Every year during October, in an effort to raise awareness on breast cancer, the importance of early detection is highlighted.
When aware of the signs to look out for through early detection, breast cancer is treatable.
One of the most important things to do for early detection is a self-examination every month, in order to check that there are no breast abnormalities.
A self-examination can help in raising breast awareness and can further find out if there are any issues like skin dimpling, change in texture or lumps.
As mentioned by Dr Nazia Salam, Consultant in Family Medicine at Allied Medical Center, 20% of breast cancers can be found by self-examinations and should be a part of your monthly routine to detect any change. The self-examination does not take very long and can be done within 8 minutes.
Self-examinations can start at the age of 20 and should also be done during pregnancy and after menopause.
Dr Mehdi Afrit, Medical Oncologist Specialist at Burjeel Speciality Hospital said that it is important to first start off by looking at your breast for any changes, with your arms on your hips and after a check by raising them.
The best method to do the breast examination is either by lying down on a flat surface as the breast tissue spreads out and makes it easier to feel or in the shower after lathering up your fingers and breasts with soap as it will be easier to glide across the skin.
Dr Rita Daaboul, Consultant General Surgery at Medcare Women and Children Hospital mentioned that to check, circular motions in a clockwise direction should be done all over the breast, to feel for any lumps.
Dr Nazia Salam, Consultant in Family Medicine at Allied Medical Center also added that when doing the self-examination, it is recommended to do it a few days after your period has ended and is important to check up on the collar bone as well as under the armpit, as it is all part of the breast tissue.
If any changes are detected, an appointment should be booked with a doctor to get an official diagnosis.
According to the American College of Radiology, mentioned by Dr Dana Haddad, Consultant Diagnostic Radiologist at Healthbay Polyclinic, it is recommended to start getting yearly breast screenings done from the age of 40 or 10 years prior to when a first-degree relative is diagnosed with breast cancer.
In the UAE, it is recommended to start screening from the age of 35, if presenting a high risk for breast cancer.
If found with the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, which increases the risks of breast cancer or ovarian cancer by 80%, screening through an MRI from the age of 25 needs to start, with mammography starting at 30 years old.
According to Dr Virginia Midrigan, Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at Mediclinic Middle East, treatment for breast cancer can be done either through surgical procedures or through non-surgical procedures.
Surgical procedures include:
- Lumpectomy, where a small portion of the breast is removed
- Mastectomy, where all the tissue from one breast is removed
- Double Mastectomy, where the tissue from both breasts are removed
Nonsurgical procedures include:
- Chemotherapy, which kills cancer cells through the use of oral or intravenous drugs
- Radiation Therapy, which uses high energy radiation beams to destroy or shrink the tumours while also sparing the healthy tissue
- Targeted Therapy, which targets and interferes with the activity of a specific protein that causes the tumour to grow and spread
- Hormone Therapy, which is used to treat breast cancers that are sensitive to hormones
Through self-examinations, breast cancer can be detected and by raising awareness and highlighting the benefits of self-examinations, individuals with breast cancer can receive the right early treatment.