Breast Cancer Awareness with Dr. Krystal Smith
Did you know that 1 in 8 women in the United States will develop breast cancer in her lifetime and breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women?
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We would like to support this cause and introduce Krystal Smith, D.O., a board certified Diagnostic Radiologist with specialty fellowship training in Breast Imaging. Dr. Smith, the founder of Breast Center of Naples, has dedicated her career to women's health, patient-centered care, and the early detection of breast cancer.
Read our interview below for some information on breast health and how to minimize your risks.
Thank you so much for your time, Dr. Smith. We are grateful for this opportunity to share your knowledge with our readers. Please tell us the primary breast cancer risk factors.
Dr. Smith: I think it's great that you're taking the time to discuss this important topic. There are many different risk factors for breast cancer. Here are the most prevalent:
Many of the items in that list are things that we can't control. What can we do to protect ourselves?
Dr. Smith: This is an easy one. If you're over 40 (or younger depending on family and personal history), get an annual mammogram! A mammogram is the only test shown to reduce breast cancer deaths because it can detect cancer early and when it is most treatable, often long before it can be felt. Catching cancer early can have huge implications in treatment options and overall mortality.
Let's face it--no one looks forward to their mammogram. It's generally not the most comfortable experience. What is being done to help patients feel at ease?
Dr. Smith: I think that it's important to find ways to make the screening experience as pleasant as possible. At Breast Center of Naples, we have worked to create a spa-like atmosphere with plush robes and calming furnishings, to complement our state-of-the-art equipment. Around the country, some screening offices are even set up inside department store lingerie departments to add some fun to the process!
How has COVID-19 affected routine screenings?
Dr. Smith: We've found that many women have skipped their routine annual mammograms for fear of going to a hospital or large outpatient clinic where they might be exposed to the virus. Unfortunately, breast cancer didn't stop during this time, so it's important that women get back into their routine and get an appointment scheduled.
It goes without saying that any person who has a breast problem, such as a lump or discharge, should not delay evaluation. They should immediately see their doctor and get the appropriate diagnostic breast imaging.
Are there other tests that should be considered as a part of the screening process?
Dr. Smith: For women with dense breast tissue, sometimes Screening Breast Ultrasound (SBU) is recommended as a secondary assessment. This procedure can be done the same day as the screening mammogram so that the radiologist can interpret all the images at the same time.
If the radiologist finds that there is an abnormality during the screening process, the patient may be called back in for a diagnostic mammogram and/or diagnostic ultrasound that focuses on the specific area of concern. Should there still be concerns, the patient may require a needle biopsy to confirm diagnosis.
Anything else that you want to be sure to note?
Dr. Smith: Yes! Some people may not realize that in most states screening mammograms do not require a referral and are fully covered by most insurance plans. Women can contact their imaging center directly to schedule their appointment.
Thank you so much for your time and your words of wisdom, Dr. Smith.