TRAFFIC Detours and Parking Updates around Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital

Make an Appointment

Breast Cancer

If you or someone you know is dealing with a breast cancer diagnosis, you are not alone. Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers, accounting for a third of new cancers in women each year. And while that figure is sobering, there is good news - many breast cancer cases are highly treatable, especially if they are caught in early stages through routine screenings and self-checks. Not all breast cancers are the same, and at Phoebe, we’re dedicated to giving each woman affected by breast cancer support and treatment custom tailored to her unique cancer journey.

Risk Factors    |    Prevention    |    Screening    |    Treatment    |    Our Team

Detecting Breast Cancer

The most common sign of breast cancer is a new lump or mass. However, most lumps are benign. Other signs include a generalized swelling of part of a breast (even if no lump is felt), skin irritation or dimpling, nipple pain or retraction, redness or scaly appearance of the nipple or breast skin, or a spontaneous discharge other than breast milk. Type, stage, grade, and hormone receptor status are just a few ways to classify breast cancer. Regular screenings and self-checks are absolutely crucial to early detection - learn more about screening here.

Breast Health Services at Phoebe

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the United States, except for skin cancers. It is about 30% (or 1 in 3) of all new female cancers each year.

For 2023, The American Cancer Society estimates:
new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women.
new cases of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) will be diagnosed.
women will die from breast cancer.

Breast cancer mainly occurs in middle-aged and older women. The median age at the time of breast cancer diagnosis is 62. This means half of the women who developed breast cancer are 62 years of age or younger when they are diagnosed. A very small number of women diagnosed with breast cancer are younger than 45.

Why Phoebe Cancer Care

With services and resources conveniently provided at multiple locations, Carlton Breast Health Center will help you take care of the many important aspects of your breast health journey. Remember! Early detection saves lives. Mammograms and breast exams help spot breast cancer early.

Types of Breast Cancers We Treat:

  • Ductal carcinoma in situ is the presence of abnormal cells inside a milk duct in the breast (the earliest stage of breast cancer).
  • Lobular carcinoma in situ is an uncommon condition in which abnormal cells form in the milk glands (lobules) in the breast. These abnormal cells are not considered to be breast cancer but do require surgical removal. The condition may increase the risk of breast cancer.
  • Invasive ductal breast cancer is the most common form of invasive breast cancer and begins with abnormal cells forming in the milk ducts of the breast (ductal) and spreading into the surrounding fatty breast tissue (invasive).
  • Invasive lobular breast cancer is the second most common form of invasive breast cancer and begins when abnormal cells develop in the milk gland, known as lobules, in the breast. These cancer cells then spread to other parts of the body.
  • Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare but aggressive form of cancer and causes breast to be red and swollen.
  • Paget's disease of the breast is a rare form of breast cancer that starts in or around the nipple with redness and mild scaling or flaking of the nipple skin.
  • Breast cancer in men is rare. Like women's breast cancer, men's breast cancer can be cured or controlled if found early and treated right away.

World Class Cancer Care in SW Georgia - Carlton Breast Health Center

From breast cancer prevention, education, diagnostics, treatment as well as social and emotional support, our caring experts are here for you, providing a full spectrum of care for women throughout southwest Georgia. Phoebe’s team approach to care ensures every patient can choose the individual treatment plan that is best for their needs.

 Learn more...

Risk Factors

There are a range of factors that may heighten the risk for developing breast cancer. If you fall into any of these categories, you may need to explore your risk factors with a Phoebe breast cancer professional.

Gender and age: Not surprisingly, being a woman is the greatest risk factor for breast cancer, but men can also develop breast cancer. The risk of developing breast cancer also increases with age, with most invasive breast cancers found in women aged 55 or older. 

Family Heritage / ethnicity: Studies also show a higher indication of breast cancer cases found in women of Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish descent, and in recent years, breast cancer cases are increasing among African-American and Hispanic women.

Family history: Another key risk factor is family history, especially in a first-degree relative (parent, child, sibling). Compared to women without a family history, the risk of breast cancer is about 1.5 times higher for women with one affected first-degree female relative and 2 to 4 times higher for women with more than one first-degree relative. Risk is even higher when the affected female relative was diagnosed at a young age or was diagnosed with cancer in both breasts, or if the affected relative is male.

High-Risk Breast Cancer Patient Program

As a part of Carlton Breast Health Center’s High-Risk Breast Cancer Patient program, every patient who has a mammogram at Carlton Breast Health Center will have their family cancer history reviewed and assessed and their risk for breast cancer calculated. If an elevated risk for breast cancer is found, Phoebe can provide additional testing and recommendations to manage the increased risk.

Genetics and Family History

Family history is a powerful risk factor, and one that patients can use as an important step to understanding their risk. Family history helps medical providers understand whether our own risk for cancers is normal or high, and can be an indicator if additional preventative measures like genetic testing should be included in a prevention regimen. In fact, there are some conditions within family history which automatically makes a patient eligible for genetic testing (such as ovarian cancer, male breast cancer, or an early onset breast or colon cancer). Genetic testing can also look for breast cancer susceptibility genes (BRCA1, BRCA2, and more).

Genetic testing at Phoebe Cancer Center has these main purposes:

  • Helping to determine the correct treatment and/or surgical options for patients
  • Helping to diagnose cancer early
  • Helping to put patients on a path to prevent some cancers
  • Helping to identify other family members who may benefit from genetic testing


Not all cancers can be prevented. But there are things you can do that might lower your risk. Know your risk factors and do what you can to control what you can, taking the steps to minimize your risk. Some steps to consider:

  • Avoid tobacco use and other people’s smoke.
  • Limit alcohol intake.
  • Maintain a healthy diet: eating plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Engage in regular physical activity.
  • Estrogen-blocking drugs can reduce the risk of developing breast cancer in some high-risk women.
  • Breast-feeding: research shows mothers who breastfeed lower their risk of pre- and post-menopausal breast cancer.
  • Know your family history of cancer.


