Breast Cancer Screening

Background

Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer across the globe associated with high numbers of mortality. The disease affects both men and women, but it is more prevalent among women of a certain age. Although every woman is at risk of developing breast cancer, post-menopausal women are more susceptible to the disease in comparison to those within the childbearing age (Heywang, Hanker & Sedlacek 2011). Effective management of breast cancer depends on several issues, including the time of detection. Early detection allows medics to come up with non-costly mechanisms to prevent the spread of the cancer virus, thus giving the patient an opportunity to live a normal life. Several mechanisms have been devised to help in the early detection of breast cancer among women and mammography screening is one of those techniques. A mammography screening is an x-tray testing mechanism where the breasts of a woman are placed on a machine and pressed against two plastic surfaces to give a clear picture of the tissues (Singletary 2003). The mammogram takes x-rays of the breast at different angles, thus making it easy to detect any cancerous cells.

Mammography is recommended for women between the ages of 50 and 70 years because of their high susceptibility to the disease. Some parts of the world have higher rates of breast cancer and people living in such areas require frequent screening to ensure healthy living. For example, people living in the United Kingdom are moiré susceptible to the condition because of their lifestyles.

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Case Study

The patient is a woman aged 56 years from the UK who is scheduled for a mammography screening. She is a mother of one and has had two close relatives, namely mother and aunt suffering from breast cancer. She is 5.4 feet tall and weighs 90 kgs. Based on the age, the family history, the number of births and place of origin, it is important for the patient to undergo the screening to improve the chances of early detection and subsequent treatment.

The patient lifetime risk of developing breast cancer is 1 in 8 persons. The lifetime risk is determined by age and location of residence. The patient has several risk factors that make her more vulnerable to breast cancer. The patient has two first-degree relatives who have suffered breast cancer which make her more susceptible to the disease. Cancerous cells can be inherited from one person to another and the fact that the patient’s mother suffered breast cancer indicates a possibility of the cancerous cells in the patient. A cell must accumulate a critical mass to become cancerous. The critical mass causes molecular changes that alert the cells responsible for creating the genes. As a result, the cell’s growth and development are altered and these mutations can be inherited. BRCA1 and BRCA2 cells are highly associated with genetic breast cancer (Singletary 2003). The penetration of these genes depends on the environment in which a person lives. In this case, having a family history of breast cancer and living in a highly volatile environment makes the patient at a higher risk of developing the condition.

The patient has only had one full term pregnancy and this increases her chances of developing breast cancer. The number of ovulation cycles that a woman has in a lifetime determines her chances of suffering from breast cancer. The risk of developing breast cancer reduces with reduced ovulation cycles because the hormones produced by the ovaries are highly associated with cancer development (Heywang et al. 2011). Pregnancy reduces the number ovulations that one has in a lifetime and enhances breast cell differentiation, which is beneficial. Breastfeeding also ensures that the breasts mature up and prevents the secretion of estrogen and progesterone hormones that are highly associated with breast cancer. Differentiated cells and mature breast are more resistant to cancerous cells than normal breast cells. Therefore, women who have many children have a reduced risk of developing breast cancer.

Often time people refuse to undergo the mammography screening because of the discomfort that comes along with the squeezing of the breast. However, this practice is essential because it allows the practitioners to have a clear look at the tissues of the breasts. The pressing of the breasts helps to displace the tissues, thus allowing the practitioners to analyze the inner layers of tissues. The breast tissues look similar to the cancerous cells on the mammogram. However, cancerous cells do not displace as well as normal tissues; therefore, if after pressing some tissues remain rigid, the patient is taken for a further testing to determine if the cells are cancerous. In addition, squeezing the breasts allows the practitioner to take a clear look at overlapping tissues, which are often confused with cancer cells and avoid wrong analysis.

The squeezing of breasts also helps to reduce and prevent movement during the x-ray, which can interfere with the quality of the pictures. Mammography detects cancerous cells that are very tiny and any movement of the tissues during the x-ray can interfere with the accuracy of the screening. Movement blurs images and can lead to wrong detection and unnecessary burden to the patient.

Despite the discomfort, mammography is a very important screening method and it helps to reduce the mortality rate associated with breast cancer. The early detection of the cancerous cells gives the patient a better chance of fighting the disease and living a healthy life. Mammography has helped to lower mortality rates by 30% in the last few years. Further, mammography screening prevents mastectomy and chemotherapy. The cancerous cell can be treated effectively before it affects the entire breast, thus reducing the likelihood of removing the entire breast. Chemotherapy is a painful and expensive procedure and breast cancer patients can avoid these complications by taking regular mammography screening to ensure early detection of the disease. Aggressive treatment of breast cancer can have adverse effects on the patient. However, with mammography screening and early detection, mild treatment can help to take care of the cells before they develop into complicated cells and extend to other parts of the body (Heywang et al. 2011).

Based on the above case study, the patient has multiple risk factors that make her more susceptible to breast cancer. Therefore, it is important to undergo the mammography screening to confirm the healthy status of the patient. The detection of the cancerous cells or lack of it is essential to the patient. Early detection will give the patient a better chance of survival and healthy living. On the other hand, if the patient is declared healthy, then she will no longer live under the fear of having cancer. The fact that two of the patient’s family members suffered the same disease and were cured should be an encouragement enough for the woman to take the mammogram exam.

 

Reference List

Heywang, H, Hacker, A & Sedlacek, S 2011, ‘Advantages and Disadvantages of Mammography Screening,’ Breast Care, vol. 6, no. 3, pp. 199–207

Singletary, S 2003, ‘Rating the Risk Factors for Breast Cancer,’ Annals of Surgery, vol. 237, no. 4, pp. 474–482.