It can be easy to forget to take the time to do the simple things such as getting to know your own body. Breast cancer affects over 2 million people per year yet if caught early, the rate of survival in the next 5 years is greatly increased to 99%. This means that it is important to take the time to get to know the normal look and feel of your breasts as part of your daily routine. This could be whilst showering, dressing, putting on body lotion or simply looking in the mirror. You don’t have to be an expert or use a special technique.
Knowing what’s normal for you will help you to detect any new breast changes that could potentially change your life.
If you do find a change in your breasts that is unusual for you, see your GP without any delay. 9 out of 10 breast changes are not due to cancer, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
For women aged between the 40-49 year age group, mammograms are not as effective as they are for older women because breasts are denser in this age group than for older women, making any early signs of breast cancer more difficult to see. This is due to breasts becoming less dense as women get older, particularly after menopause, which is why mammograms become more effective closer to 50 years of age.
Who is recommended to take the test?
Women above the age of 50 should take the test annually
Women between 40 and 50 years should be examined once every two years
Women whose families have a history of breast cancer should be examined regularly
Women who have had a false positive detection of cancer
Women who have symptoms of breast cancer such as lumps and persistent breast pain
Finding breast cancer early provides the best chance of surviving the disease. It is important to remember that you don’t need to be an expert to check your breasts.
Changes to look for include
a new lump or lumpiness, especially if it's only in one breast
a change in the size or shape of your breast
a change to the nipple, such as crusting, ulcer, redness or inversion
a nipple discharge that occurs without squeezing
a change in the skin of your breast such as redness or dimpling
An unusual pain that doesn't go away.
Being in a foreign country, it may be stressful to think about where and how procedures such as a mammogram take place. However in Thailand, the mammogram and ultrasound are offered together. We have found for you that at all private and Government hospitals including the National Cancer Institute and Prachachuen MRI center, there is a very high quality standard to the procedures so you don’t have to worry about not getting the treatment you need.
The price of a mammogram in Thailand varies from hospital to hospital but can start at around 2000 Thai baht in public hospitals. In the Camillian Hospital Clinic the price is 4000 Thai baht with a service charge of 150 baht, and to consult with a Doctor it would vary between 300 – 800 baht. International Hospitals such as Sametivej would cost 6000 baht with a service charge of 300, and 600 -1000 baht to consult with a Doctor.
Angelina Jolie as a case study
Angelina Jolie lost her mother, only 56, to ovarian cancer. As ovarian cancer was part of her family history, she took a BRCA test to determine whether she carried a faulty BRCA gene. The results showed that Jolie did carry a faulty copy of the BRCA1 gene which put her at very high risk of developing both forms of the disease. Jolie’s doctors estimated that she had an 87 percent risk of developing breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer, although the risk is different in the case of each woman.
She decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much she could by having a preventive double mastectomy. Jolie started with the breasts, as her risk of breast cancer was higher than her risk of ovarian cancer. Two years later, Jolie went back to have her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to reduce her risk of developing ovarian cancer. Having ovaries removed can significantly reduce their risk of developing ovarian cancer and has an added effect of helping to reduce the chances of getting breast cancer too. However, this is only for women faced with a faulty BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene.
It is important to remember that women should make the decision that’s right for them. Surgery is not the only option – women can opt to have intensive surveillance for the early signs of breast cancer, either with mammograms or MRI scans. These can pick up cancers when they’re small, localized, and easier to treat successfully.
Breast cancer should not be a taboo subject, make sure to check your own body and let your GP know ASAP if you notice any changes to your breasts to ensure your risk of breast cancer is greatly reduced.
Donna Maria Robinson