You have surely heard of Pink October? Each year this campaign aims to raise awareness of the benefits of breast cancer screening for women. With around 240,000 new cases of breast cancer being diagnosed per year in the USA and related deaths being around 42000 cases a year, women in the USA have around a one in 8 chance of developing breast cancer. However, if it is detected early enough using mammography, the chances of being cured are very good.
No-one likes a mammogram!
A mammogram is a non-invasive examination, but it is still painful for many women.
For many women, a mammogram is not something to look forward to. The apprehension of the pain linked to the extreme pressure on the breasts has put lots of women off having this important check. This is also one of the reasons why women tend to fear, or even avoid, being checked regularly. However, mammography remains an essential examination in the fight against breast cancer in many countries around the world. For several years, a new alternative has been possible, it is 3D mammography, which is far more effective and, in many cases, is a pain free procedure.
To detect breast cancer, a new technique is increasingly used: 3D mammography, also called tomosynthesis. During the mammogram examination, the device moves in an arc to acquire images from several angles. 3D provides increased visibility of breast tissue and presents fewer diagnostic errors than 2D mammography.
The advantages of 3D mammography, also known as tomosynthesis:
• Early detection of cancerous lesions.
• Greater precision in analyzing the size, shape and location of anomalies.
• It makes it possible to differentiate between benign abnormalities and real tumors.
According to the Breast Institute, a study carried out in the United States on 173,663 women concluded that tomosynthesis (three-dimensional imaging method) or 3D mammography allows detection of almost 30% additional cancers. Tomosynthesis, a fantastic innovation which allows you to have a 3D image of the breast, like in a scanner and thus able to detect very subtle lesions, not visible on standard mammograms.
Different types of 3D technology
The types of machines giving 3D mammograms do vary and some are completely pain free! You need to do some research first though, as the experience of having a 3D mammography can pretty similar to the traditional 2D type and, depending on the equipment, can still involve you having your breasts squished! On the other hand, 3D machines like the system which is in use in Boston, are reported to be much more comfortable. Using this system, the patient stands in a new type of machine which uses curved rather than flat plates, which are said to substantially increase the patient’s comfort during the mammography.
The FDA has also approved The Koning Co.’s 3-D Breast CT, which does not involve pressure on the breasts. Using this method, according to the Knox News, “The patient lies chest-down on a table on which is an opening for the breast. The CT device, underneath the table, rotates around the breast, imaging the entire breast in a single 360-degree scan. It takes less than a minute.”
When to have your first mammogram?
Mammograms generally concern women aged 50 and over. It is recommended to have one regularly. In the USA, as part of breast cancer screening, the USPSTF recommends all women from the age of 50 to have this check every 2 years, However, if you already have had issues, or a history of cancer in your family, a mammogram can also be performed at the following times:
• On prescription from your doctor as part of individual monitoring.
• After the discovery of an anomaly during another examination: blood test, breast palpation, hence the importance of early detection.
• As part of surveillance for the detection of breast cancer (family history).
It is important to remember that the earlier breast cancer is detected, the easier it will be to treat and the higher the chances of recovery. So don’t wait!!! And for those who were apprehensive about mammography, know that you have the choice: 2D or 3D. But whatever you choose, do go and get checked. Don’t become a statistic.