How to Detect Breast Cancer in Time

How to Detect Breast Cancer in Time

Last update: 10 April, 2019

Breast cancer is a very frequent disease in women. Although it is impossible to know who it will affect – because many risk factors cannot be changed – here are things that you can do to have control over your body. In today’s article you can learn about how to detect breast cancer in time, and it could even save your life!

In order to detect breast cancer early, you need to know what this disease is, and what its risk factors are. You need to know why early detection is necessary, and what treatment methods are available. If you want to know more, we encourage you to continue reading.

First things first: what is breast cancer?

Breast cancer is produced by the development of a malignant tumor that begins in the cells of the mammary gland. By malignant tumor, we mean tumor cells that form in the breast’s gland tissue. These then invade the rest of the healthy tissue that surrounds it.

Why is it important to detect breast cancer as soon as possible?

According to the WHO (World Health Organization), 16% of female cancer cases are diagnosed as breast cancer. This is, therefore, the most frequent kind of cancer in women.

That is why you need to take special care to detect breast cancer in time. Obviously, the sooner you detect it, the greater the possibility of eliminating it through different types of treatment. Let’s be clear about this: detecting this disease early can mean the difference between life and death.

Breast cancer is a disease that doesn’t show visible symptoms at first.  According to the American Cancer Association, almost all cases that we can detect and treat early have a very high rate of success. It has been proven that early detection campaigns are highly effective, and have reduced the number of deaths from this disease.

As we can see, early detection is essential. The first step is to know what you can do to be prepared.

A sideways view of a breast.

Know the risk factors

A risk factor is anything that increases the possibilities of suffering from a disease. Of course, having one or more risk factors doesn’t necessarily mean that you have or will develop this disease.

These are simply indications to measure the risk. Keeping a record of these means more information for your doctor. This enables them to treat you more effectively. It’s important to know if you at risk of developing this disease, and what you should do as a result.

Within these risk factors, there are changeable and non-changeable factors. Although there is no direct relation that has been proven between the changeable factors and breast cancer, there is research that shows a certain correlation between them. By knowing them, you can make the necessary changes in your life.

Non-changeable factors:

  • Being a woman: The main risk factor for this disease is belonging to the female gender. Men can develop breast cancer because they have mammary glands, but their probabilities are much less than in women.
  • Being older than 55: Another unchangeable risk factor is age. With age, the risk of developing breast cancer increases. Two out of every three patients with invasive breast cancer are older than 55.
  • Having a genetic predisposition: Genetics are the third risk factor. Having a family history of breast cancer immediately implies a more rigorous control for early detection. They calculate that 5 to 10% of breast cancer is hereditary. According to the American Cancer Association, having or having had a blood related relative that has suffered from this disease doubles the possibilities of having this disease at any time in their life.
  • Having a personal history of breast cancer: This is another unchangeable risk factor. A woman that has already suffered from this disease is more likely than the average woman to develop breast cancer again.
  • Not having kids: Women that have not gestated and given birth to children up to the age of 30 have a great possibility of having breast cancer.
  • Not breast feeding: Having gone through the lactation process also reduces the probability of suffering from this type of cancer.

Changeable Factors:

Within the changeable risk factors, we can highlight obesity (especially post menopause), tobacco use, lack of exercise, and estrogen therapy for menopause.

Do self examinations

After the age of 20, you should do self examinations of your breasts. Doing this type of breast examination regularly allows you to recognize any changes that may occur.

Self exams are not a detection method on their own. You should always consult your doctor if you find anything or if you are unsure about something.

Knowing your own body and breasts can allow you to detect abnormalities like bulges, inflammation, secretions, increases in temperature, changes in the size or shape, pain, changes in skin color, and changes in the nipple color and around it.

If you are unsure about how to do these checks, ask your doctor to show you the proper way to do these self exams.

A woman covering her nipple.

Clinical exams and mammograms

Between the ages of twenty and forty, you should have clinical breast examinations with your doctor. Between these ages, we suggest doing checks every three years.

After forty years of age, you’ll need to do a clinical breast exam and a mammogram every year. A mammogram is a study of an image via x-rays that explores the consistency and formation of the mammary gland.

Where and how to do a clinical exam and a mammogram

Request an appointment with your gynecologist. Besides answering all of your questions on the subject and the risk factors that are involved, you can learn how to do self examinations, and they will also carry out the necessary clinical exams.

Find a doctor that you feel comfortable with and take advantage of the time they give you in order to ask all the questions that you find relevant. They will keep track of the frequency of the different tests, and will instruct you to do a mammogram when necessary.

So, as you can see, to detect breast cancer requires simple actions that we should all keep in mind in order to stay healthy.

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