BREAST cancer continues to be the most common cancer in women, and more importantly, one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths.
Screening for cancer is important, and women need to know when and where to be screened for the disease.
Obstetrician-gynaecologist Dr. Ryan Halsall said breast cancer screening usually involves three processes:
1. Monthly breast self-examinations
2. Examinations by your physician
3. Imaging tests, for example, mammograms.
Dr Halsall said there are no strict guidelines as to when you should start doing self- examinations or have checks by your physician. However, since self-checks are free and easy, there’s no harm in starting as early as in your 20s. But it’s advisable to check your physician or nurse to ensure you have the proper technique before starting.
With respect to imaging, the ObGyn said the mammogram has been the “gold standard” in breast cancer screening for some time now.
“Most would agree to start biennial mammograms at age 50 and continue up to age 70. Some authorities advocate for an earlier start at age 40, and the decision to start early should be individualised,” he said, adding that if you have a very strong family history of breast (or ovarian) cancer, you will require a much more rigorous screening process.
“This will include testing for cancer genes, more frequent physician exams, yearly mammograms and even MRIs of the breasts. Also, the age for screening in these patients is dropped to 25 years,” he said.
Dr. Halsall advised that mammograms are offered at the Jamaica Cancer Society and at many X-ray and imaging operations islandwide.
Reduce your risk
Lifestyle changes that can reduce your breast cancer risk include:
1. Limiting alcohol
2. Not smoking
3. Proper weight management
4. Being physically active
6. Limiting dosage and duration of hormone therapy.
Be vigilant about breast cancer detection. If you notice any changes in your breasts, such as a new lump or skin changes, consult your doctor. Also, ask your doctor when to begin mammograms and other screenings
Edited by Jesus Chan
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