Early Detection & Diagnosis

For years, I was under the impression that self-examination was the first part of the early detection process for discovering breast cancer. But as I’m researching and learning, clinical or self-examination is not the first, or the best, way to detect breast cancer.1 However, if clinical and/or self-examination is paired with mammography, the chances of finding breast cancer, greatly increase.

You see, the truth is, by the time you feel something, the cancer may have grown large enough to possibly require invasive surgery. 2

Mammography is actually the best form of early detection, as it can find cancer years before physical symptoms begin. While mammography may be able to detect cancer before it is felt, it could also give results of a false-negative. A false-negative is more likely to occur in younger women who have dense breast tissue.3 A mammography appointment is encouraged yearly for women at a higher risk of getting breast cancer around the age of 30, and women of average risk, when they enter their 40’s.

If anything about your mammogram is concerning to your doctor, they will send you for some testing that will make up your pathology report. Your pathology report will indicate the size and appearance of your cancer, how quickly it is growing, any signs of it spreading to nearby healthy tissues, and whether certain things inside your body — such as hormones or genetic mutations (abnormal changes in genes) — are factors in your cancer’s growth and development.4 From there your doctor and you will determine the best course of action for your treatment.

For more information, visit https://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/diagnosis

Breastcancer.org. Breast Cancer Myths vs. Facts. Modified 10/9/2019. https://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/understand_bc/myths-facts

2 Cancer.org. American Cancer Society Recommendations for the Early Detection of Breast Cancer. Last Revised: March 5, 2020. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/screening-tests-and-early-detection/american-cancer-society-recommendations-for-the-early-detection-of-breast-cancer.html

3 Breastcancer.org. Breast Cancer Myths vs. Facts. Modified 10/9/2019https://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/understand_bc/myths-facts

4 Breastcancer.org. Your Breast Cancer Diagnosis. Last modified on March 19, 2020. https://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/diagnosis