The 101 of Breast Cancer Screenings

The 101 of Breast Cancer Screenings

At some point in time, all women should think about getting their breasts screened for possible tumors and cancers before symptoms appear. This will help to prevent the disease from advancing to the point that it could be fatal. Thinking about getting breast cancer is a very scary and real possibility for most women, but delaying or avoiding getting screened because of anxiety won’t help anything. Early detection is key to effectively keeping breast cancer from becoming fatal. Scientists are hard at work trying to get a better understanding of who is likely to get it, the things that cause it, and most importantly, how to cure it.

Most doctors recommend that women around the ages of 40-44 start going to their physician annually, and schedule regular, yearly mammograms to help detect anything in the early stages. A basic screening includes a clinical breast exam and mammography where your doctor will feel your breasts for any lumps or abnormalities, usually both while you’re sitting and laying down. A mammogram is basically an x-ray of your breasts to get a better view of the tissue, which allows the doctor to detect the formation of any abnormalities. In the circumstance that some abnormal tissue is found, please don’t panic. Oftentimes, they are benign (non-cancerous) and a biopsy will be performed on the tissue to determine if you need further treatment. In the unfortunate situation that test results come back as malignant (cancerous), you will be required to go over the options to help eliminate the cancerous cells from your body. Women that have family or past medical history of breast cancer are considered to be high risk, and health care providers will often give them an MRI instead since MRIs offer a more clear and detailed image of the breasts.

There are some new screening methods that are currently in the clinical trial stage, including thermography and tissue sampling. Thermography uses digital infrared imaging to show the metabolic activity that can distinguish between healthy and cancerous tissue based on different output levels. The activity and energy cancer cells require by robbing the body of nutrition increases their circulation that can be viewed using the infrared imaging.  The other screening method, tissue sampling, involves taking body fluid, tissue, bone, and muscle to be studied and biopsied under a microscope. That can give doctors an accurate diagnosis as to the type of cancer and how quickly it is spreading. The real benefit to tissue sampling is that they are hoping it can better detect early signs of breast cancer, thus increasing the odds of survival

There are some risks involved with screening procedures, which is why it is extremely important to have long, detailed discussions about these risks and your own unique medical history with your doctor. Different people respond differently to the various screening methods. I don’t know about you, but I would want to choose the most effective method with the least amount of side effects; I would do anything I could to increase my odds of living a long and healthy life.

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