The Importance of Early Detection for Breast Cancer

Categories: HEALTH

The Importance of Early Detection for Breast Cancer

Cancer is not a single illness but rather a group of connected illnesses that can manifest practically everywhere in the body. Cancer is fundamentally a genetic disease that affects the cells in our bodies. Our cells' functionality is governed by genes. Yet, alterations to these genes can make cells behave improperly, leading them to grow and divide when they shouldn't or to stop dying when they ought to. Cancer can develop from these aberrant cells.

After skin cancer, breast cancer is the second most frequent malignancy among women. Breast cancer can be caught early by mammograms, possibly before it has spread.

Breast tissue can grow into cancer in cases of breast cancer. Breast lumps, altered breast shape, dimpling of the skin, milk rejection, fluid emerging from the nipple, an inverted nipple, or a red or scaly patch of skin can all be indicators of breast cancer. Affected individuals may experience bone discomfort, enlarged lymph nodes, shortness of breath, or yellow skin.

Breast cancer is a type of cancer that forms in the breast tissue. It is one of the most common types of cancer that affects women, but it can also occur in men. Early detection of breast cancer is important because it increases the chances of successful treatment and improves the overall prognosis.

Here are some reasons why early detection of breast cancer is important:

i. Better Treatment Options: Early detection of breast cancer means that there are more treatment options available to the patient. Early-stage breast cancer detection opens up a wider range of treatment choices, including surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted medicines.


ii. Higher Survival Rates: Higher survival rates for breast cancer have been correlated with early detection. When breast cancer is found early on, the American Cancer Society reports that the five-year survival rate is over 100%. (stage 0 or stage 1). Yet for women whose breast cancer has spread to other bodily areas, the survival percentage falls to about 27%. (stage 4).

iii. Reduced Need for Aggressive Treatment: Early detection of breast cancer reduces the need for intensive therapy. This suggests that the patient may be able to save the breast tissue and avoid more invasive procedures like mastectomy (removal of the breast).

iv. Early Detection is Possible: Early identification of breast cancer is feasible with routine screening and self-examination. Women who have a higher risk of developing breast cancer, like those with a family history of the condition, should begin having mammograms earlier in life and more frequently.

v. Emotional Benefits: Emotional advantages can also result from early identification of breast cancer. It can lessen tension and worry brought on by the uncertainties around the illness and its treatments.

Signs and symptoms:

The most typical sign of breast cancer is a lump that feels different from the surrounding breast tissue. When a person feels a lump of this nature with their fingertips, more than 80% of instances are identified. Yet, a mammography can find the early breast tumours. In the armpit lymph nodes, lumps may also be a sign of breast cancer.

Generally, symptoms of breast cancer include:

·        a breast lump or thickening;

·        alteration in size, shape or appearance of a breast;

·        dimpling, redness, pitting or other alteration in the skin;

·        change in nipple appearance or alteration in the skin surrounding the nipple (areola); and/or abnormal nipple discharge.


The majority of breast cancer types can be quickly identified through microscopic examination of a biopsy sample taken from the breast's afflicted area. Moreover, some forms of breast cancer necessitate specialist lab tests.

Mammography and physical examination of the breasts by a healthcare professional can both provide an approximate possibility that a lump is cancerous and may also pick up on other abnormalities, such a straightforward cyst.

When these tests are unhelpful, a medical professional may take a sample of the lump's fluid for microscopic inspection (a process called as fine needle aspiration, or fine needle aspiration and cytology, or FNAC) to help make a diagnosis. An aspiration with a needle can be done in a doctor's office or clinic. If the lump is not under the skin, a local anaesthetic may not be required to numb the breast tissue in order to prevent pain during the treatment. A bulge that contains clear fluid is highly unlikely to be carcinogenic, however bloody fluid may be submitted for a microscope examination to check for cancerous cells. Mammography, FNAC, and physical examination of the breasts can all be utilised to make a diagnosis.

Additional biopsy alternatives include excisional biopsy, which involves removing the entire lump, core biopsy, which involves removing a part of the breast mass, and vacuum-assisted breast biopsy. The results of a physical examination by a healthcare professional, a mammogram, and any additional tests that might be carried out under unique conditions (such as imaging by ultrasound or MRI) are frequently sufficient to support excisional biopsy as the primary diagnostic and therapeutic approach.


