Most of us are aware that early detection of breast cancer is a woman’s best bet if she wants to beat the disease and survive. Combined with factors such as personal health, age and lifestyle, the stage at which a breast cancer is detected will determine what a woman’s chances of survival are.
Since breast cancer is the most common cancer among women (after skin cancer) it is important that every woman acquaints herself with the ways and means of detecting breast cancer to give herself the best chance of surviving it. Also after lung cancer, it is breast cancer that is the major cancer killer among women.
Self detection is the key: Detection of breast cancer becomes very important when you consider that an incredible one in eight women will develop breast cancer at some point in their lives.
As many as 70% of cancers may be self detected; i.e. detected by the woman herself. And though we think of older women as being cancer sufferers it is a disease that can strike young women as well.
It isn’t just women over 50 who have to worry about detection of breast cancer, even though most breast cancers do occur after that age.
However, if a woman has been used to doing breast self exams from a younger age, she is well aware of what is ‘normal’ and therefore better able to detect any abnormality. A breast self exam should be done regularly, every month at the same time of the monthly cycle.
Mammograms as a tool for detection of breast cancer: Though critics of the mammogram dismiss the procedure as itself being carcinogenic, the fact is that mammograms are the most reliable method of detecting cancer.
They are able to detect, by taking X rays of the breast, any calcification, lump or tumor in the tissue of the breast even before it is able to be felt; perhaps even as much as a couple of years before a woman can herself feel it.
It is generally recommended that if a woman has a high risk of breast cancer (due to genetic factors, lifestyle, exposure to radiation etc) then she must undergo regular mammograms because they can increase one’s chances of survival.
Digital mammograms are said to be even better at detecting breast cancer since they are more accurate and they can be manipulated to make the images bigger, sharper etc.
A digital mammogram can also be conveyed to another doctor, can be stored and retrieved electronically. The greater accuracy may reduce the number of follow ups that a woman may require.
A sonogram or ultrasound: The same aid that is used routinely to check the well being of a pregnant woman and her unborn baby can also be used as a method of breast cancer detection.
However, this method of cancer screening is not as reliable since it could miss detecting certain abnormalities that may be able to be detected by a mammogram.
One should speak to one’s physician to assess one’s particular risk of breast cancer so that one has the best chance possible of surviving the disease.