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Breast Cancer and Low Radiation Detection Techniques

Posted Dec 20 2008 5:56pm

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If there’s a dreaded word in the medical fraternity, it’s cancer. Even the most ignorant of people know that it’s a killer; cancer may be treatable if you discover the malignant cells in the early stages, it may go into remission if you begin treatment once the disease has set it, it may even hoodwink you into believing it’s gone forever. But the disease only hibernates, sometimes for six months, sometimes for 10 years. It’s like the Sword of Damocles hanging over your head, and you’re in constant fear of death, a very painful one at that.

The only people who have some kind of hope of meeting cancer and living to tell the tale are those who have it detected early. Some forms of cancer are more benign than others, and by benign I mean they are more merciful – they allow you to survive if you succeed in removing the cancerous organ in its entirety. Breast cancer is one such disease – women who are prone to it, either through hereditary factors or because of overexposure to radiation and/or cancer-causing substances, can get themselves checked regularly to prevent falling victim to this deadly disease.

Early detection can save your life, and although you lose your breast in the process, the tradeoff is more than fair when you consider that you live a healthy life for many more years. Breast cancer is screened through a mammography, the procedure where x-rays are used to detect the presence of cancer cells in your breast. It’s safe because it uses a low amount of radiation.

New research has proved that a mammography combined with a breast ultrasound is your best bet to detect the disease as early as possible if you have a history of breast cancer. Results from the American College of Radiology Imaging Network’s ACRIN-6666 trial have shown that women with the early stages of breast cancer are more likely to have the cancer identified when both mammograms and ultrasound scans are performed.

On the plus side, scans are available everywhere, tolerated easily by all kinds of patients and use no radiation. But there is a negative aspect to this testing; it apparently increases the number of false diagnoses too – many people without cancer are told that they have the disease, leading to emotional distress, additional expenditure, and in worst case scenarios, a mastectomy if the patient does not bother to get a second opinion.

At the end of the day though, it’s a known fact that early detection through regular screenings is the best hope that we have today of fighting cancer and keeping this deadly killer at bay. And when the screening methods are not harmful themselves, the smartest thing we can do is to protect ourselves by getting tested.

By-line: This article is contributed by Sarah Scrafford, who regularly writes on the topic of Radiology Technician Training. She invites your questions, comments and freelancing job inquiries at her email address: sarah.scrafford25 [at ] gmail.com.

      
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