Early Detection of Breast Cancer
Research on breast cancer is changing monthly. Early detection research papers can inform the student on what are the most up to date methods regarding breast cancer. Have our writers custom write your project to focus on any medical health aspects you need focused on.
As with any form of cancer, breast cancer is far more manageable when it is detected early. Because it is the most common form of cancer, early detection is essential for the best prognosis. The mammogram is the most important means of screening for breast cancer; this x-ray of the breast has the ability to show tumors up to two years prior to the point where they can be detected by a patient or physician. It is recommended that women aged 40 or older get a mammogram once a year; women who are at an increased risk for breast cancer should have this done yearly starting at age 30.
Another form of screening for breast cancer is genetic in nature. Those with a family history of breast, fallopian tube, or ovarian cancer should have evaluations done to determine if these cancers were caused by genetic mutations. If mutations were found on the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, the individual should undergo genetic screening. DNA is collected from a blood or saliva sample and tested for genetic mutations; a positive result in this test should result in additional preventive measures to reduce the likelihood of these mutations manifesting as a form of breast cancer. This approach for individuals at increased risk for breast cancer, coupled with rigorous screenings for all individuals at risk, should help with early detection and treatment of breast cancer, thereby resulting in a better prognosis.
Detecting Breast Cancer
Current tools that are used in the detection of breast cancer include the following:
- Clinical physical examination
Generally, these procedures are utilized when certain symptoms of breast cancer are apparent such as discharge, puckering around the nipple, and abnormal skin changes around the areolar. Certain women are at greater risk for breast cancer, especially those women who experience late first child births or had not children at all or had an early menarche. If a mass is detected during a physical exam, one or more of the aforementioned procedures are prescribed. Unfortunately, these procedures sometimes yield negative results when a breast cancer is actually present. Primary breast cancers are especially difficult to diagnosis and detect based on physical exam and mammography alone. However, Block and Meyer note that when surrounding lymph nodes are diagnosed with cancer, PET scans can be utilized to determine if the breast is involved in the nearby cancer. Many times when this occurs patients undergo complete breast removal because of suspected cancer of the breast. However, as many as thirty percent of these women who receive radical mastectomies show no post-surgical signs of breast cancer when the tissue is examined. In other words, almost a third of women having radical removal of the breast do not have anything wrong with their breast. Block and Meyer note that in one case a PET scan was performed with a patient that had no sign of breast cancer utilizing traditional diagnostic techniques. The PET scan, however, did demonstrate that cancer of the breast was present. Without the PET scan the cancer would have not been detected in its early stages.
The advantage of the PET scan in breast cancer detection is that some women have radiologically dense breasts. Mammography is often unable to detect tumors that are present in women with this type of breast. Since scans are able to detect tumors in normal as well as dense breasts, the use of PET scans consequently enables the surgeon to remove only affected breast tissue rather than performing a complete mastectomy.
PET scans have been shown to be useful in diagnosing breast cancer in general (Boerner, Weckesser, Herzog, Schmitz, Audretsch, Nitz, Bender, & Mueller-Gaertner 226). Studies comparing women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer to women free of breast cancer demonstrated that PET scans can pinpoint the differences. However, these researchers noted that different procedures must be utilized in order to detect tumors adequately and precisely.
Research shows that the use of PET scans can also facilitate diagnosis of cancer that is recurring in former breast cancer patients. The use of PET scans was compared to radiological examinations in one study, and PET scans proved to be more effective in detecting breast lesions. Radiological studies included a combination of mammography, ultrasound, CT/MRI, and X-ray. Overall, PET scans were more sensitive, more accurate, and more specific in determining breast lesions.