27 Sep Breast Cancer Awareness Month – October 2020
Breast cancer is the most commonly caused cancer in the UAE. Most women are diagnosed with it are over the age of 50 but younger women and men can also get breast cancer. Around 1 in 8 women worldwide are diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime but the good news is that we are detecting it earlier due to regular screening and better screening techniques and more women are surviving because of better treatment and earlier diagnosis.
Breast cancer screening
As with all cancers, the earlier breast cancer is diagnosed the better the chances of survival, so it is vital women check their breasts regularly, have changes examined by a doctor and attend regular screenings.
Breast screening aims to find breast cancer at an early stage, before a woman discovers a lump. It uses an x-ray test called a mammogram.
All women over the age of 40 should have a mammogram every two years as per the Department of Health (DOH) recommendations.
During screening, your breasts will be X-rayed one at a time. The breast is placed on the X-ray machine and gently but firmly compressed with a clear plate. Two X-rays are taken of each breast at different angles.
There are some concerns about mammograms causing breast cancer as radiation to the chest is a known risk factor. Mammograms do use radiation but the amount used is very small and the risk of harm from this exposure is extremely low. The potential benefits of early detection of breast cancer far outweigh the potential harm from the radiation.
Should women examine their own breasts?
Adult women of all ages are encouraged to self-examine at least once a month. Look for changes in the nipple and skin and of course feel for a lump. Make sure to also check the underarm area for lumps. Your doctor can teach you how to self-examine if you are unsure.
The best thing for early detection is regular screening mammograms as they detect cancers before lumps can be felt. So even if you do self-examine, don’t forget to go for your regular mammograms.
There are risk factors for developing breast cancer. Some are avoidable which means you can do something about it like changing your lifestyle but some are unavoidable and cannot be changed for example age and genetics.
Although you cannot always prevent cancer of any type you can help reduce your risk. Maintain a healthy weight and eat a balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables. Be physically active, stop smoking and limit your alcohol consumption. Most importantly make sure you have your regular mammograms.