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Breast cancer detection,breast cancer

How Can One Detect Breast Cancer At The Early Stages?

Breast cancer is a kind of cancer that develops in the tissues of the breast. It triggers when cells of the breast mutate and start to develop uncontrollably in the ducts and lobules or milk glands of the breast.

It can even travel to the lymph nodes of the armpits from where it can spread to other parts of the body. Although Breast cancer is found mostly in women, it can rarely occur in men, too.

Breast Cancer is the most common cancer among women in India and the world. In India, the incidence rate is rising, especially among urban women.

The age of breast cancer is also coming down as it is increasingly affecting younger women. One main reason for the increased incidence rate is late detection.

Different types of the breast cancer cause different symptoms. Some of the common symptoms include:

  • Lumps or thickening of the breast tissue
  • Redness and breast pain
  • Discharge especially bloody discharge from the nipple
  • Sudden change in the shape and size of the breast
  • Inverted nipple and the lump in the armpit area

Any of these symptoms can be indicative of breast cancer. But the presence of any of these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean that one has breast cancer.

It is also essential to note that not all lumps are cancerous. The majority of the breast lumps are benign. But some kind of benign lumps can raise the risk of breast cancer.

In case of any change or lump, that was not there before, it becomes critical that it be checked by the doctor to verify whether it is benign or cancerous and if it can affect any future cancer risk or not.

Early detection of breast cancer

The early detection of breast cancer is key to the successful control of the disease. Although there is no sure solution for the prevention of breast cancer, early detection can result in a good outcome.

Early detection is important as treatment options are more, if detected early and not only do chances of survival increase, the chances to preserve the breast are also higher.

Most breast cancers are detected on screening mammograms, which can find cancers at an early stage, mostly even before the appearance of any symptom or any kind of a lump.

How to detect breast cancer at early stages:

Early detection is the major input in the treatment of breast cancers. There are many steps that can be taken to early detection of breast cancer when it is most curable. The most common tests to detect breast cancer are:

  • Self- awareness and examination
  • Clinical breast examination
  • Screening in the form of mammography and ultrasound

Self-examination

It is a very good preventive measure to know about the appearance and the feeling of the breasts so that any visible lump or changes can be noticed.

It is Consult your doctor to learn the best way of performing a breast exam. While there is no proof that it decreases mortality from breast cancer.

But it is recommended that every woman must be aware of the regular feel and look of her breasts.

In case of any significant changes she should report to her doctor immediately like:

  • Any nipple discharges
  • Some form of a new lump
  • Any visible change in the shape or size of the breast or nipple
  • Continuous pain in either breast
  • Some sort of skin color change over the breast

It is recommended that one does the self-examination at least once every month, immediately after the monthly period.

Clinical Breast Examination

A clinical breast examination is performed by a Doctor or another health professional who is trained to recognize any abnormality.

Usually, it is a gynecologist or a family physician who performs the breast exam. This is a physical exam in which your doctor or the healthcare professional using the finger pads palpates the breast, armpits, and collarbone to detect any warning signs.

Screening

For better treatment options, it is very essential to get diagnosed as soon as possible. For this, it becomes very important to report the doctor in case of any changes.

Some screening recommendations for the women at average risk advised by the American Cancer Society are:

  • For the age 40-44: An annual mammogram
  • Age 45-54: Getting yearly mammograms is necessary
  • For 55 and older: either yearly or doing on alternate years is quite enough

The choice is up to you and the doctor. 

Mammograms

Through the mammogram, the breast lumps can be detected up to 2 years before the presence of any visible symptom. Many women do not undergo any mammogram until the age of 40.

But it can be undertaken at a younger age in the case of high-risk women. A mammogram is like an Xray in which breast tissue is imaged using small radiation.

Several tests help to verify if a lump may be cancerous because non- cancerous lumps have different physical features. This difference is confirmed only by imaging tests like mammograms and ultrasounds. Only a doctor can advise when and how these tests should be done.

Breast Ultrasound

This is most recommended in the case of women have dense breasts. In such cases, mammograms are not very effective. It is also recommended if you are at high risk and MRI can’t be done. Or in case of pregnancy because exposure to radiation during a mammogram is not recommended.

Breast MRI

By the means of this test, different images of the breast are combined into one to generate a single detailed image. Often, it is used after the diagnosis to know about the extension of cancer.

This can be combined with a mammogram in case of;

  • High risk of breast cancer
  • Genetic history
  • Dense breasts
  • Have undergone any radiation treatments of breasts before the age of 30

Diagnosis

The only accurate method through which your Doctor can confirm breast cancer is a surgical breast biopsy. In this test, the oncologist uses a specialized needle under an Xray guidance to take a sample of cells from the affected area.

These cells are then tested in the laboratory to determine whether they are cancerous or not.

After being diagnosed with breast cancer it becomes very necessary for the doctor to know about the type and stage of cancer. Once the type and stage are determined, the oncologist can decide the best mode of treatment.

Dr. Rohan Khandelwal
Author: Dr. Rohan Khandelwal
Dr. Rohan Khandelwal is a renowned surgeon who has completed his fellowship in breast oncology and advanced breast surgery from esteemed institutes like The Aiello Breast Center, University of Maryland. He has garnered over 17 years of clinical experience from some of the most reputed healthcare facilities across the country. He specializes in benign and cancerous breast disorders in both genders. He is also the editor in chief for the New Indian Journal of Surgery and Journal of Young Medical Researcher.
 
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