Monday, October 18, 2010
Why early detection is the best way to beat breast cancer
By Dr. Yun Yee Chow, Radiologist, Rouge Valley Health System (RVHS)
Knowing when you should have a mammogram could save your life.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), breast cancer is the most common cancer found in women. One in nine women will be afflicted with breast cancer at some point in her lifetime. And let’s not forget that one percent of breast cancer cases actually occur in men.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a great opportunity to increase our own awareness about this disease and to learn more about what we can do to reduce our risk of developing it.
The Canadian Association of Radiologists (CAR) recommends that women begin receiving breast screening, usually a mammogram, at age 40, and annually until age 49. Women can be screened every two years if they are between 50 – 69 years of age, unless there is a family history of breast cancer, or if they are receiving hormone replacement therapy. If they are in good health, women should continue to receive regular screenings after age 70.
Despite the increased diagnosis rate of breast cancer, more people are surviving. In 2005, mortality rates dropped to 24% from 32% in 1986. Half of this reduction can be attributed to early screening, and the rest to adjuvant treatment – therapy using drug or radiation after cancer surgery. So, early detection in the prevention and treatment of the disease is key, especially if cancer is detected during a screening.
Remember that lifestyle factors can also play an important role in your risk of developing breast cancer. Here are some of the things you can do to decrease your risk:
• Incorporate a healthier diet into your lifestyle;
• Exercise regularly;
• Maintain a healthy body weight, since estrogen produced from fat can increase the development of breast cancer;
• If you’re a smoker, consider quitting;
• Watch your alcohol consumption, as it has become a well-established risk factor for breast cancer in women.
In addition to self breast examination, you should have a yearly check up with your family physician. They can also give you a full physical exam and review of your medical and family history. Your doctor can give you a requisition for a mammogram, or you can simply head over to an Ontario Breast Screening Centre. In 2011, RVHS will be affiliated with the Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP) at both of our hospital campuses (Rouge Valley Centenary and Rouge Valley Ajax & Pickering), and will feature Ontario Breast Screening Centres where patients can receive mammograms without a referral.
With the range of state-of-the-art diagnostic testing available at Rouge Valley Health System, including breast screening, quality preventive care is available right in your community. Both of our state-of-the-art Breast Imaging Centres, located at both of our hospital campuses, feature fully digital mammography machines that are able to provide a lower radiation dose to detect abnormalities in the breast tissue, often before they can be felt by the patient. Other imaging modalities include breast ultrasounds and breast MRIs. Minimally invasive breast biopsies are performed using ultrasound guidance, at the bedside, or by mammographically-guided stereotactic breast biopsy.
For appointments in our breast imaging centres and all other diagnostic tests, contact our central booking line at 416-281-7299 or toll-free at 1-866-752-6989. Most services require a referral from your family physician.