'We are not screening', doctor screams

Consultant urges women to have regular checks to handle breast cancer

BY SHANAE STEWART
Staff Reporter
stewarts@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, February 18, 2019

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One out of every 21 women in Jamaica will develop breast cancer in their lifetime and regular mammograms are the best tests doctors have to detect the disease early, medical officials have said.

A mammogram is an x-ray picture of the breast which is used by doctors to detect early signs of breast cancer.

If regular check-ups are done, breast cancer can be detected even up to three years prior to it being felt.

Consultant radiologist Dr Derria Cornwall told the Jamaica Observer recently about the detriment that women face when they are not screened for breast cancer during an interview on Research Day held at The University of the West Indies (UWI).

“A research looking at breast cancer screening in Jamaica was conducted, and it looked at the six-year results of the Cancer Society in the island. The data collected from 2011-2016 was assessed, and it was noticed that the Cancer Society had screened 48,203 women over the period. Of the over 48,000 women who were screened, an estimate of 584 cancers were found,” Cornwall told the Observer.

She added that of the approximated 584 mammograms that were found to be suspicious, only four of those were detected in people without any symptoms of the disease.

“All the other patients had a lump or some other symptom, and so this obviously means that we are not doing adequate screenings” she explained.

“Screening is looking for diseases in people without symptoms. Once a woman reaches the age of 40, she should be doing a mammogram every year, even if the breast feels normal,” suggested Cornwall.

Women are being urged not to wait on outward signs, due to the fact that by this time, sometimes not much can be done to save them.

According to Dr Cornwall, among the big risk factors of getting breast cancer is being a woman and getting older. She also shared that most of the people who get breast cancer are not from what is commonly called a “cancer family.” Therefore, it is important that women do frequent screenings as everyone is at risk, she maintained.

Breast cancer is a disease in which cells in the breast grow out of control.

Signs of breast cancer may include a lump in the breast, a change in breast shape, dimpling of the skin, fluid coming from the nipple, a newly inverted nipple, or a red or scaly patch of skin.

In those with a distant spread of the disease, there may be bone pain, swollen lymph nodes, shortness of breath, or yellow skin.

Risk factors for developing breast cancer include being female, obesity, lack of physical exercise, drinking alcohol, hormone replacement therapy during menopause, ionising radiation, early age at first menstruation, having children late or not at all.

The first noticeable symptom of breast cancer is typically a lump that feels different from the rest of the breast tissue.

Risk factors can be divided into two categories: modifiable risk factors (things that people can change themselves, such as consumption of alcoholic beverages), and fixed risk factors (things that cannot be changed, such as age and biological sex).

The primary risk factors for breast cancer are simply being female and older age.


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