Important Facts About Breast Cancer

Written by on November 7, 2018 in Health, Prevention with 0 Comments

What are the Symptoms of Breast Cancer?

  • Dimples or irritation of the skin
  • Pain or swelling of the breast
  • Thickening or redness of the nipple or skin of the breast
  • Pain or inward turning of the nipple
  • Discharge from the nipple (other than milk)

Who is at Risk?

There are a number of risk factors associated with the disease. Some are simply based on an individual’s biological makeup, while others relate to lifestyle factors.

  • Genetics: Up to 10% of breast cancer diagnoses are considered hereditary, resulting from genetic mutations, such as BRCA1 or BRCA2, passed down from a parent.
  • Lifestyle Factors: Alcohol consumption, tobacco use, and even working nights may lead to an increased risk of breast cancer.
  • Early Menstruation and/or Late Menopause: Women who began menstruating before age 12 have a slightly increased risk of breast cancer, likely due to longer exposure to estrogen and progesterone. Similarly, women who went through menopause later have an increased risk due to extended hormone exposure.
  • Weight: Being overweight or obese can increase your risk of breast cancer, especially in postmenopausal women, due to the fact that more fat tissue leads to higher estrogen levels.
  • Family History: If a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) has had breast cancer, your risk nearly doubles. If two first-degree relatives have had it, your risk triples.

What are Mammograms?

A ​mammogram​ is a form of x-ray utilized by oncologists and other types of physicians to analyze breast tissue and can detect breast cancer in its early onset stages. Mammograms have the ability to expose lumps in a woman’s breast before they can be physically felt or seen. Additionally, it can illuminate calcium clusters even if they are microscopic in size. These collections that can build up in the breast are one of the indicators of cancer or other conditions. By the age of 40, women should receive a mammogram every 1-2 years, as recommended by most physicians.

Why Mammograms Can Be Flawed

Despite a physician’s intentions to locate and target ​breast cancer​ as early as possible, there are many incidents in which mammograms and the interpretation of results are flawed. The reasons for flawed testing include false-negative results, wherein doctors cannot detect a tumor through an MRI or ultrasound, despite there being one present. In addition, false-positive results can be insinuated from a screening revealing cancerous material but then is later proven wrong with additional testing. It is estimated that ​$4 billion in healthcare spending each year​ is due to false-positive mammograms, as well as the overdiagnosis of breast cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates that 50% of mammography tests​ are false-positive, and this spending occurs from the requirement of additional testing on women for no reason.

What Happens If A Mammogram Is Abnormal?

If in fact the radiologist performing the mammogram finds calcification or an unusual mass in the breast, there are several follow-up steps that must occur before the patient is actually diagnosed with breast cancer. As mentioned previously, extensive tests including an ultrasound and MRI can and most likely will be performed so that a doctor can confirm that the mass is not in fact benign. A biopsy of the breast is also recommended to analyze tissue from a concerning area under a microscope in more detail.

Can A.I. Improve Mammograms?

Artificial intelligence (A.I.) is a computerized database defined by complex algorithms in order to perform tasks that once required human intelligence. In the modern era, A.I. is being utilized in voice recognition software, in driverless cars and even to assist in performing difficult surgeries. And most recently, scientists have begun employing artificial intelligence to improve the accuracy of mammogram readings. Machine recognition and proficiency continues to advance in the technological field; companies have concentrated their efforts in the healthcare space in order to improve these screenings. The Texas’ Houston Methodist Research Institute has developed an A.I. coding software that is capable of interpreting mammograms with ​99% accuracy and up to 30x faster​ than a human doctor.

Additional Uses for A.I. In Radiology

It is now common practice for artificial intelligence software to be used in the facilitation and instruction of proper training of medical professionals, which is essential in dramatically reducing all errors in mammogram interpretation. A study that was recently published by the Journal of Medical Imaging has found that A.I. can be used in practices as intricate as analyzing eye movements of radiologists to help better interpret the cognitive processes involved in x-ray imaging analysis. Certain A.I. capabilities surpass radiologists through their ability to compare mammogram images​ from year to year and pick up on subtle differences that may be more difficult for the human eye to detect.

1 in 8 American women​ will develop a form of breast cancer in her lifetime. This October, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, schedule a visit to your physician to receive a breast cancer screening and find out whether or not you are at a higher than normal risk level of developing this traumatic disorder. The earlier cancerous cells are found, the more easily they can be eradicated. The following are several of the early symptoms associated with breast cancer specifically that women may experience:

  • Dimples or irritation of the skin
  • Pain and/or swelling of the breast
  • Redness of the nipple
  • Pain and/or inward turning of the nipple
  • Discharge from the nipple (other than milk)

If you’ve experienced one or more of these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately. Thousands of women lose their lives each year, and it is within your power to keep your breasts healthy and discover complications before they become life-threatening. Breast cancer can be treated in its early stages, and there is a very high rate of survival when discovered in stage 1. However, as with most cancers, it dwindles the longer it goes untreated. Make the effort to do routine self-breast exams and get screened annually to ensure your long-term health and welfare. For more health and safety information regarding breast cancer and other serious ailments, visit the website​.

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