Breast cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the cells and tissues of the breasts. These types of tumours are often visible on the x-ray as a lump. Upon physically examining such patients, they complain of the lump increasing of over. Although breast cancers are most common in women, men also have breast tissues that can develop cancer.
It is an important fact to understand that most of the lumps found in the breasts are benign and non cancerous (do not spread to other parts of the body). These benign tumours are mass of abnormal growths that do not spread outside the organ. They may not be as dangerous as cancerous tumours, but it can increase the likelihood of a woman getting a malignant or cancerous breast lump sometime in the future.
As for the importance of diagnostic and imaging tests in breast cancers, it plays a crucial role from screening to treatment. Most women who get diagnosed at an early stage have a better prognosis and the outcome of the treatment is much better than otherwise. It is always suggested that a woman should get examined once a year for the breast cancer, and especially if they are at a higher risk.
Where breast cancer starts
Breast cancers might start from various parts of the breast –
- Mostly it originates from the ducts that carry milk to the nipples (ductal cancers)
- At times, it might start in the glands – called lobular cancers
- Some less common cancers such as phyllodes tumor and angiosarcomas may also occur.
These breast cancers after originating from one particular section, depending on their physiology, may grow and spread to the rest of the breast. However, if diagnosed at an early stage, the growth can be controlled and treated in that particular area.
Imaging Tests to Find Breast Cancer
Different tests that are done nowadays to diagnose breast cancers are mentioned below. These tests are done as a screening imaging test (mammogram), or in cases where the patients have more symptoms or the cancer is already in an advanced stage:
- Breast Ultrasound
- Breast MRI
- Newer and Experimental Breast Imaging Tests
The role of technology in altering the outlook of breast cancers
With the latest advancement in the field of technology over the past decades, a lot has changed in the branch of oncology. Patients can avail a certain level of diagnostic aid which help the specialist detect the previously undetectable breast cancers. This helps the patients in having a better prognosis and success from the treatment of the disease.
More and more breast screening programs are now being run, including checking the breast density. These tests include Mammomat Fusion, which is an FDA approved test by Siemens Healthcare. It involves is a full-field digital mammography test that enables the doctors to understand the various features of the breasts. These can include understanding the volume screening, density, texture and the internal blood flow. This technology has now been installed at various platforms including big size establishments, as they are not very expensive to start with.
These machines feature a cesium-iodide detector – which utilizes low level radiation doses to view full features of the patient’s breasts. These mammograms usually go up to the depth of 50 mm.
In previous times, the most common diagnostic aid was a 2-D mammogram of the breasts. These had their own shortcomings, and there was a need for them to be replaced by higher technology.
With the increasing technological advancements, early detection is even more successful. As per the numbers, more than 42% of the breast cancer cases are now detected at early stages.
Early detection of any cancer changes the prognosis of the case for the better. This is because when the cancer is diagnosed in the non-metastatic stage, the outcome of the treatment is improved with a better quality of life.
The cost of breast cancer treatment in India depends on a lot of factors –
- Type of breast cancer diagnosed
- Staging of the breast cancer
- Age of the patient
- Treatment options best suited for the patient
- Treatment planning required – chemotherapy and radiation therapy are required – and the cost differs
For the Community awareness
The education and the accessibility of the services also play a very crucial role in the early detection and treatment of breast cancers. There are multiple organizations out there who have been creating public awareness for the same, and are finding new and different ways to educate the population about the changing trends in the same field.
For example, in recent days a lot of universities and colleges are spreading free test informative kits which educate the patients on how to avoid as well as how to look for the symptoms of such cancers. These tests and educational programs help the vulnerable women in the underserved communities to get more and more information about the better and cheaper changing facilities available out there for the public.
More and more people are able to get their tests done, and more people in the urban areas are able to undergo free annual tests too, to avoid or early detect any benign or malignant growth in the breasts.