Among the various kinds of cancers, breast cancer is a very common and dreadful disease that is taking a great toll of women under its grasp. Unlike other cancers, a breast cancer can be detected even before its symptoms actually start arising. As it is rightly said that ‘prevention is better than cure’, an early detection of breast cancer can help in getting rid of this disease in its budding stage, and save one from the suffering that one may have to face in its advanced stage, where the possibility of treating this condition is very low.
Generally, women above 40 are considered to be at a high risk to contract a breast cancer; however, this disease can occur in women of all ages. Usually this disease starts with the initial sign of formation of a new lump or mass which may be either painful or painless, followed by certain other symptoms such as breast swelling, pain in the nipple or the breast, nipple retraction, dimpling, redness or scaly skin, skin irritation or an unusual discharge from the nipple.
All the aforesaid symptoms are the indications of a breast cancer, and if ignored they can develop into serious complications. They may even spread beyond the breast making it impossible to treat the condition. Hence, it is better to diagnose this problem in its early stages and get it completely treated, in order to avoid the terrible consequences.
Methods Of Detecting Breast Cancer In Its Early Stages
It is always possible to detect this disease much before the appearances of the initial signs with the help of certain screening examinations and tests. The type of test and the frequency of tests which a woman should undergo depend upon her age and the degree of risk to which she is exposed.
A mammogram is an effective and popular tool in detecting a breast cancer in its early stage. It is a kind of breast x-ray and it is recommended for women above 40 with average risk, to go for a periodical mammogram test every year. Though this test may not be needed as frequently as above for women below 40 with average risk, it is again highly recommended for women of high risk category within this age group, to have a regular mammogram screening along with an MRI starting from the age of 30.
Besides being beneficial a mammogram test also has certain drawbacks, hence, women of increasing age and those who develop chronic health diseases are not advised to go for this test.
Clinical Breast Exam (CBE)
This is a kind of breast examination done by a medical practitioner at a clinic. Under this method, the doctor or the nurse examines the breasts, by gently palpating them with the help of their hands to locate for any lumps or abnormalities indicating a probable breast cancer. This kind of examination of breasts can be helpful for women who are unaware of the techniques to conduct a self examination, and it is recommended for women under the age group of 20 to 30 to go for a CBE regularly at every three years.
Breast Self Exam (BSE)
A breast self exam is a test which can be done by every woman on her own, to look out for any changes in the breasts or development of lumps. In case she finds any abnormalities, she can report it to a medical practitioner for further assessment.
A BSE is a good method of inculcating the habit of self awareness among women, and it can be started right from the age of 20 and conducted regularly as the age increases so that any symptoms of breast cancer can be located as and when it appears, and treated immediately.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
A MRI is another method of screening which is recommended only for the high risk category of women along with a regular mammogram. This test can predict tumors or cancer tissues present in the breast more precisely than the mammogram. However, there are chances that it may also locate some non-cancerous tissues, and provide certain false positive findings. Hence, this test is not recommended individually, and it is always done along with a mammogram test or a breast biopsy. Furthermore, this test is much costlier than the other breast examination methods.
Usually, these are the methods that are often used for the detection of breast cancer, and apart from these there are certain other kinds of tests like breast ultrasound, tomosynthesis, thermography, scintimammography, nipple discharge exam or ductogram which may be additionally recommended as per the case. By conducting these tests at periodic intervals according to the recommended age and degree of risk, women can keep breast cancer at bay and successfully escape the serious consequences related to it.