Let's Talk About The Facts On Risk And Detection
Breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting women in Trinidad and Tobago. Women have a one in eight lifetime risk of getting this disease, which causes one in three of all female cancers. Breast cancer is not one single disease; there are several types of breast cancers, which can be diagnosed at different stages of development and can grow at different rates. This means that women can be given different treatments, depending on what will work best for them. Earlier diagnosis and better treatments mean that more and more women are now living longer and fuller lives after breast cancer.
Health risks are often described in terms of risk factors. A risk factor is anything that may increase your chance of developing a disease. Established breast cancer risk factors are supported by a body of research with conclusive evidence that is confirmed by different sources and studies. This means that established risk factors have been linked to the development of breast cancer. While risk factors are established by conclusive research, they cannot be seen as rules or guarantees. Even if you have several risk factors for breast cancer, this does not mean you will develop the disease. On the other hand, some women who are diagnosed with breast cancer have no identifiable risk factors other than being a woman. This tells us that there’s much more to be discovered about breast cancer, its causes, and what we can do to reduce the risk.
While it is not clear what exactly causes breast cancer, research has shown there is a strong link with age with an increased incidence in women over 40, and the older a woman gets, the greater her risk of getting breast cancer.
The known risk factors include:
Screening To Detect Breast Cancer
Screening is a method of routine testing to detect breast cancer as soon as possible and at its earliest stage. This is done by imaging testing, which is designed to detect small changes in the breast over time. Therefore doctors recommend that testing be performed annually in women over 40.
If you are under 40, you are generally not at the same risk. However, self-examinations are recommended as you may still experience symptoms, which require investigation such as lumps and nipple discharge. Also, you may have a family history of cancer, which may increase your risk.
It is advised that you have a mammogram every year starting at age 40 if you are at average risk. It is also encouraged that you have a clinical breast examination at least every three years starting at age 20, and every year starting at age 40.
The most common imaging methods are mammography and breast ultrasound. Depending on the findings of these, you may require a needle test called a biopsy to be certain and this may be the only way to determine whether the problem is cancerous tissue.
Becoming Breast Aware
The earlier a breast cancer is diagnosed, the better the treatment options and prognosis. Therefore, it is important to become breast aware. Here are some helpful tips in becoming breast aware:
Preventative health aims to stop disease before it starts by making your health and well being a priority. When you practice preventative health, you take action, informed by evidence-based knowledge, to improve your chances of good health and better the odds of stopping the disease before it starts. Research shows that the way we live influences our risk of developing breast cancer.
Live well. Help yourself by:
Click here to download this fact sheet - Breast Awareness & You.