Early Breast Cancer Detection - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Early Breast Cancer Detection

Breast Cancer

Among women, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death (after lung cancer). This year, the American Cancer Society estimates 192,200 cases of invasive female breast cancer will be diagnosed in this country, and 40,200 women will die from the disease.

Risk for breast cancer increases with age – more than 75 percent of cases are diagnosed in women over 50. About ten percent of patients have an inherited genetic mutation that greatly increases risk for breast cancer. Women who’ve been diagnosed with cancer in one breast have a three to four-fold increased risk of developing another cancer in the same or opposing breast. Rates are higher in white women, but African American women are more likely to die from breast cancer. Some other risk factors include: family history of breast cancer, early age at the start of menstruation or late onset of menopause, not having children or having a first child after 30, heavy consumption of alcohol, and obesity.

Screening for Breast Cancer

Breast cancer can often be treated successfully if it’s detected in early stages. The American Cancer Society recommends women 20 and older should perform a monthly breast self-examination to detect any changes in the breast, such as a lump, swelling, thickening, unusual irritation, or abnormal discharge. Between 20 and 39, a clinical breast exam (done by a health care provider) is recommended every three years. After 40, a clinical breast exam is recommended every year. In addition, beginning at 40, women should get an annual screening mammogram.

Mammography isn’t a perfect screening tool. Human error and poor image quality can lead to a missed or undetected cancer. So it’s important for women to continue their other regular screening methods (self- and clinical breast exams). Researchers are trying to devise new screening tools to increase the chance of finding breast cancers in early, more treatable stages. One device in development is called the Palpagraph™ (UltraTouch™ Corporation). During the procedure the woman lies on her back. A narrow “palpation tip” touches the breast and pushes against the tissue, recording the density of that area. The palpagraph tip then moves slightly to palpate the nearby area, covering the entire breast in about 20 minutes. At the end of the exam, the device creates a colored digital map (called a Palpagram™) showing the density of tissue over the entire breast. The Palpagraph™ mimics palpation by a physician, but is much more sensitive than human touch. Researchers say the device can detect tumors that are 16 times smaller than those detected by hand.

The Palpagraph™ can also reach areas not screenable with mammography, such as the under arm and upper area of the breast. Doctors can also use the digital breast maps to follow a patient and track changes in breast density that may be early warning signs of cancer. Since there are no apparent risks and no radiation is involved, women can have exams several times a year if deemed necessary.

UltraTouch™ expects to begin clinical trials of the Palpagraph™ next year. Researchers say if the device is eventually approved, it won’t replace mammography, but rather will be an additional screening tool.


For information about the Palpagraph™, visit the company’s website at www.ultratouch.com

For general information on breast cancer or breast cancer screening: American Cancer Society – contact your local chapter or visit their website at www.cancer.org

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