Breast Cancer is one of the few cancers that can be detected long before physical signs occur and this improves the chances for complete recovery. Hence it is important for women to talk to their doctor and find out if they are at high risk and if they require a screening test.
Breast Cancer is one of the most common cancers among women, and today the number of lives lost due to Breast Cancer has decreased thanks to early detection via specialised screening methods. Breast Cancer is an age-related cancer and occurs mostly in women above the age of 45. Only 5% of all Breast Cancer cases are detected in women younger than 40. However, depending on how high your risk for the condition is, your doctor will advise you on whether you need to be screened and when.
WHO IS AT RISK OF BREAST CANCER?
UNDERSTANDING SCREENING AND WHO NEEDS IT
Screening is a series of tests conducted on a person to detect a disease even before it shows visible symptoms. This is done to identify the disease in its very initial stages when it can be treated most effectively. The kind of screening test depends on the cancer that the person is at risk for. In the case of Breast Cancer there are a set of screening tests that can be done. However, it is up to your doctor to decide which is best suited for the patient taking into consideration the following the factors:
BREAST CANCER SCREENING TESTS
Ultrasound Breasts and Mammography
This is the most common screening test for Breast Cancer. It is a low dose x-ray of the breast and can show changes in the breast that could develop into cancer long before physical symptoms occur. A mammogram can be an x-ray of the breast, a digital picture of the breast or a series of digital images of the breast taken from different angles to get a better view of the internal structures. This is called Digital Breast Tomosynthesis and it provides a detailed visual. Studies show that advances in DBT have reduced the chances of a False-Positive result, therefore improving accuracy in Breast Cancer diagnosis, and also increasing the survival rate. Mammograms may not be able to detect cancer in women with dense breasts, which is the case in younger women. Women less than 40 years are screened with ultrasound or MRI in high-risk patients.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) may also be used for Breast Cancer screening. It is used mostly in young women who are considered high risk – those with genetic mutations and a family history of breast cancer. An MRI provides detailed imaging of the breast and is considered to be more likely to detect cancer, than mammography. Women with dense breasts who have undergone mammography with unclear results. It also defines the abnormality more precisely.
If a lump or any tissue irregularity is noticed in any of the screening tests, the doctor will prescribe a biopsy in which some tissue is taken and sent to the lab for testing. This will confirm whether the lump is cancerous or benign.
BENEFITS OF BREAST CANCER SCREENING
The scope for cancer cure is high when it is detected in its initial stages. Once the tumour grows and begins to spread beyond the primary site, more therapies must be combined. Breast Cancer is one of the few cancers that can be detected long before physical signs occur, and this improves the chances for a cure. Hence it is important for women to talk to their doctor and find out if they are at high risk and if they require a screening test. It is advisable for women above the age of 50 to get a mammogram done every year or as their doctor deems necessary. Women less than 40 years needs to have mammogram once in 2 years and ultrasound annually.
CONSULTANT – SURGICAL ONCOLOGIST
MBBS, MS (GENERAL SURGERY), DNB (GENERAL SURGERY), DNB (SURGICAL ONCOLOGY), MCh (SURGICAL ONCOLOGY)