Breast Self-Exams v/s Clinical Breast-Exams: Breast Cancer Detection

February 23, 2024 Cancer Hub 48 Views

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Breast Self-Exams (BSE) v/s Clinical Breast- Exams (CBE)

Breast self-exams (BSE) and clinical breast exams (CBE) are both important methods for detecting breast abnormalities, including lumps or changes in breast tissue and breast cancer.

However, they differ in terms of who performs them and when they are conducted:

  • Breast Self-Exams (BSE):
      • BSE involves a woman examining her own breasts on a regular basis to detect any changes or abnormalities.
      • Typically, women are encouraged to perform BSE monthly, usually a few days after their menstrual period ends, when the breasts are least likely to be tender or swollen.
      • During a BSE, a woman looks and feels for changes in the size, shape, or texture of her breasts. She checks for lumps, thickening, or other abnormalities.
  • Clinical Breast Exams (CBE):
    • CBE involves a healthcare professional, such as a doctor or nurse, examining a woman’s breasts during a routine physical exam or office visit.
    • A clinical breast exam may be performed annually during a woman’s regular check-up.
    • During a CBE, the healthcare provider examines the breasts for any abnormalities, including lumps, changes in size or shape, or skin changes.

Here are some key points regarding BSE and CBE:

  • BSE allows women to become familiar with the normal look and feel of their breasts and to notice any changes promptly.
  • CBE provides an opportunity for a trained healthcare professional to conduct a more thorough examination and to detect any abnormalities that may not be noticed during a self-exam.
  • While BSE was once widely promoted, its effectiveness in reducing breast cancer mortality rates has been debated. Some organizations, such as the American Cancer Society, no longer recommend routine BSE but encourage women to be aware of their breast health and report any changes to their healthcare provider.
  • CBE, on the other hand, remains an important part of routine healthcare for women, particularly in conjunction with other screening methods such as mammograms for early detection of breast cancer. ( Know more about- Breast Cancer Screening in India )

How often one must go for a full body health checkup for early detection of breast cancer disease?

The frequency of full-body health checkups, including screenings for breast cancer, depends on various factors, including age, family history, personal risk factors, and recommendations from healthcare professionals and organizations. 

Here are some general guidelines:

  • Age and Risk Factors:
      • For women with average risk and no specific concerns, breast cancer screenings typically begin at age 40 with annual mammograms.
      • Women with a family history of breast cancer or other risk factors may need to start screenings earlier or have them more frequently. Genetic counseling and testing may also be recommended in some cases.
  • Screening Methods:
      • Mammograms are the primary screening tool for breast cancer in asymptomatic women. They are typically recommended annually starting at age 40, although guidelines may vary slightly between organizations.
      • Clinical breast exams (CBE) by a healthcare provider may be recommended annually, especially for women in their 20s and 30s, and then less frequently as women get older.
  • Personalized Recommendations:
      • Healthcare providers may tailor screening recommendations based on individual risk factors, health history, and preferences.
      • It’s essential for women to discuss their risk factors and screening options with their healthcare providers to develop a personalized screening plan.
  • Additional Tests:
    • In some cases, additional imaging tests such as breast ultrasound or MRI may be recommended for women at higher risk, but these are typically not used as routine screening tools for average-risk women.

The frequency and timing of these screenings should be discussed with a healthcare provider to ensure they align with individual risk factors and recommendations from reputable medical organizations. ( Know more about- What is Breast Cancer ? )

Which tests give definitive diagnosis for breast cancer disease ?

Definitive diagnosis of breast cancer typically requires a combination of tests, including imaging studies and tissue sampling. 

Here are the primary tests used in the diagnosis of breast cancer:

  • Mammogram: A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast tissue and is used as a screening tool to detect abnormalities, such as lumps or calcifications, which may indicate the presence of cancer. While mammograms are valuable for detecting breast cancer, they cannot provide a definitive diagnosis on their own.
  • Breast Ultrasound: Ultrasound uses sound waves to create images of breast tissue. It can help distinguish between solid masses and fluid-filled cysts and may be used to further evaluate abnormalities detected on a mammogram.
  • Breast Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): MRI uses magnetic fields and radio waves to create detailed images of the breast tissue. It is often used in conjunction with mammography and ultrasound for women at higher risk of breast cancer or to further evaluate suspicious findings.
  • Biopsy: A biopsy involves removing a sample of breast tissue for examination under a microscope to determine if cancer cells are present. There are different types of biopsies, including:
    • Fine needle aspiration biopsy (FNAB): Uses a thin needle to withdraw cells from a suspicious area.
    • Core needle biopsy: Uses a larger needle to remove a small cylinder of tissue from the suspicious area.
    • Surgical biopsy: Involves removing a larger portion of tissue for examination, either through an incision or during a surgical procedure. Biopsy results provide the most definitive diagnosis of breast cancer, including information about the type, grade, and hormone receptor status of the cancer cells.
  • Pathology and Molecular Testing: Pathologists examine biopsy samples under a microscope to assess characteristics such as the size, shape, and behavior of the cancer cells. Molecular testing may also be performed to identify specific genetic mutations or biomarkers that can help guide treatment decisions.

Combining the results of imaging studies and biopsy samples allows healthcare providers to make a definitive diagnosis of breast cancer and develop an appropriate treatment plan tailored to the individual patient. Get the best treatment for breast cancer, cancer diagnosis and full body health checkup at the best hospitals in India. 


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