Screening for breast cancer has saved many lives all around the world and right here in Cayman.
There are many questions about screening and the most effective screening method and this article will attempt to answer some of those questions.
The most accessible and basic type of screening available to all women is the breast self-examination.
While the effectiveness of this type of screening is questioned by some there is no doubt that it has saved many lives.
BSE should be done on a monthly basis about 10 days after the start of your period.
Women should start doing BSE as soon as they begin having their periods as this will help them to become familiar with their breasts and what is normal for them.
There are three different methods for doing BSE – the circular method, up and down or like a cake slice. The best advice is to choose and practice the method that works best for you. Remember the best time to do BSE is during and after a shower and the best time of the month is about 10 days after the start of your period.
The second most accessible form of screening is a clinical breast exam.
This is like a BSE but a doctor or nurse does the examination.
Most women visit a doctor or district clinic at some time during a year and at one of these visits it is appropriate to ask the clinician to exam your breasts. You should have a CBE done at least once every two years.
The third method of screening for breast cancer is a mammogram which is an X-ray of the breast.
In Cayman it is recommended that all women have a baseline screening mammogram at age 40 and thereafter every two years unless your doctor recommends more frequent screening.
Women with a family history of breast cancer may begin having mammograms at an earlier age as recommended by their doctor.
Mammograms can detect lumps before they can be felt and can also detect tiny specks of calcium, which can be a sign of cancer. If a mammogram is abnormal then the doctor will order diagnostic testing.
Mammograms are infamous for being uncomfortable as they involve the compression of the breasts between two metal plates. The compression lasts a few seconds and the discomfort will not last any length of time.
In order to ensure the best mammogram image possible do not wear any deodorant, powder or cream under your arms and be sure to mention if you have breast implants. The best time of the month to do a mammogram is about 10 days after the start of your period.
It is sometimes recommended that women have a breast ultrasound. As a screening tool this is usually recommended for women under the age of 40. This is because their breast tissue is denser. This makes the mammogram more difficult to interpret and may produce false-positive results.
There are several other options available e.g. magnetic resonance imaging. However, this is an expensive option and is usually recommended in addition to a mammogram for women who are at high risk of developing breast cancer.
For more information on breast cancer screening speak with your doctor, call the Cayman Islands Cancer Society at 949-7618 or visit one of the awareness evenings or district clinics organized by the Lion’s Club of Tropical Gardens during this month.