Breast cancer impacts over 2 million women, worldwide, every year. With 627,000 deaths in 2018 alone due to breast cancer, this cancer is the most common cancer in women accounting for approximately 15% of all cancer deaths among women. Although breast cancer is common among women in developed countries, it has been gradually rising in low-and-middle-income countries, which now experience more breast cancer caused deaths among women. This is because the majority of women in developing countries are diagnosed late due to lack of knowledge on early detection and barriers to getting the health services they need.
This is why the breast cancer awareness month held every October, is crucial in helping to increase attention and support for awareness creation about this cancer, its early detection and treatment and palliative care for women with late stage breast cancer.
Factors such as family history with breast cancer, obesity and postmenopausal hormone therapy, are believed to increase the risk for this cancer. However, the exact cause for breast cancer, like most cancers, is unknown. The best chance of curing breast cancer is being able to diagnose the disease early and get adequate treatment for it.
Early detection has been made much easier with new and advanced inventions in technology that have the ability to diagnose breast cancer even in the very early stages. Here are some of the latest technologies used breast cancer detection:
- Breast Tomosynthesis: This advanced form of mammography uses low-dose x-rays to detect cancer early when it is most treatable.
- Automated Breast Ultrasound: This can be done as a complementary examination to mammography in breast cancer screening in women with dense breast tissue and who have normal or benign mammographic screening findings. An ultrasonography device or probe is used to obtain images by performing a horizontal scanning on the breast. It provides 3D images and a data set that can be evaluated by a breast radiologist.
- 4D Breast Ultrasonography: This 4-dimensional breast ultrasonography is one of the latest developments in breast mammography which allows imaging of the breast under standard exposures. Images obtained from this technique are evaluated using a special screen allowing recreation and re-measuring of the images on each plane section to minimize any errors from the imaging.
Other Imaging developments:
- PEM scan: Positron emission mammography is done by attaching sugar to a radioactive particle to help find small groups of cancer cells.
- Electrical impedance imaging (EIT): By passing a bit of electric current through the breast and looking for changes in electrodes in the skin, this test can differentiate cancer cells from normal cells as cancer cells conduct electricity differently.
- MRI: Magnetic resonance imaging provides more detailed images than a PET scan, showing the location of the tumour.
- Biopsies: A biopsy is done to remove tissue sample from a tumour or, in other cases, to remove an entire tumour to check for the presence of cancer cells. There are different types of biopsies, including:
1. Thin-needle biopsy: A needle is used to take tissue or fluid samples from the breast to check for cancer cells.
2. Tru-cut biopsy: This type of biopsy can be used as an alternative to a fine needle biopsy. It involves using a special needle which is passed into the lesion after which a sheath is passed down the needle. The sheath cuts a specimen corresponding to the gap in the needle.
3. Vacuum biopsy: This type of biopsy involves removing an area of abnormal cells from the breast tissue using a special needle attached to a vacuum device to remove the cells.
4. MR-guided biopsy: A magnetic resonance imaging MRI machine is used to do biopsies as the doctor or specialist can see exactly where the tumour is during the procedure.
- Nanotechnology: This technology aids in cancer detection by looking at the blood and other bodily fluids using nanoparticles. It can even detect a single cancerous cell.
More research is still on going to understand not just breast cancer but cancer in general and how to treat it more effectively. With better technology and reliable medical treatment for cancer, more women with breast cancer will be diagnosed early and get the treatment they need.
It is not easy to achieve this, hence the need to continue creating awareness about breast cancer and to join with organizations, clinicians, survivors and patients, family and friends, and your entire community to honour lives lost, promote early detection, support those impacted by breast cancer, and raise money for treatment and research.
International Medical Treatment Ltd (IMT) has helped a significant number of breast cancer patients to get quality treatment at some of our partner hospitals around the world. To start your breast cancer treatment journey at one of our partner hospitals, contact IMT today.