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Early Detection of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of death among Filipino women.

 

Though there is no comprehensive national cancer registry to determine the exact number of incidence, government reports that the Philippines has the highest incidence of breast cancer in Southeast Asia Most women with breast cancer have no known risk factors except that they are women. So no one should be exempt from being vigilant.

 

Your detection program is a four-part process:

 

Education
Breast Self-Examination (BSE)
Clinical Breast Examination
Mammography

 

 

 

Education
The causes of breast cancer remain unknown. However, whatever has been learned is enough to contribute to the survival of thousands of women and men. The earlier the detection, the better.

 

Symptoms of breast cancer

  • A lump or thickening in your breast or under your arm
  • Any change in the size or shape of your breast
  • Any bloody or unusual discharge from your nipple.
  • Changes in color or texture of the skin of your breast, such as dimpling, puckering or rash
  • Swelling, redness, feeling heat sensation in your breast
  • Inverted nipple in a breast where the nipple previously was not inverted

If you notice any of these symptoms, call your physician. The following suggestions can assist you in having an informative discussion with your physical or health care provider:

  • Think about how you learned best. Was it from books? People? On-line? Use these sources to get the information you need.
  • As you think of questions, write them down. Keep a notepad at your bedside, in your purse, in the car, etc. Ask your doctor these questions and remember, all questions are good questions.
  • Every individual is allowed to have a copy of his/her records.
  • If there are any questions or concerns about any mammogram, pathology, diagnosis or treatment decision, consider a second opinion.
  • For emotional support, ask about individual counseling or support groups near you. There is a listing in this book.
  • Although it is often helpful to seek opinions and advice from others, always remember that the decisions you make should be based on your unique medical circumstance, value systems and beliefs.

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Breast Self Exam (BSE)
BSE can significantly increase your awareness of changes in your breast. It gives you the opportunity to know what's usual or unusual about the shape, appearance and feel of your breasts so that you are more likely to notice any changes.

BSE only takes a few minutes, just once a month. It should be done ten days after the start of your period. If you are postmenopausal, select a particular day like the first or last day of the month.

The American Cancer Society recommends that women beginning age 20 should examine their breasts monthly.

 

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Clinical Breast Examination
A regular clinic check-up by a health care professional skilled in breast examination should be performed at least once a year.

The American Cancer Society recommends that women beginning age 30 should have an annual clinical exam.

 

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Mammography
Mammograms are an important screening technique. They can usually detect breast cancer before any noticeable symptoms occur. However, screening mammograms miss at least 20 percent of all tumors, so you should be aware of what mammography can - and cannot - do for you.

 

The American Cancer Society recommends annual mammograms for all women after age 40; the incidence of breast cancer in younger women is lower and mammography is less efficient when breast tissue is more dense. In special cases, screening should be carried out at an earlier age.

 

According to "The Breast Book," by Dr. Miriam Stoppard, a woman with a first-degree relative who developed premenopausal breast cancer should be screened every two years, starting when she is ten years younger than the age at which her relative developed breast cancer.

 

Mammography tips

  • In most cases, you do not need a doctor's permission or a prescription to obtain a mammogram. But It's not advisable to simply walk in for a mammography.
  • It is generally a good idea to have your mammogram conducted at the same place every time. If you change facilities, make sure that your films and the written report are sent to the new location.
  • There are several different kinds of mammograms, screening and diagnostic. Be sure to know which one you are requesting or receiving.
  • Schedule a time when you can discuss the results with your doctor.
  • Make sure you get the results of your mammogram. Do not assume that everything is okay until you hear from your doctor.
  • If there is any doubt about the results of your mammogram and/or tests, take the films to another facility for a second reading.

Remember, you are the owner of your body. You have choices. You have the power to make the decisions that affect your body.

For any phase of breast cancer diagnosis or treatment, you may want to consider a second - or even a third - opinion. It is very important that you understand that in most cases, there is time to make a careful decision.

Reprinted and slightly revised with permission from the "Breast Cancer Resource Guide" by The Better Health Foundation, printed in California, U.S.A.

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