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    My topic is breast cancer:

    Source 1:Kristin Rhodes's life was on track. At 32, she had finished graduate school, and she and her husband had booked a vacation to Europe, where they hoped to conceive their first child. Rhodes, a nurse-practitioner, had gone off birth control pills to prepare. At a routine gynecological exam before the trip, a nurse told her she was pregnant. Rhodes was thrilled. But the next day, she learned there had been a mistake. She wasn't pregnant; she appeared to be in menopause.

    "I didn't want it to be true," she says. Then she recalled that her menstrual cycle had recently gone from 36 to 112 days. She also felt overheated whenever she curled up with her husband to watch television. "I blamed it on our new velour couch," says Rhodes, now 38. "I now realize I was having hot flashes."

    Previously referred to as "early menopause," premature ovarian failure (POF) affects up to 10 percent of women under 40, a lot more than the 1 percent usually cited by the medical literature.

    "This disorder is not as uncommon as we thought," says Michelle Warren, MD, director of the Center for Menopause, Hormonal Disorders, and Women's Health at Columbia- Presbyterian/Eastside, a medical facility in New York City. Spontaneous POF -- meaning it's not caused by surgical removal of the ovaries, radiation, or chemotherapy -- is the main reason young women stop having periods. It strikes women during their prime reproductive years -- the average age of spontaneous POF is 31.

    Doctors aren't sure what triggers POF. It might occur because a woman is born with fewer egg follicles than normal, or because the ones she has don't work properly. About 4 percent of women with POF may have an autoimmune problem in which their bodies "attack" the follicles.

    Whatever the cause, the toll is high. Women must cope with a low libido and hot flashes, as well as osteoporosis; they also feel as though they have been robbed of their womanhood. Tara MacDonald, 26, of Honolulu, says she felt "like a fake woman" when she was diagnosed at 21. Not surprisingly, women frequently plunge into depression.

    "It was like watching a train wreck and not being able to do anything," says Rhodes's husband, Dave, about her diagnosis. Rhodes says she collapsed into "gut-wrenching" sobs in the months following it

    Source 2:A mammogram, which uses a series of X-rays to show images of your breast tissue, is currently the best imaging technique for detecting tumors before you or your doctor can feel them. For that reason, the American Cancer Society has long recommended screening mammography for all women over 40.

    Yet mammograms aren't perfect. A certain percentage of breast cancers - sometimes even lumps you can feel - don't show up on X-rays (false-negative result). The rate is higher for women in their 40s. That's because women of this age and younger tend to have denser breasts, making it more difficult to distinguish abnormal from normal tissue.

    At other times, mammograms may indicate a problem when none exists (false-positive result). This can lead to unnecessary biopsies, to fear and anxiety, and to increased health care costs. The skill and experience of the radiologist reading the mammogram also have a significant effect on the accuracy of the test results. In spite of these drawbacks, however, most experts agree that all eligible women should be screened.

    In May 2003, the American Cancer Society issued updated guidelines on breast cancer screening, strongly reaffirming its recommendation that women 40 and older have annual mammograms. In 2004, the National Cancer Institute issued a report saying that women older than 50 may need mammograms only every other year, but that younger women, beginning at age 40, are likely to benefit from annual exams.

    Additional American Cancer Society screening guidelines include the following:

    If you're in your 20s or 30s, have a clinical breast exam every three years, and have one annually if you're 40 or older.
    Know how your breasts normally feel and report any changes to your doctor. Starting in your 20s, breast self-examination is an option.
    If you're at greater risk of breast cancer because of your family history, genetic makeup, past breast cancer or other significant risk factors, talk with your doctor. You may benefit from more frequent exams, earlier mammography or additional tests.
    During a mammogram, your breasts are compressed between plastic plates while a radiology technician takes the X-rays. The whole procedure should take less than 30 minutes. You may find mammography somewhat uncomfortable. If you have too much discomfort, inform the technician. If you have tender breasts, schedule your mammogram for a time after your menstrual period. Avoiding caffeine for two days before the test may help reduce breast tenderness.

    Also available at some mammography centers is a soft, single-use, foam pad that can be placed on the surface of the compression plates of the mammography machine, making the test kinder and gentler. The pad doesn't interfere with the image quality of the mammogram.

    If possible, try to schedule your mammogram around the same time as your annual clinical exam. That way the radiologist can specifically look at any changes your doctor may discover.

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