General Health

Types and Uses of Breast Cancer Screening Methods

Breast cancer is the most widely diagnosed cancer in women worldwide. Breast Cancer is defined as the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells forming lumps in the breast and axillary regions. Once it spreads to neighboring lymph nodes, it slowly spreads to other parts of the body. Symptoms of breast cancer are nipple inversion, nipple discharge, swelling, non-healing wound, orange peel appearance, redness, and pain in the breast.

MedPiper Technologies and JournoMed in collaboration with Niramai, conducted a webinar titled “Early Detection of Breast Cancer, Screening Modalities and Treatment” on April 8th, 2022 which explored the workings various breast cancer screening methods. The speakers were Dr. Lakshmi Krishnan, Senior Clinical Research Scientist, Niramai Health Analytix and Dr. R. Suresh Kumar, Radiation Oncologist, Clinical Director, and CEO – Banglaore Cancer Centre Consultant – Erode Cancer Centre

About one in four women suffers from breast cancer. It is the most frequent cancer among both sexes and is the leading cause of cancer worldwide. The estimated 2.3 million new cases indicate that 1 in 8 women suffers from breast cancer in 2020. According to 2020 statistics, about 7 lakh deaths occurred due to breast cancer, with a disproportionate number of deaths occurring in a low-resource setting.

Breast cancer can be detected by screening methods. Screening is looking for signs of disease such as breast cancer before a person has symptoms. The goal of screening tests is to find breast cancer at an early stage so that it can be treated and cured. These cancers are likely to cause death and illness during the person’s life span. If this screening test comes abnormal then more number of test needs to be performed to find out if you have cancer, these are called diagnostic tests.

The different kinds of cancer screening tests are-

  1. Physical Exam or History- An exam of the body to check the general signs of health, including checking for signs of disease, such as lumps or any other unusual thing. Apart from this patient’s history of health habits and past illness should also be considered.
  2. Laboratory test- Medical samples of the blood, tissue, urine, or other substances in the body.
  3. Imaging procedure- procedures that make the pictures of the area inside the body.
  4. Genetic Tests- laboratory tests in which cells or tissue are analyzed to look for changes in genes or chromosomes. These changes may be a sign that a person has or is at risk of having a specific disease or condition.

However, there are several risks associated with a screening test, not all the screening tests are helpful and some have risk associated with it. It is important to know the risk associated with tests and whether it has been proven to decrease the chance.

Some screening tests can cause serious problems like bleeding . For example, colon cancer screening with sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy can cause tears in the lining of the colon. False-positive test results are possible i.e screening test results may appear to be abnormal even though there is no cancer. This false-positive test result can cause anxiety and is usually followed by more tests and procedures, which also have risks.

False-negative test results are possible. Screening test results may appear to be normal even though there is cancer. A person who receives a false-negative test result (one that shows there is no cancer when there is) may delay seeking medical care even if there are symptoms.

Finding cancer may not improve the person’s health or help the person live longer. Some cancers never cause symptoms or become life-threatening, but if found by a screening test, cancer may be treated. There is no way to know if treating cancer would help the person live longer than if no treatment were given.

In both teenagers and adults, there is a rare risk of attempted or actual suicide in the first year after being diagnosed with cancer. Also, cancer treatments have side effects. For some cancers, finding and treating cancer early does not improve the chance of a cure or help the person live longer.

Does Screening Help People Live Longer.?

  • Finding some cancers at an early stage (before symptoms appear) may help decrease the chance of dying from those cancers.
  • Screening studies are done to see whether deaths from cancer decrease when people are screened.
  • Certain factors may cause survival times to look like they are getting better when they are not.

The PDQ (Physician Data Query) cancer information summary has current information about cancer screening. It is meant to inform and help patients, families, and caregivers. This summary does not give formal guidelines or recommendations for making decisions about health care.


Ritika Gupta

Ritika Gupta is an MPharm. graduate who is keen on spreading awareness about various unexplored medical fields through her writings.

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