Breast cancer is a malignant tumour arising from the cells of the breast. According to research, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among American woman. The causes of breast cancer are not fully known but several risk factors have been identified. Finding breast cancer early and getting treatment are the most important strategies to prevent deaths from breast cancer. Getting regular screening tests is the most reliable and easy ways to find breast cancer early.
Early detection means finding and diagnosing a disease earlier than if you’d waited for symptoms to start. Below are some tests and ways that can help in early detection of breast cancer.
Mammograms: A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast that looks for changes that may be signs of breast cancer. The doctors reading your mammogram will be looking for different types of breast changes such as small white spots called calcifications, lumps or tumours called masses and other suspicious areas that could be signs of cancer. Results from decades of research clearly show that women who have regular mammograms are more likely to have breast cancer found early and are less likely to need aggressive treatment like mastectomy and chemotherapy and are more likely to be cured.
Breast Ultrasound: Ultrasound is useful for looking at some breast changes such as lumps that can be felt but not seen on a mammogram or changes in women with dense breast tissue. It also can be used to look at a change that was seen on a mammogram. It is useful because it can often tell the difference between fluid-filled cysts (non-cancerous) and solid masses, which might need further testing to be sure they’re not cancer. It is widely available and does not expose a person to radiation.
Clinical Breast Exam: During a clinical breast exam, your healthcare provider checks your breasts’ appearance. Your doctor may ask you to raise your arms over your head or press hands against your hips. These postures allow your healthcare provider to look for differences in size and shape between your breasts. The skin covering your breasts is checked for rashes or other abnormal signs. Your nipples may be checked to see if fluid is expressed when lightly squeezed. For most women, a clinical breast exam will find no signs of breast cancer. If something abnormal is found, you’ll need follow-up tests to check whether the finding is breast cancer or not.
Breast Self-Exam: A breast self-examination (BSE) is a technique which allows and individual to examine their breast tissue for any physical or visual changes. Both men and women should perform a BSE at least once a month beginning at age 18. To perform a BSE, you can stand in front of the mirror and look closely at your breasts from left, right as well as facing forward. Observe the shape, skin (check for rash, redness, dimpling, etc), nipples (check for itchiness, scaliness, itching, etc) and vein patterns.
The effectiveness of any breast cancer screening programme will depend on how often women are screened and the quality of the screening test. Health care providers recommend breast exam in one to three years starting at age 20 and annually beginning at age 40. Women aged above 40 should have a mammogram each year and post age 55, one should continue getting mammograms every alternate year.