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The Importance of Breast Cancer Early Detection

October 5, 2022

Did you know 1-in-8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime? This unsettling statistic reveals why early detection is so important. Women need to be proactive about minimizing their level of risk by undergoing routine exams to help identify abnormalities as early as possible. Early detection not only increases which treatment options are available but also increases the chance of survival.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. We’re raising our voice to draw attention to the importance of routine screening exams for early breast cancer detection.

Early Breast Cancer Detection Saves Lives

Although breast cancer can develop in men and women, it’s far more common among women, according to a study published by the American Cancer Society. By the end of 2022, nearly 290,000 women will have been diagnosed with breast cancer, with almost 44,000 losing the battle.

According to the same study, the 5-year survival rate is over 90% when breast cancer is detected early in the localized stage. For early detection, it’s imperative to conduct monthly self-exams and schedule regular clinical breast exams and mammograms.

Common Warning Signs of Breast Cancer

Performing a self-exam at home helps to understand some of the warning signs of breast cancer. Scheduling routine appointments with your physician is in your best interest. Early detection of breast cancer improves an individual’s chances of surviving the disease since it wouldn’t have a chance to metastasize to other parts of the body.

Signs & Symptoms of Breast Cancer:

  • Breast or nipple pain
  • Nipple discharge
  • Nipple retraction
  • Redness, dryness, flaking, or thickening that affects the breast or nipple
  • Skin dimpling
  • Swelling that affects any part of the breast
  • Swollen lymph nodes that form under the arm or close to the collar bone

What Is a Mammogram?

A mammogram can detect breast cancer before it can be felt in a self-exam. While it is the most efficient screening tool available, it isn’t perfect. Mammograms are most effective when combined with clinical breast exams and routine self-exams. This collective approach increases your chances of early detection.

What Happens During a Mammogram Screening?

The first step in undergoing a mammogram involves having your breast compressed between two firm surfaces, which spreads apart the breast tissue. From there, a mammographer uses an X-ray to capture black and white images of the breast tissue. These images are then displayed on a computer screen and examined for signs of cancer. The average mammogram takes about 30 minutes to complete.

The Importance of Routine Breast Exams 

The Benefits of Mammograms

A significant benefit of mammograms is that they help facilitate an early breast cancer diagnosis, which gives individuals a much better chance of beating the disease.

A study published by cancer.net revealed the average 5-year survival rate for women with non-metastatic invasive breast cancer, meaning physicians caught the disease early, is about 90%. In comparison, the 10-year survival rate is around 84%.

An early breast cancer diagnosis can put you in a better position to beat cancer and live a longer, healthier life. As a result, many oncologists emphasize the importance of routine mammograms followed by swift breast cancer treatment after a cancer diagnosis. 

The Benefits of Self-Exams 

Self-examination applies to men and women alike. A self-exam refers to palpating or feeling your breast for abnormalities. It also entails looking closely at your breast to see if anything appears different. If a self-exam identifies any suspicions, scheduling a breast cancer screening with a physician should be your next step. 

However, it’s important to note that self-exams are not a substitute for annual mammograms. Instead, they complement the self-examinations individuals should be doing at home to help facilitate the possible early detection of breast cancer.

How Is Breast Cancer Officially Diagnosed?

Diagnosing breast cancer is done in several ways. Physicians often consider several factors, including a patient’s symptoms, medical history, and family history of breast and other cancers, before deciding on an appropriate test for a patient.

In addition to mammograms, some physicians order MRIs and ultrasounds as part of a breast cancer screening. If they believe the patient’s cancer has metastasized, CT scans, bone scans, and PET scans might also be in order. While all imaging tests can help with early breast cancer detection, mammograms are the most common detection method.

If any of these tests point to breast cancer, the next step is a biopsy. If the biopsy confirms cancer, the patient’s physician will make an official diagnosis.

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