Whether you've recently been diagnosed with the potentially deadly BCRA gene that can significantly increase your risk of developing fast-growing breast or ovarian cancer at a young age, or you are simply worried about your own breast cancer odds after a close relative's diagnosis, you may be wondering what you can do to both decrease your risk of breast cancer and ensure that any potentially problematic cells are detected as early as possible. However, when you're already worried about a potential overgrowth of cells in that part of the body, regularly exposing yourself to radiation to detect changes in these cells may seem counter-intuitive. What are the best -- and safest -- ways to keep an eye on your breast tissue to stop cancer growth in its tracks? Read on to learn more about some advances in the way breast cancer is detected and treated, as well as what you can do to ensure you remain on top of your own health.
What should you be doing regularly to screen yourself for breast cancer?
While mammograms and other laboratory tests can provide you with quick, accurate results, the first step when it comes to breast cancer screening is a much simpler one -- and you're free to perform it in the privacy of your own home or bathroom whenever you like. It's important to perform a breast self-exam on at least a monthly basis so that you can remain aware of any changes in your breast tissue that might indicate a developing problem.
Your gynecologist can show you how best to perform a self-exam during your next appointment, or you may instead opt to watch some instructional videos online to ensure you're successfully palpating all the areas where cancer tissue can hide -- including the lymph nodes beneath your armpit and even closer to the side of your ribs. If you notice any lumps or bumps that don't go away within a week or so (indicating that they're probably not related to your menstrual cycle), you'll want to make an appointment with your gynecologist.
What are some other diagnostic tests that can provide you with peace of mind?
If you do have the BCRA gene that can indicate a much higher than average risk of developing breast cancer, you likely want to be even more proactive in screening yourself for cancer. While most physicians recommend regular mammograms only after age 50, those with a family history of the disease or genetic factors that could increase cancer risk are encouraged to have screenings every other year, beginning at age 40. This will allow you to keep a close eye on any potential mutations and take quick action to remove cancerous cells, rather than waiting until after the disease has quietly spread to your lymph nodes and requires much more invasive treatment.
One recent development in the world of cancer-detection technology is the 3D mammogram. This mammogram is ideal for younger or high-risk women, as well as those who have so much breast tissue that a traditional mammogram may be difficult or painful. Rather than squeezing and flattening your breast tissue into a machine that takes 2-dimensional radiographs, a 3D mammogram sweeps over the entire surface of your breast, taking "slice" photographs that can be carefully viewed and parsed on their own or combined into a full view of your entire breast.
Not only is a 3D mammogram more likely to detect early stage breast cancer (with some figures suggesting between a 10 to 30 percent greater detection rate), it's also less likely to trigger physician or radiologist confusion about a suspicious-looking spot or lump -- ensuring you won't be called back with potentially frightening news and subjected to a biopsy for a harmless cyst or other benign growth.
For more information and ideas, talk with a company that offers 3D mamograms, such as EVDI Medical Imaging.