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Breast Cancer Screening: When and How to Start?

 


Breast cancer is the most prevalent type of cancer in the world. Screening not only detects more than 2 million new cases each year, but it is estimated that 600,000 women die from breast cancer and its complications.

What many healthcare systems around the world miss is that early detection significantly reduces mortality and allows breast-conserving surgery (BCS) rather than complete mastectomy. In addition, if the cancer is diagnosed before it spreads to other parts of the body and remains restrained only in the breast, life expectancy for five years can skyrocket to over 90%.

Given these statistics, it is more important than ever to start screening practices from an early age. The various guidelines and approaches can all be overwhelming, but experts focus on one point. It’s always best to make mistakes early on.

With advice from Füsun Taşkın, a professor of radiology, here’s what to do every 10 years and in the meantime:

In my twenties

Self-examination is not technically a screening for breast cancer, but it is most often diagnosed thanks to women who notice new masses or visual irregularities during the self-examination. Therefore, Tashkun recommends that women check their breasts for abnormalities once a month the week after their menstruation. These regular self-checks should begin in your teens or at the age of 20 and continue for life.

Taşkın, however, warns that self-checks cannot replace mammography and reduce breast cancer-related mortality.

“Regular mammography after age 40 should never be ignored, even if monthly breast examinations do not detect palpable masses,” she says. A mass may mean that it is already too late in some cases.

Breast self-examination method

1.1. Start by visually examining your breasts. Sit in front of the mirror without a bra or shirt and inspect your breasts with your eyes. Relax your arms on your side.

Look forward for indentations, puckering, or changes in size, shape, or symmetry. Look at your nipples to see if you can notice anything new or if your nipples are flipped.

Repeat these steps with your hands on your hips, your arms sideways, your torso tilted slightly forward, your arms raised above your head, and your palms pressed together. Finally, don’t forget to check below for changes in symmetry.

2.2. Next, move on to the tactile part of the test. Use your hands to examine your breasts.

Lying on a flat surface, spreads the breast tissue in a uniform layer, making it easier to feel lumps and bumps. Use the pad of your finger instead of the tip to start feeling all the breast tissue. Most doctors recommend using three middle fingers to do this.

Apply different levels of pressure to feel the different depths of the tissue. With the firmest touch, you should be able to feel the tissue closest to the chest wall and ribs. If you don’t know how hard to press, talk to your nurse or doctor.

Follow the pattern: Some people recommend drawing a circle from the outside to the inside. Some people prefer to follow a cross-section approach and divide the breast into pie charts. Start with a light touch and press to feel a deeper layer.

3.3. Don’t forget to examine your armpits and collarbone. Start with the collarbone and work towards the nipple. Don’t rush and spend time. Be sure to take a few minutes to check.

If you find:

  • Hard lumps and knots near the chest and armpit hair
  • Depressions, bulges, or bumps in the skin of the breast
  • Changes in nipple shape and secretions
  • Redness, warmth, swelling or pain
  • Itching, thickening of the skin, scales, sores or rash
  • Bloody nipple discharge

You can immediately contact your doctor and recommend additional tests for investigation.

After 25 years old

Whether or not there is a health dissatisfaction with the breast, and regardless of medical history, Taşkın recommends that women from the age of 25 visit a specialized polyclinic and its gynecologist to undergo a professional examination. I am.

Under 30s or regardless of age

Breast ultrasonography is the first step in behavioral and screening choices for women under the age of 30 and teenagers who are dissatisfied with their breasts.

Taşkın adds that ultrasound is also a reliable method used in combination with mammography after age 40 or as a complement to mammography.

“Ultrasonography is a sensitive method for detecting and assessing both mass-forming and non-mass-forming breast cancer. It helps doctors understand the structure and characteristics of breast tumors.”

Taşkın emphasized that most breast biopsies are performed under the guidance of ultrasonography, saying that ultrasonography does not use ionizing radiation and can be safely used during pregnancy, regardless of age. I am. (Did you know these? Myth about breast cancer?? )

35 years old and over

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is the most sensitive method for detecting breast cancer, but it is rarely used in cancer screening as the first step in the general population. However, it is the most widely preferred screening method for women who appear to be at high risk.

If the risk of breast cancer is considered high, doctors probably recommend starting MRI at a young age and in combination with mammography after age 35.

Taşkın states that MRI contributes significantly to the early detection and effective treatment of breast cancer, especially in young women who do not benefit from mammography screening.

40 years and over

Scientifically proven mammography is the “gold standard” for breast cancer screening. Therefore, it is important for women to undergo mammography annually from the age of 40, even without breast-related complaints. If you have a family history of breast cancer, your doctor may advise you to start it sooner.

Taşkın states that mammography screening reduces cancer mortality by an average of 30% by providing early diagnosis.

“Early diagnosis means more effective and timely treatment. Therefore, as mortality decreases, treatment with fewer side effects and breast-conserving surgery becomes possible.”

Taşkın also emphasized that if the mammogram is performed “diagnostically”, that is, in women with a history of health dissatisfaction or cancer, there is no age limit to start and it can also be performed in pregnant or lactating women. I am. (For more information on mammograms, please click here Link.. )

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