breast cancer and save thousands of lives each year.
At what age should women start doing self breast exams?
I recommend women start checking their breasts around the age of 20. Checking your breasts will allow you know what’s normal for you, which will also help to you know what’s “not normal” if you find a lump. If you feel any changes in your breasts, such as a lump or discharge, you should call your OB/GYN provider for further information and exam.
If I find a lump in my breast, what is the first thing I should do?
First, don’t panic! Most breast lumps are not actually cancer related. There are several benign conditions of the breast that also affect a high percentage of women. Stay calm and call your OB/GYN provider to get in for an appointment and exam.
What is BRCA testing? Why is it important to be tested?
BRCA testing is a genetic test that tests for specific mutations in genes that help control normal cell growth. Finding changes in these genes, called BRCA1 and BRCA2, can help determine your chance of developing breast and ovarian cancer.
This test is only performed for people with a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer, and sometimes for those who already have one of these diseases. A woman's risk of breast and ovarian cancer is higher if she has BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene changes. Both men and women with BRCA mutations may be at an increased risk for other cancers, so it’s important to know your family history and be screened if appropriate.
For more information on non-invasive procedures, including BRCA testing, please see us at Elite Women’s Health by calling for an appointment at 540-940-2000.
Do you have questions for Courtney Miller WHNP, BC, and Elite Women’s Health? Join us during our live chat, “Ask The Expert,” on October 13 at 8 pm on our Facebook page.