One in 9 women is expected to develop breast cancer during her lifetime. One in 27 will die of it. Breast cancer attacks mainly women, however there’s 1% of breast cancer patients are men.
As we get older, the risk of getting breast cancer increases. Basically, all women have a certain degree of risk of developing breast cancer. Women who have a family history of breast cancer have a much higher risk of contracting this disease. There are other factors that may attribute to the higher or lower the risk of developing breast cancer, some of them, e.g. Genetic risk factors, aging etc you can’t change, some e.g. lifestyle-related factors, you can.
Good news is that most of breast cancer patients will survive and still live a healthy life if diagnosed early and treated properly. The important thing we can do is do regular screening. It’s a way to check if there are any changes in the breasts that may lead to problems. Screening includes a breast x-ray (mammogram), clinical breast examination (a physical exam of the breasts by a health care professional, CBE for short) and breast self-examination (BSE).
All women starting from age 20 are recommended to do breast cancer screening according to the following guidelines:
For women in their 20s and 30s, take clinical breast examination once in every three years, for women 40 and older, take it once every year.
For women 40 and older, take a mammogram every year. Mammography may have some limitations and could miss some cancers, it is still considered to be the gold standard for early detection of breast cancer.
Starting from age 20, women may choose to do breast self-examination. The benefits of BSE may not be too obvious as it’s probably a little too late when you can notice any changes. It could still be beneficial in that it helps notice any changes in the breasts so you can report them to your doctor.
Those women with higher risk factors of developing breast cancer, for example, women with family history of cancer or with a known genetic mutation of a BRCA gene, need to take extra efforts to promote awareness and take steps for prevention. Consult your doctor to discuss the risk and take necessary steps to reduce your risk of developing breast cancer.
Breast cancer is mostly curable if found early and given good treatment. Screening is a way to detect it at its early stage. Bear this in mind: breast cancer screening can save you life. Take the time to do it.