I was at the doctor last week for a check-up and I saw National Breast Cancer Awareness Month materials prominently displayed. A few years ago, two of my closest friends and one of my graduate school professors were all diagnosed with breast cancer within a couple of weeks of one another. Thanks to early detection, my two friends were able to receive treatment and are living healthy, active lives today. My professor, however, discovered her cancer too late.
Having witnessed this, and seeing what a difficult time it was for them, and the people closest to them, made me wonder what we can all do to help to prevent cancer in the first place, and what best allows women to detect breast cancer early on.
Mammography is the most effective method for early detection of breast cancer. Up until recently, breast self-examination (BSE) was recommended for all women over age 20. However, in recent years, research has shown that BSE doe not necessarily result in a greater detection and survival rate. Part of the problem could be that women don't perform BSE consistently or correctly. An October 7th article in the Arizona Republic discusses some newly available breast self-examination kits designed to make BSE easier. The article also cites various expert opinions on the benefits of these kits along with self-examination in general.