When the disease is detected early on, breast cancer treatment can be very successful, with a survival probability of 90% or higher. Surgery and radiation therapy are typically used as part of treatment to cure and/or prevent the spread of the illness to the lymph nodes, breast, and adjacent areas (locoregional control). Systemic therapy also includes anti-cancer medications administered intravenously or orally (metastasis). Endocrine (hormone) therapy, chemotherapy, and occasionally targeted biologic therapy are anti-cancer medications (antibodies).

In the past, mastectomy was the only surgical procedure used to treat breast cancer (complete removal of the breast). Mastectomy may still be required for big malignancies. Most breast cancers can now be treated with a less invasive treatment called a "lumpectomy" or partial mastectomy, in which only the breast tumour is removed. To reduce the likelihood of recurrence in the breast in these situations, radiation therapy to the breast is typically necessary.

When aggressive tumours, lymph nodes are removed during cancer surgery. In the past, it was believed that in order to stop the spread of cancer, the lymph node bed beneath the arm needed to be completely removed (full axillary dissection). Sentinel node biopsy, a method that removes fewer lymph nodes, is increasingly preferred since it has less consequences. To locate the first few lymph nodes where breast cancer can spread, a dye or radioactive tracer is used.

Based on the biological subtyping of the malignancies, medical treatments for breast cancers may be administered either before ("neoadjuvant") or after ("adjuvant") surgery. Endocrine (hormone) therapy like tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors are likely to be effective against cancers that express the oestrogen receptor (ER) and/or progesterone receptor (PR). These drugs lower the likelihood of these "hormone-positive" tumours recurring by almost half when taken orally for 5–10 years. Menopause symptoms may be brought on by endocrine therapy, however they are typically well tolerated.

Cancers that lack ER or PR expression are referred to as "hormone receptor negative" and, unless the disease is very tiny, must be treated with chemotherapy. The chemotherapy regimens that are currently available are often administered as outpatient therapy and are quite effective in lowering the likelihood of cancer spread or recurrence. In the absence of problems, chemotherapy for breast cancer typically does not necessitate hospitalisation.

A chemical known as the HER-2/neu oncogene may be overexpressed by breast tumours on their own. Treatment options for these "HER-2 positive" malignancies include targeted biological medicines like trastuzumab. Due to the fact that these biological agents are antibodies rather than chemicals, they are not only incredibly expensive but also very effective. Targeted biological therapies are used in conjunction with chemotherapy to maximise their capacity to eradicate cancer cells.

Moreover, radiotherapy is crucial in the management of breast cancer. Radiation therapy for early-stage breast cancers can spare a woman from needing a mastectomy. Even after a mastectomy, radiation can lower the chance of cancer recurrence in patients with advanced malignancies. In some cases, radiation therapy for advanced breast cancer may lessen the chance of death from the condition.

The effectiveness of breast cancer therapies depends on the full course of treatment. Partial treatment is less likely to lead to a positive outcome.

Global impact:

More than 90% of patients with breast cancer survive for at least 5 years following diagnosis in high-income nations, compared to 66% in India and 40% in South Africa. Early detection and treatment have been successful in high-income nations, and when some of the standard tools are accessible, they should be used in nations with fewer resources. The WHO Essential Medicines List already includes the vast majority of breast cancer medications (EML). Using what we already know works can therefore lead to significant global improvements in the treatment of breast cancer.

Between the 1980s and 2020, age-standardized breast cancer mortality decreased by 40% in high-income nations. Countries that have been successful in lowering breast cancer mortality have been able to achieve a 2-4% reduction in annual breast cancer mortality. Between 2020 and 2040, 2.5 million breast cancer deaths could be averted if there is a global 2.5% annual mortality decrease.

The same strategy is necessary for the management of cervical cancer, lung cancer, colorectal cancer, and prostate cancer: the construction of trustworthy referral channels from primary care institutions to district hospitals to specialised cancer centres. In order to build routes that can be followed for the management of other diseases, breast cancer is a "index" disease.

In conclusion, early detection of breast cancer is crucial. It can provide better treatment options, higher survival rates, reduced need for aggressive treatment, and emotional benefits. Therefore, it is important for women to have regular screening and self-examination to increase the chances of detecting breast cancer at an early stage.

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