Breast Cancer is one of the Cancers afflicting a large number of women. The causes of Breast Cancer are not fully known. Simply being a woman and growing older put you at risk. However, there are certain known risk factors which are in your control.
Factors You Can Change
- 1. Being overweight or gaining excessive weight as an adult.
- 2. Not getting regular exercise.
- 3. Not having been pregnant puts you at higher risk.
- 4. Eating a diet high in fat.
- 5. Breast feeding offers protection against malignancy.
- 6. Smoking.
- 7. Drinking more than one alcoholic drink per day.
- 8. Having several risk factors for breast cancer only means that your chances of getting the disease are higher than women who have fewer risk factors.
Warning Signs of Breast Cancer
Finding a lump or change in your breast does not necessarily mean you have breast cancer.
Breast Cancer can be prevented by identifying changes in the breast at an early stage. If you find any of the following symptoms in your breast, you should see an oncologist.
- 1. Hard lumps, thickening in any part of the breast.
- 2. Unusual swelling, redness or increased warmth of your breast.
- 3. Lump in same side armpit.
- 4. Change in the size or shape of your breast.
- 5. Dimpling or puckering of the skin on your breast.
- 6. Itchy, sore or scaling area on the nipple.
- 7. Pulling in of your nipple or other parts of your breast.
- 8. Nipple discharge.
Detection & Prevention of Breast Cancer
The following can aid you in identifying breast cancer at an early stage.
- 1. Monthly breast self-examination starting by age 20.
- 2. Clinical breast examination by a trained medical professional every 3 years starting at age 20 and annually after 40.
- 3. Annual mammography screening starting at age 40.
- 4. Women under 40 with either a family history of breast cancer or other concerns about personal risk should consult with a trained medical professional about risk assessment and when to begin mammography.
- 1. Examine your breasts in a mirror. Has there been any change in size? Has one nipple become turned in? Any sign of discharge? Is there any puckering, dimpling or change in skin texture?
- 2. Raise hands above your head and examine breasts leading to armpit. Any swelling or skin puckering? Lower and raise your arms while watching your nipples. Do they move the same distance?
- 3. Lying down, start with left breast using right hand. Use the flat of your hands to feel for any lumps, thick or bumpy area. Press firmly and feel the entire breast and lastly arm pit also. Repeat whole examination in right breast. If you detect anything, consult your doctor immediately.
What is Mammography?
Mammography is a specific type of imaging that uses a low-dose X-ray system for examination of breasts. It plays a crucial part in early detection of breast cancers because it can show changes in the breast up to two years before a patient or physician can feel them. Current guidelines recommend mammography every year for women from the age of 40 years.
On the day of the test
- 1. Inform your doctor of if you are pregnant any prior surgeries and family or personal history of breast cancer.
- 2. Do not schedule your mammogram for the week before your menstrual period as your breasts are usually tender during this time. The best time is one week following your menstrual period.
- 3. Please wear comfortable loose clothing while coming for the test.
- 4. Please do not bring valuables such as jewelry, credit cards and cell phones.
- 5. Do not apply deodorant, talcum powder, or lotion under your arms or on your breast on the day of the test as these can appear as calcium spots.
- 6. Describe any breast symptoms or problems to the technologist performing the test.
- 7. Please bring any old mammograms, if you have, for the comparative study.
- 8. Your mammography is performed by a registered technician.
- 9. The images will be interpreted by a qualified radiologist.
How is the test performed?
A specially qualified radiographer/technologist will position you to image your breast. The breast is first placed on a special platform and compressed with a paddle.
The technologist will go behind a glass shield while making the X-ray exposure, which will send a beam of X-rays through the breast to the film behind the plate, thus exposing the film. You will be asked to change positions slightly between images. The routine views are a top-to-bottom and a side view. The process is repeated for the other breast. The examination process should take about half an hour. When the mammography is completed, you will be asked to wait until the technologist examines the images to determine if more are needed. A sono-mammography might be asked for by the Radiologist on review of the mammography films.
After the test
You will be able to resume your usual activities. Date and time for the collection of the report shall be communicated to you. Your physician will discuss the test results with you.
Are there any risks associated with the test?
You will feel pressure on the breast as it is squeezed by the compressor. Some women with sensitive breasts may experience discomfort. If this is the case, schedule the procedure when your breasts are least tender. The technologist will apply compression in gradations. Be sure to inform the technologist if pain occurs as compression is increased. If discomfort is significant, less compression will be used.
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