Every year the number of women affected by breast cancer keeps growing. Every woman is at risk for breast cancer – a disease that strikes the young and the beautiful, successful businesswomen and those belonging to the upper crust.
Russian writer Darya Dontsova, Western pop stars Kylie Minogue and Anastacia, former first lady Nancy Reagan and many others less known women were diagnosed with breast cancer in their time. Neither a woman’s social status nor her personal wealth can offer a guarantee against breast cancer. In all the aforementioned cases women managed to beat cancer by taking advantage of the modern diagnostic methods.
Minimizing the risks
The risk factors below are listed in order of their importance:
- Family history of breast cancer. The disease appears to have a familial link;
- Avoiding breast-feeding may lead to abnormal cell growth in the breast. It is advisable to feed a baby for a minimum period of six months. It would be best to do it for 9-10 months;
- Lack of regular sexual activity;
- Chronic stress;
- Injuries of the breast;
- Prolonged exposure to the sun’s rays;
- Unhealthy lifestyles (obesity, smoking, alcohol abuse)
However, you do not have to panic even if you happen to have grounds to suspect that you are a high-risk candidate. Not unlike in case of other diseases, you can minimize potential risks of breast cancer by taking certain preventive measures in a timely manner.
1. See your endocrinologist. Opt for a healthy lifestyle; lose weight in case you are overweight.
2. Try to minimize stress. Have sex on a regular basis.
3. Eat a balanced diet. Make foods rich in vitamins A, E and C e.g. carrot, spinach, apricot, and citrus part of your daily diet.
4. Bear in mind that childbirth and breast-feeding are beneficial to the health of your breast.
Unfortunately, you are still at some risk for breast cancer even if you do not have any of the risk factors mentioned above, and follow all the recommendations without fail. This is merely the risk of living as a woman.
Advantages of present-day diagnostic techniques
The diagnosis of tumors of the breast includes initial and differential diagnostic techniques.
Initial diagnostic techniques include self-examination and palpation (examining the breast by careful feeling with the hand and fingertips). However, the above methods are insufficient for measuring the actual size of a tumor and arriving at a correct diagnosis. That is why the differential diagnostic techniques e.g. mammography and ultrasound examination are used.
Mammography is the making of X-ray or infrared ray photographs of the breast. It is generally used for the early detection of abnormal growths. Mammography enables diagnosticians to detect the first-stage breast cancer in 50-70 percent of cases. Impalpable tumors can be detected in 18-33 percent of cases. Modern X-ray machines are quite good at detecting tumors that measure from 5 to 10 millimeters. The main disadvantage of mammography concerns its poor reliability when it comes to examination of women with pronounced types of mastopathy; examination of young women (those who did not bear children) with thick-set mammary glands; examination of women with breast implants or those having background conditions such as fibroadenomatosis. In the above cases, diagnosticians use ultrasound examination for detecting tumors of the breast.
Ultrasound examination, especially if used in combination with mammography, is an effective diagnostic technique for producing a better picture of a tumor. The technique has an accuracy rate of about 87 percent. However, the accuracy rate is subject to decline if the technique is used independently.
Thermography is widely used in today’s clinical practice for measuring and recording the heat produced by different parts of the body or mammary gland, for that matter. The heat radiated from the body varies in different parts according to the flow of blood through the vessels; thus areas of poor circulation produce less heat. On the other hand, a tumor with an abnormally increased blood supply may be recorded as a “hot spot.” Yet the technique’s diagnostic accuracy is not as high as that shown by mammography and ultrasound examination.
Mammospectrometry is currently considered the state-of-the-art diagnostic technique for detecting early-stage breast cancer. At the beginning of the diagnosis, a patient takes a special tablet (Fe59) – a chemical agent which is designed to accumulate only in the fast-splitting cells. Then a special machine Perenna is activated for screening the mammary glands. The data are to be processed by the computer so that diagnosticians may arrive at a correct diagnosis. In other words, the technique enables doctors to find out where there is an uncontrolled growth of breast cells or not.
Compared with other diagnostic techniques, mammospectrometry has at least five advantages:
1. The technique can be used for examining pregnant patients
2. It cuts the level of radiation exposure to a minimum
3. A patient does have to disrobe prior to being examined
4. The entire procedure takes less than 5 minutes to complete
5. The technique can detect growths measuring smaller than 5 millimeters
As regards the technique’s disadvantages, there is only one: mammospectrometry is still a novelty despite being the most advanced diagnostic technique for detecting breast cancer at an early stage. For instance, the technique is currently available only at one clinic in Moscow, namely, The Center of Professional Medicine “Akademia”.
In case a tumor has been detected, morphological (cytological and/or histological) examination of the tumor tissue will be carried out. The technique is considered to be the most precise method of diagnosing breast cancer. It will be used for determining a type of cancer cells only in case a positive result is confirmed by all the other diagnostic techniques.
The smaller is the tumor, the greater are our options. So if you feel something you are concerned about, do not hesitate to have your breast examined by a qualified medical specialist. If the disease is detected at an earlier stage, your chance of complete cure with better cosmetic result will be greatly increased. Please do not forget that your risk for breast cancer gets higher as you grow older. That is why you should have your breast checked regularly, at least once a year, especially you are above 40.
Translated by Guerman Grachev