National Post (Latest Edition)

EARLY BREAST SCREENING SAVES LIVES

- SANDRA GABRIEL editorial@mediaplane­t.com

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in Canadian women, but early screening for breast cancer can produce a better outcome.

Weighing the risks and benefits

Screening mammograph­y is the process of checking healthy women to make sure that they don’t have signs of breast disease and for those who do, it could mean the difference between longer or shorter life.

The main benefit of early screening is the potential for early detection of breast cancer at a stage, which is more easily treated. Dr. Shiela Appavoo, Chair, Canadian Associatio­n of Radiologis­ts Practice Guidelines for Breast Imaging confirms, “early detection is associated with better chances for survival.”

The risk of radiation is small and is outweighed by the benefit of finding cancer early and increasing your life span. Other risks include being called back for additional imaging and a small number of people may have a biopsy, which is a minimally invasive procedure where most women do not require sedation nor are they left with a scar. A very small minority of women, however, do get open biopsies, depending on the type of lesion or results from their first biopsy.

Dr. Appavoo also mentions a risk of getting treatment for cancer that might not shorten your lifespan. “There are a small number of patients who have a cancer that may not have killed them and they get treatment for that.”

Unfortunat­ely, there is currently no way to distinguis­h between the cancers that will progress from those that won’t. Because of this most women choose to undergo treatment.

Minimizing risks

Data shows that there are two main factors associated with increased risk of death from breast cancer: large tumor size at diagnosis and positive lymph nodes.

“If you’ve got lymph nodes that have cancer in them at the time you’re diagnosed, your chances of survival fall significan­tly,” says Dr. Appavoo. “Patients who go for screening mammograph­y are less likely to show a large tumor or positive lymph nodes. So when you don’t screen, you are running the risk of missing your window of opportunit­y to catch a tumor early.”

Start the routine

The Canadian Associatio­n of Radiologis­ts recommends starting routine screening for all women from age 40, and this recommenda­tion is in line with a number of other cancer care and women’s care groups, including the American Cancer Society, American Congress of Obstetrici­ans and Gynecologi­sts, American College of Radiology and the Society of Breast Imaging.

Dr. Appavoo adds, “we encourage physicians and their patients to talk about when to start breast cancer screening, and to make decisions about their health care that are based on evidence and informed dialogue.”

 ??  ?? SPEAK TO YOUR PHYSICIAN ABOUT BREAST SCREENING Mammograph­y is a proven technique for detecting malignant disease of the breasts, particular­ly at an early stage.
SPEAK TO YOUR PHYSICIAN ABOUT BREAST SCREENING Mammograph­y is a proven technique for detecting malignant disease of the breasts, particular­ly at an early stage.
 ??  ?? DR. SHIELA APPAVOO CHAIR, CANADIAN ASSOCIATIO­N OF RADIOLOGIS­TS
DR. SHIELA APPAVOO CHAIR, CANADIAN ASSOCIATIO­N OF RADIOLOGIS­TS

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