Breast cancer, early detection

  • By Team TDO

Indeed. The incidence of breast cancer is on the rise, especially in urban areas- due to the change in lifestyle of women today.

One in every ten urban women will develop breast cancer and it is estimated that one million women will develop breast cancer every year, worldwide.

Risk factors

No one knows the exact cause of breast cancer, but research has shown that women with risk factors are more likely to develop the disease. Among the risk factors are:

  1. Older Age- Half of all women diagnosed are over age sixty five.
  2. Early onset of menses or late menopause.
  3. Diets high in saturated fats.
  4. Older age at birth of first child or never having birth.
  5. A personal history of breast cancer or benign [non cancer]
  6. A family history, particularly a mother or sister with breast cancer.
  7. Treatment with radiation therapy to breast / chest.
  8. Breast tissue that is dense on mammography.
  9. Taking hormones such as oestrogen and progesterone as in H.R.T.(Hormone replacement therapy)
  10. Obesity
  11. Moderate alcohol intake – More than two drinks a day.
  12. Gene changes –including BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 and others.

Contrary to popular belief, studies have shown that antiperspirants, tight bras, induced abortions and breast implants do not increase the risk of breast cancer.

Generally early breast cancer does not cause any pain; however, any prolonged pain needs a visit to one’s doctor.

Warning signs are

  1. A change in how the breast or the nipple feels: Any nipple tenderness or a lump or thickening in the breast or underarm region.
  2. A change in how the breast and nipples look: Any change in size or shape of the breast or nipple which is turned slightly inwards. In addition, the skin of the breast, areola or nipples may appear scaly, red or swollen or may have ridges or pitting that resembles the skin of an orange.
  3. Nipple discharge

Early detection is the key to surviving breast cancer and there are many recommended screening tests.

Mammogram is a screening X-ray of the breast which detects lumps upto 2 years before they can be felt by you or your doctor.

Women at age 40 years should have a mammogram once a year and continue to do so as long as they are in good health.

Women at high risk for developing breast cancer should start annual mammograms at age 30 onwards.

Clinical Breast Examination is an examination of the breast by a gynaecologist or physician. Women from age 20 to age 30 years should have a CBE every 3 years and after 40 , every year.

Breast self examination: Every woman should learn how to do a breast self-exam soon after the monthly period, starting from the age of 20 years.

MRI or Magnetic Resonance Imaging is recommended once a year for women with high risk for breast cancer. MRIs are better at spotting early stage tumors.

Newer techniques for screening for breast cancer are Thermography Breast which maps the increased heat of tumors.PET positron emission tomography, which is used to learn more about a tumor, tracks how fast glucose is used: an area that absorbs glucose quickly may be a patch of fast growing cancer cells.