Hope you had a nice day today? It is important you feel good about your well being.
Today, we would like to look a bit into breast cancer screening. It is a particularly important one as it emphasizes the action part of Breast Cancer campaign. You would learn what you can do, practically, to detect it early. I have avoided as much details as possible, just facts that you can understand (I’m targeting the average person). So, follow on with the mindset to get screened, tell or/and teach someone about Breast Cancer screening.
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Before we dig in, I would like you to understand what screening is.
What is Screening???
Screening is simply investigations carried out to detect disease in an otherwise healthy person.
Did I just say “detect disease”? Yes, I did. Screening is not to check how healthy you are, but, how sick you are. If you are feeling ill and a Doctor orders some tests, that is not screening, it is a diagnostic test. There are other tests that can be carried out: diagnostic and monitoring tests.
One more thing I would like us to know is: this topic is controversial, there are strong disagreements in type of screening, time to commence and frequency among Authorities on Cancer and Breast Cancer in particular. So, what I have written, which may differ from some recommended texts, is my opinion from reviews and personal experience, and I believe will help.
Types of Breast Cancer Screening.
There are several types in use today, but the most common are:
1. Breast Self Examination
2. Clinical Breast Examination.
3. Breast Ultrasound Scan
5. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).
We would discuss each of them.
Breast self Examination
Breast self examination (BSE) is a systematic and regular physical check of your breasts that YOU carry out on yourself by yourself. There is a standard pattern to it. It can be an important way to find a breast cancer early, when it’s more likely to be treated successfully. Not every cancer can be found this way, but it is a critical step you can and should take for yourself. While not in any recommendation, especially by the developed Countries, I will advise all women to learn and do it at least ONCE a MONTH.
Tips for performing BSE
Few women really want to do a breast self-exam, or BSE, and for many the experience is frustrating — you may feel things but not know what they mean. However, the more you examine your breasts, the more you will learn about them and the easier it will become for you to tell if something unusual has occurred. BSE is an essential part of taking care of yourself and lowering your risk of breast cancer.
Some tips for BSE:
• Try to get in the habit of doing a breast self-examination once a month to familiarize yourself with how your breasts normally look and feel. Examine yourself several days after your period ends, when your breasts are least likely to be swollen and tender. If you are no longer having periods, choose a day that’s easy to remember, such as the first or last day of the month.
• Don’t panic if you think you feel a lump. Most women have some lumps or lumpy areas in their breasts all the time. In the United States, only 20% of women who have a suspicious lump biopsied turn out to have breast cancer.
• Breasts tend to have different “neighborhoods.” The upper, outer area — near your armpit — tends to have the most prominent lumps and bumps. The lower half of your breast can feel like a sandy or pebbly beach. The area under the nipple can feel like a collection of large grains. Another part might feel like a lumpy bowl of oatmeal.
What’s important is that you get to know the look and feel of YOUR breasts’ various neighborhoods. Does something stand out as different from the rest (like a rock on a sandy beach)? Has anything changed? Bring to the attention of your doctor any changes in your breasts that last over a full month’s cycle OR seem to get worse or more obvious over time.
• You may want to start a journal where you record the findings of your breast self-exams. This can be like a small map of your breasts, with notes about where you feel lumps or irregularities. Especially in the beginning, this may help you remember, from month to month, what is “normal” for your breasts. It is not unusual for lumps to appear at certain times of the month, but then disappear, as your body changes with the menstrual cycle (if you are still menstruating). Only changes that last beyond one full cycle, or seem to get bigger or more prominent in some way, need your doctor’s attention
For a video demonstration of BSE,
Tips copied from http://www.breastcancer.org
Clinical Breast Exam (CBE)
Clinical Breast Examination is a systematic and regular check of the Breast by a trained Medical personnel. IT is also known as Breast Physical Exam. This is usually better than a BSE. Doctors encourage Women to visit the Hospital at least once in 1 – 3 years to have the CBE done to them.
Ultrasound is an imaging test that sends high-frequency sound waves through your breast and converts them into images on a viewing screen. The ultrasound technician places a sound-emitting probe on the breast to conduct the test. There is no radiation involved.
Ultrasound is not used on its own as a screening test for breast cancer. Rather, it is used to complement other screening tests. If an abnormality is seen on mammography or felt by physical exam, ultrasound is the best way to find out if the abnormality is solid (such as a benign fibroadenoma or cancer) or fluid-filled (such as a benign cyst). It cannot determine whether a solid lump is cancerous, nor can it detect calcifications.
If you’re under age 30, your doctor may recommend ultrasound before mammography to evaluate a palpable breast lump (a breast lump that can be felt through the skin). Mammograms can be difficult to interpret in young women because their breasts tend to be dense and full of milk glands. (Older women’s breasts tend to be more fatty and are easier to evaluate.) In mammograms, this glandular tissue looks dense and white — much like a cancerous tumor. Some doctors say that locating an abnormality in the midst of dense gland tissue can be like finding a polar bear in a snowstorm. Most breast lumps in young women are benign cysts, or clumps of normal glandular tissue.
Doctors also can use ultrasound to guide biopsy needles precisely to suspicious areas in the breast.
Mammograms are probably the most important tool doctors have not only to screen for breast cancer, but also to diagnose, evaluate, and follow people who’ve had breast cancer. Safe and reasonably accurate, a mammogram is an X-ray photograph of the breast. The technique has been in use for more than 50 years.
Diagnostic mammograms are different from screening mammograms. Diagnostic mammograms focus on getting more information about a specific area (or areas) of concern — usually because of a suspicious screening mammogram or a suspicious lump. Diagnostic mammograms take more pictures than screening mammograms do. A mammography technician and a radiologist work together to get the images your doctor needs to address that concern.
This is what a mammogram film would look like:
According to the American Cancer Society, MAMMOGRAM is the recommended way of screening for Breast Cancer.
– From 40 – 44, Women can discuss with their Physician the pros and cons before starting Mammograms yearly
– From 45 – 54, Recommended to do yearly Mammograms
– Women age 55 and older should switch to mammograms every 2 years, or have the choice to continue yearly screening.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, is a technology that uses magnets and radio waves to produce detailed cross-sectional images of the inside of the body. MRI does not use X-rays, so it does not involve any radiation exposure. Breast MRI has a number of different uses for breast cancer, including:
• screening high-risk women (women known to be at higher than average risk for breast cancer, either because of a strong family history or a gene abnormality)
• gathering more information about an area of suspicion found on a mammogram or ultrasound
• monitoring for recurrence after treatment
Breast MRI is not recommended as a routine screening tool for all women. However, it is recommended for screening women who are at high risk for breast cancer, usually due to a strong family history and/or a mutation in genes such as BRCA1 or BRCA2. If you are considered high-risk, you would have breast MRI in addition to your annual mammograms (X-rays of the breast).
Breast MRI is not a perfect tool. Although it is generally considered more sensitive for picking up breast cancer than mammography, it also can miss some cancers that would be detected by mammography. That is why breast MRI is recommended only in combination with other tests, such as mammogram or ultrasound.
Most of the tests above are available in Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, South Africa and other African Countries. Please ask your Doctor for a breast screening.
I wish you a breast cancer-free life.
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