Breast Cancer: Early Detection and Treatment Key to Survival

As terrifying as it used to sound, Breast Cancer is no longer as dreadful as it was several years ago. It’s still a serious disease but thanks to improvements in cancer treatments, millions of women are surviving breast cancer today.

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As terrifying as it used to sound, Breast Cancer is no longer as dreadful as it was several years ago. It’s still a serious disease but thanks to improvements in cancer treatments, millions of women are surviving breast cancer today.

Early detection and treatment are keys to breast cancer survival

When breast cancer hasn’t strayed outside the breast, the five-year survival rate is close to 100%. So early detection through regular examinations is crucial. Women should begin doing monthly self-exams at age 20 and ask their doctors to do clinical exams at least every three years. By age 40, women should have annual mammograms and breast exams by a physician, in addition to monthly self-exams.

Some women may need to start mammograms and clinical exams earlier if they have a family history of the disease or carry one of the mutated genes – BRCA1 (breast cancer gene 1) and BRCA2 (breast cancer gene 2) – that predisposes them to breast cancer.

People who have Stage 0 (confined to the breast and not invading surrounding tissues) or Stage 1 (confined to the breast and invading surrounding breast tissue) have a five-year survival rate close to 100%. Higher stages (2, 3 and 4) mean that a more invasive tumor has spread to surrounding tissues, lymph nodes and/or to other organs. A woman with stage 4 cancer has a 20% chance of surviving for five years.

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Mammography is the most reliable way to detect breast cancer.

The use of high-quality mammography is the most reliable way to detect breast cancer. In fact, because of its increased use, most women are diagnosed at early stages. Still, about 25% of breast cancers are first detected through a breast exam, about 35% by mammography and 40% through a combination of exam and mammography. Clearly, performing routine breast self-exams is still essential.

You can check for possible signs of breast cancer.

The three most common symptoms are:

1. Changes in the look or feel of the breast

2. Changes in the look or feel of the nipple

3. Nipple discharge

Sensitive or lumpy breasts (with or without fibrocystic disease) may make it harder for you to feel the lumps, hard knots of tissue or thickening in the breast that may be signs of breast cancer. Other signs include unusual swelling, warmth and pain that do not change with the menstrual cycle and/or do not go away. Lumps do not necessarily mean you have cancer; most are benign.

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Ranya Elguendy
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