Breast cancer screening: Better safe than sorry

October is often referred to as ‘Pinktober’, courtesy the heightened awareness regrading breast cancer during the month and the pink ribbon associated with the disease. Globally, it is the most common cancer found among women with the highest mortality rate, and the second most common cancer overall. In 2018 alone, there were estimated 2.1 million new breast cancer cases across the world resulting in 627,000 deaths as per International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

Like many other preventable cancers, breast cancer can also be avoided. Studies have linked breast cancer to unhealthy diet, obesity, lack of exercise and consumption of alcohol. Other risk factors – which may not be as controllable – include increasing age, family history of the disease, exposure to radiation, postmenopausal hormone therapy, delayed motherhood, early beginning of period and late menopause among other reasons.

This is why doctors have put an emphatic stress on women to get themselves screened for breast cancer, besides adopting self-screening at home.Early detection of the cancer can reduce the risk of fatality from the disease by 25-30 percent or more. It goes without saying that regular screening is the key to detect the cancer ensuring that the treatment begins on time to help arrest the disease in its nascent stage and increase the chances of survival. Moreover, early treatment further reduces the likelihood of mastectomy (breast removal) and chemotherapy.

Many doctors suggest that women should begin self-examination early in life given the fact that the disease is being increasingly diagnosed in younger women as well. Ideally women should do the examination every month between the 6th and the 10th day after the period begins, but if that’s not possible, then two to three times a year is a must. Regular self-examination helps women identify any changes in the breast, such as a lump, pain or change in size of breast, which can be further checked by a doctor.

“For a more clinical approach, women can consult doctors for breast cancer screening tests which include Breast Examination, Mammogram, Breast Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Breast ultrasound. Women over the age of 40 should opt for regular mammogram screening in particular since the procedure allows radiologists to find cancer even before it manifests itself, ensuring a lower level of lymph nodes involvement. Women who have a higher risk of developing breast cancer should start the screening process much earlier” advises Dr. Subhadeep Bose, Specialist Medical Oncologist at Bahrain Specialist Hospital.

However, at the end of the day, a number of factors come into play when it comes to screening for breast cancer making every case different. Therefore it’s extremely important that women consult their doctors to further discuss their screening options and how often they should do it.

Most of us have come across a breast cancer survivor either directly or indirectly. Surviving the cancer is not an easy journey, and calls for more awareness, both on preventive measures as well and early screening and treatment. So this year as we celebrate the Breast Cancer Awareness Month, let’s do our bit by spreading the word.


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