What You Can Do – Breast Screening
Since there are so many risk factors that we have no control over, early detection of breast cancer is our best line of defense. Breast screening is regular examination of a woman’s breast to find breast cancer early. If you do have breast cancer, finding it early increases your chances of better treatment outcomes.
Clinical breast exam: A clinical breast exam is an examination performed by a qualified healthcare professional, often part of an annual check-up. If this is not routinely done, ask your physician/gynecologist to include it.
Mammogram: A mammogram is a safe, low-dose x-ray picture of the breast that can detect cancerous lumps so small they cannot be felt by touch. Overall, mammography is the best breast cancer screening tool available today; it can detect tumours at an early stage, when they are small and most responsive to treatment.
The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation recommends being breast aware. Being breast aware means knowing how your breasts normally look and feel. That way, if there are any significant changes, you’ll be more likely to notice them and can have them checked by a doctor.
It is possible for breast cancer to develop without any changes that can be easily noticed through breast awareness, which is why breast screening is important.
What is the difference between a screening mammogram and a diagnostic mammogram?
A screening mammogram is a quick, safe and easy way to find problems in a woman’s breast. Two x-ray pictures are taken of each breast. A doctor with special training (radiologist) will look at these x-ray pictures to decide if there is a problem and if the problem may be breast cancer. For most women, the x-ray pictures will show no signs of a problem. The woman will have what is called a normal result.
A diagnostic mammogram is used if there is a breast problem. This kind of mammogram takes a little more time than a screening mammogram because special x-ray pictures have to be taken. A radiologist will sometimes check your x-rays while you wait. A diagnostic mammogram may also be used if you have had a breast implant or if your doctor feels that this type of x-ray is better for you because of a special circumstance.
The Ontario Breast Screening Program recommends:
Every Woman 50 and Over Has a Reason (watch this youtube video here)
Breast cancer is a complex disease that is linked to different risk factors. You can’t change some of the risk factors like being female, getting older, starting your period early, going into menopause late, having dense breasts, having a family history of breast cancer, frequent chest x-rays before age 30, or a mutation in the BRCA genes. However, there are other risk factors you can change. By living well, about 1 in 3 breast cancers could be prevented. Important things such as having a healthy body weight, eating a balanced diet rich in antioxidants, being physically active, avoiding or limiting alcohol, quitting smoking, limiting hormone use, and reducing exposure to chemicals can help reduce the risk of breast cancer, and make you feel great too!
Becoming Breast Aware in 5 Steps
- Learn how your breasts normally look and feel
- Know what changes to check for
- Look and feel for changes in your breasts
- Report any changes to a health care provider
- Learn about the benefits and limitations of getting a mammogram
- Stand up or lie down on your back
- For each breast, move the pads of your middle three fingers around the breast in a circular motion noting any unusual pain or lumps
- Most breast cancers are found in the upper outer portion of the breast
- Include the entire breast, under your armpit to the collarbone, and below the breast
- Stand in front of the mirror with arms at your sides and check your breasts for any abnormalities and changes in size, shape, dimpling or puckering of the skin, pushed in or misshapen nipples, redness, and swelling
- Repeat this with hands on hips
- Raise your arms behind your head and turn to each side to inspect your breast profile
Only you are in charge of your reproductive sexual health.
For more information on Reproductive Sexual Health, please contact the Sexual Health Program of the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit.
- In Simcoe: 519-426-6170
- In Caledonia: 905-318-5367
Canadian Cancer Society
Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation
Public Health Agency of Canada
The Canadian Testicular Association