How to detect breast cancer early

How to detect breast cancer early


The number of women affected by breast cancer is alarming worldwide. But if caught early, survival is also high.


November 26, 2020 – 3:14 p.m.

About one in ten women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. The numbers are staggering. The good news is that “the chances of women surviving this type of cancer are very high,” said Christian Albring, president of the German Association of Gynecologists.

Albring, like many other experts, recommends that all women aged 20 and over have their breasts checked regularly after each menstrual cycle. After the age of 30, it is important to add the analysis of the chest and armpits to the annual analysis for cancer prevention.

In cases where a direct relative, be it a mother, grandmother or sister, has suffered from breast or ovarian cancer, experts may recommend some kind of more detailed analysis. It is important to seek professional advice.

Fear of treatment
The positive thing about this type of cancer is that it can be detected at a very early stage, Albring explains. The downside, on the other hand, is that tumors are sometimes detected and treated that would not cause human death. For this reason, says the specialist, now tests are always performed to analyze the malignant characteristics of the tumor before the person undergoes treatment.

The doctor will explain to the patient the results of the mammogram of the breast from the X-ray scan of the digital tablet screen. Photo: Sutterstock

It is also important to explain that not all radiation therapies are highly invasive, says Albring. Today, there are devices and technologies that allow us to reduce radiation more and more. In general, early detection programs are usually activated after the age of 50, when the risk of breast cancer increases in statistics, says Suzanne Weg-Remers, director of the Cancer Information Service of the German Cancer Research Center DKFZ. “This protects a woman from being exposed to too much radiation throughout her life,” she explains.

Ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging
There are still no real alternatives to mammography. At the moment, they cannot be replaced by another type of procedure, says Weg-Remers, “but sonograms and magnetic resonance imaging are important to complete the image,” he said.

There is also computed tomography of the breast, a form of diagnosis that has been used in patients for several months, said Carsten Reeder, a radiologist who works in Dortmund.

Computed tomography generates high-resolution 3D images by exposing a person to very low radiation, explains Reeder, who performs this type of research. “The contrast between the glandular epithelium and the calcifications is clear,” he said, without having to “compress” the breast.

Susanne Veg-Remers also welcomed this type of research. “Because it doesn’t crush the breast, it makes it possible to determine exactly which area would be better to sample,” he explains. In any case, the specialist also warns that computed tomography of the breast is still in the experimental phase. In Germany, it is commonly used in research and specific research conducted in university hospitals.

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