Simply put, cancer which is detected before it starts to cause symptoms is known as early detection. Cancer can be detected early by using screens or tests. When breast cancer symptoms start to manifest themselves, the cancer would usually have spread, or become large.
Early detection of breast cancer means that the survival chances as well as the chances of a cure are much improved. It means that treatment can start before the cancer starts to spread and before it has had a chance to reach later, incurable stages.
It is thought that early detection of breast cancer using proper screening protocols could possible save thousands of lives each year. Cancers that are detected by way of screening procedures or tests tend to be smaller and easier to treat because they are more likely to be confined to the breast (may not have spread to lymph nodes, other organs or areas).
Know Your Risk Factors
Knowing about one’s risk factors is an important part of detecting cancer in time.
Family History: Women who have a family history of the disease – close female relatives like mothers, sisters, etc., who have had breast cancer, are at a higher risk.
Age: Age is another risk factor – the older a woman is, the higher is her risk.
Breast Tissue: Having unusually dense breast tissue is another risk factor – women who have greater amounts of glandular tissue and lesser proportion of fatty tissue are at a higher risk of developing the disease. The denser breast tissue also makes it harder to detect abnormalities during screenings.
Early Menstruation: Women who start menstruation early and reach menopause later may also be at a higher risk of the disease. Certain medical conditions also rise up a woman’s breast cancer risk.
Mammograms, clinical breast exams and breast self exams as well as awareness are the most important ways to detect breast cancer early.
Guidelines for undergoing mammograms have been laid down – from what age and how frequently women should undergo mammograms. It is best to discuss one’s own risk factors with one’s doctor and then figure out the best way to try and detect breast cancer early.