Screening mammography is considered to be the most recommended way to detect breast cancer; however when it comes to screening cancer for younger women, this method is not considered to be the best option.
Breast cancer can affect at any age, hence cancer screening even at early age is essential. Usually, younger women, do not consider themselves to be at risk of suffering from breast cancer, so they tend to ignore the symptoms. There are several factors that can put young women at high risk from this disease such as:
- Family history of breast cancer, particularly in a mother, daughter, or sister
- Women who carry genetic defects are also at great risk
- History of radiation therapy
Breast cancer is one of the few cancers when detected early and treated appropriately, can be completely cured. Normal life after breast cancer treatment is possible but the pre-requisite is early detection. When detected early, the treatment becomes simpler, shorter and cheaper. And more importantly complete cure is possible.
For the early detection of breast cancer, regular mammograms are not recommended by the doctors for women under 40 because breast tissue tends to be denser in young women, making mammograms less effective as a screening tool. Hence, screening mammograms may be recommended only for younger women with a family history of breast cancer and other risk factors.
To detect this disease early, there are certain guidelines recommend by the medical experts, which can help in detecting cancer early for the timely and effective treatment. Doctors recommend monthly self-breast examination (SBE) and annual clinical examination for >20 years aged women. It has to be done on seventh day of the periods. However, women who have achieved menopause or have undergone hysterectomy or have irregular periods need to do it on a particular date of the month.
Younger women generally have dense breast tissue making mammogram interpretation challenging; hence other modalities are still being explored. Contrast enhanced MRI is highly sensitive (99% when combined with mammography) can lead to malignant changes.
While performing the self-examination, if the person finds a breast lump or an unusual discharge from nipples, must not be ignored. It is essential to seek help immediately but all lumps, skin changes or nipple changes do not necessarily mean it is cancerous. It is essential to approach the right specialist (Breast oncologist) to detect the right symptoms.
Nowadays new methods are experimented to detect breast cancer among younger women, one of the methods are iBreast Exam (iBE). This instrument is a hand held pre-screening device that can be used in resource constraint area and women with suspicious features can further undergo mammogram. iBE is based on piezoelectric detector, which can be effectively used by non clinician with a sensitivity of 60%.
Breast cancer in men is rare but this is the potential cause of neglecting the symptoms as more priority is given to women than men due to the high risk found among women. Mostly, male breast cancer is detected between the ages of 60 and 70 and they are at higher risk when they are exposed to radiation, has a family history of breast cancer, a genetic mutation, and having high estrogen levels. Early detection can be achieved with MRI or ultrasound.