Breast cancer is the most common cancer type (apart from skin cancer) in women, says Centers of Cancer Diagnosis and Prevention (CDCP). The American Cancer Society (ACS) predicted that there would be a minimum of 232,000 new cases of invasive cases of breast cancer in the United States by the end of 2015.
Invasive breast cancer spread from glands or ducts to other parts of the breast. On an average, around 40,000 women were expected to die of breast cancer. ACS predicted that around 252,710 new cases of invasive cancer would be diagnosed in 2017.
The biggest issue that women with breast cancer face is that they never experienced any symptoms. This makes breast cancer screening very important for every woman, irrespective of their geographical location.
How is Early Detection of Breast Cancer Beneficial?
Like every other type of cancer, breast cancer is easy to treat when detected in early stages. And, the best way to detect breast cancer in early stages is to undergo check-ups periodically.
Women can also perform self-tests to see if there are any symptoms or unusual changes in their breasts. If they experience any unusual change that should be reported to the doctor, they must not wait.
The primary reason why any unusual change is to be reported to a doctor is to find potential causes of cancer that may lead to cancer symptoms like lumps later in the future. In case a symptom is clearly visible or noticeable, cancer has already spread and led to a more advanced stage. This makes it harder to successfully treat cancer.
The following are some most common breast cancer diagnosis tests:
A mammogram is the most commonly used cancer diagnosis test, typically at in early stages. This test involves low-dose X-ray of breasts aimed at noticing any unusual change in the tissues, which could lead to the development of cancer cells.
Mammograms are of two types – A Screening Mammogram and a Diagnostic Mammogram.
A screening mammogram is aimed at looking for cancer cells in women who have no symptoms of cancer or problems in their breasts so far. In contrast, a diagnostic mammogram is aimed at looking for unusual changes in the breasts of women who observed problems or unusual changes in them.
Mammograms can identify calcification and masses in breasts, which could lead to cancer. However, these tests cannot prove if those unusual changes (if any) are the symptoms of breast cancer.
Biopsy and Diagnosis
A biopsy is a next step to be taken after the signs and symptoms of potential cancer are clearly visible. In this very step, the doctor or surgeon extract cells from the suspicious area(s) of a breast using a needle or an incision to determine whether or not the cells are cancerous.
While biopsy may or may not be 100% accurate in the result, it is wise to always take a second opinion. No matter if you have to undergo another biopsy, the second opinion can be helpful in finding out what is causing the actual difficulty.
If mammograms give an abnormal result, the best alternative is to go for breast ultrasound.
An ultrasound is a great way to find out what is the unusual change that appears on a mammogram in addition to other possible changes in the breast tissues. There could be other issues that might not appear on a mammogram.
In case a mass is seen or noticed on a mammogram, the best step is to go for an ultrasound and find out if it’s a fluid-filled cyst (not cancerous) or a solid mass that can be cancerous.
Breast MRI Scan – After Breast Cancer Diagnosis
Although beast MRI scan is highly recommended to women with a high risk of breast cancer, this method of diagnosis is particularly used for women who have already been diagnosed and to measure the size of the tumor.
Since breast MRI scans tend to show more false positives that would lead to certain unnecessary tests and biopsies, such tests are not recommended to average women who don’t have clear cancer symptoms.
Understanding the Risk of Breast Cancer
There are doctors who are very aggressive in their screening recommendations as compared to others. This can be very helpful or rather a great step for women with a high of breast cancer while for others with low or average risk, it is not.
Such a scenario demands women to be well-informed of their risk of breast cancer, which will help them better work with their doctor, such as setting up an appropriate screening schedule that does not require them to undergo unnecessary tests.
Breast Cancer Lowers the Risk of Death due to Breast Cancer by 60%
During a research conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO), the team analyzed the data extracted from 52,438 women who were aged between 40 and 69 years. Some of those women opted for cancer screening over a period of 39 years in Dalarna, Sweden.
The same team, using a new method this time, aimed at improving the assessment of the impacts of organized breast cancer initiatives on the health outcomes. The new method involved the calculation of annual incidences of breast cancer that lead to death with a period of 10- and 20-years following diagnosis.
The report concluded that the women who had joined an organized breast cancer screening program have a 60% and 47% lower risks of death following the diagnosis with 10 years and 20 years.
Screening and Therapy Work Hand-in-Hand
The senior study author Professor Stephen Duffy, Queen Mary University of London, quoted that there have been many improvements in the treatment that have reduced the death rate due to breast cancer.
These new results also demonstrate the key role breast screening has to play while giving women greater benefit from the modern treatment methods. More and more efforts are required to invite women to participate in screening programs, especially in socio-economically deprived parts of the society.