Breast Self-Exams: Way to Detect Breast Cancer

Breast cancer accounts for 15% of cancer deaths in the United States. In 2008, of the 692,000 cancer deaths in the US, breast cancer accounts for 26%.

To help women fight the rising breast cancer epidemic, medical practitioners have created a number of tests that will determine the presence of the disease, and hopefully catch it in its infancy where we still have a fighting chance.

Some of these tests include: self-(breast)exam, clinical breast exam, mammograms and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Self-exam

Though breast self-exam has been recommend by doctors to women over 20, it has done nothing to decrease the number of breast-cancer related deaths each year. Thus, breast self-exam is considered as an option rather than a requirement.

But, there is a plus side to a breast self-exam. Women will become more familiar of their breasts, thus spotting changes will be easier for them. It is important though, that breast self-exam techniques are approved by medical professionals.

Clinical breast exam

Clinical breast exams are performed by health care professionals. They are done to detect abnormalities that you might not have detected in your self-exam. Your doctor will also be checking for lumps and enlarged lymph nodes in the the armpits.

Women over 20 are recommended to have a clinical breast exam every three years. Once they turn 40, it is recommended that they get a clinical breast exam every year. If you have a family history of breast cancer, you may be required to get tested more often.

Mammogram

A mammogram is like a breast x-ray. It is the most efficient tool in detecting breast cancer symptoms such as tumors that may not be detected through clinical and breast exams.

Mammograms take two images of each breast so that it can be viewed from two different angles. Good quality mammograms can detect 85-90% of cancers. However, false-negative are common in women over 40 because their breasts are more dense, making them harder to analyze.

Magnetic resonance imaging

MRI uses a magnet linked to a computer to take pictures of the inside of your breasts. MRI can detect signs of breast cancer that could be missed by a mammogram. MRIs are not part of routine screening, but women with high risks of developing breast cancer may be required to have an MRI more regularly.

Breast ultrasound

If a mammogram detects an abnormality, your doctor may recommend that you go through an ultrasound. Ultrasounds help find out whether an area is a cyst or solid breast tissue.

Computer-aided detection

The accuracy of a mammogram result depend largely on the skills of the radiologist. This is why, computer-aided detection was developed. A computer scans a mammogram after the radiologist reviews it.