When it comes to cancer, screening is crucial. Regularly scheduled screenings are the key to being able to find cancer in its earliest stages - the easiest stages to treat successfully. While there are a lot of different tests and scans that can help detect breast cancer, the two most common screeners are Breast Self-Examinations and Mammograms. Details for both are listed below:

Breast Self-Examination

TIMING: Each month, conduct a breast-self exam. Choose an easy day of the month to remember, put it on your calendar, or use the buddy-system (a friend to help you remember).

If you are having menstrual cycles, avoid conducting self-exams in the days leading up to and during your cycles. Choose a day a week after your cycle ends. If you are post-menopausal, picking the same day each month is a helpful formula (such as the 1st or 15th of each month).

PROCESS: Self-exams can be performed in the shower, at the mirror, or while lying down. Begin your self-exam by looking for any changes in your breasts’ appearance: asymmetry, dimpling, puckering, skin texture or nipple changes. Use a line, circle, or wedge technique to search for any changes in the feel of your breasts.

Line technique - Starting in the underarm area, begin making small circles as you travel in a straight line down to below the breast. Begin the second line next to where the first line ended, moving upwards.  Continue this pattern until the entire breast has been examined. 

Circle technique - Beginning at the outer breast area, move your fingers around your breast in a circle. Continue examining in smaller and smaller circles, working towards the nipple, until the entire breast has been examined.

Wedge technique - Starting at the outer edge, move your fingers in towards the nipple and then back out to the edge. Check the entire breast area, one wedge shape at a time, moving in and out until the entire breast has been examined.

Pay close attention to the pressure used. Light pressure examines the tissue closest to the skin. Medium pressure allows you to feel a little further below the skin. Firm pressure should help you feel tissue closest to the chest and ribs.

If you have had a mastectomy, it is still important to do monthly “chest wall” checks for any changes. If you feel anything out of the ordinary during your self-exam or have any other concerns about changes in your breast, contact your physician right away.


Getting regular mammograms is extremely important for breast cancer screening. Phoebe’s expert team uses mammography to find, check and track changes to your breasts.

Women of average risk should begin routine, annual mammogram screenings as early as age 40 but no later than age 45.

Women of increased risk may be recommended to begin annual screenings before the age of 40.

Women over the age of 69 should discuss their need for an annual mammogram with their physician.

At Phoebe, we offer advanced 3-D mammography imaging to all patients at our Carlton Breast Health Center in Albany and at Phoebe Sumter Medical Center in Americus.

Both centers offer a limited number of free mammograms twice each year to qualified patients (May and October). For more information about the qualifications for free mammograms, please call 229-312-4800 (Albany) or 229-931-1375 (Americus).

Other Breast Cancer Screenings Imaging

There are other tools our cancer professionals can use to screen for and diagnose breast cancers. These include:

Breast Ultrasound: A diagnostic tool often used in conjunction with a diagnostic mammogram to further investigate an abnormality shown in the results of a screening mammogram. A breast ultrasound produces detailed images of breast tissue and can give more information about small areas of interest within the breast.

MRI of Breast: This imaging may be recommended for women with higher risk of developing breast cancer, women with strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer, those with a known breast cancer gene mutation, and women who were treated with radiation therapy to the chest.

Remember! Quality screenings and early detection are the primary keys to saving lives. Mammograms help spot breast cancer early.

For questions or concerns, information or to schedule a mammogram, please contact:


Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital is an NAPBC (National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers) Center of Excellence which means we’re held to the highest standards of care for breast cancer patients. At the Phoebe Cancer Center, each new breast cancer case is presented to a multi-disciplinary breast cancer team prior to the start of a customized treatment plan to ensure every plan starts with the highest level of collective expertise.

Phoebe Cancer Center teams closely follow the National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines while still offering customized treatment options built around each patient’s unique needs.

Typically, cancer treatment regimens follow a staged approach with different therapies and treatments used in combination or in a sequential treatment plan. Some treatment categories include:

Medical Treatment - Centering on the delivery of oral or intravenous medicines:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Hormone therapy
  • Antibody therapy
  • Immunotherapy

Surgical Treatment - Focusing on the physical removal of cancerous or precancerous cells:

  • Lumpectomy
  • Lymphadenectomy
  • Mastectomy
  • Breast reconstruction (performed by a plastic surgeon)

Radiation Therapy Treatment - Treatments that use energy to shrink or eliminate cancer cells and masses:

  • Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT)

Breast Cancer Support Group

At times, patients and families dealing with cancer just need to be with a group of people who understand the concerns and celebrations each person faces on their cancer journey.

The Phoebe Breast Cancer Support Group generally meets on the 2nd Thursday of the month to bring these people and these conversations together.

Please call 229-312-5440 to confirm this month’s schedule or to get more information about our cancer support groups.

Our Breast Cancer Care Team

Our multidisciplinary approach to breast cancer treatment and care is powered by a team of providers that cover a broad range of expertise.

The current breast cancer team includes a network of cancer care doctors and specialists:

You may also like:

Breast Cancer Clinical Trials Available at Phoebe

Phoebe Cancer Center works in cooperation with a number of organizations to give access to clinical trails to our qualified patients. Click below to learn more.