Breast Cancer Screening

I’d another mammogram yesterday courtesy of BreastCheck. This Government-funded national screening programme invites women aged 50 to 64 for a free mammogram on an area-by-area basis, every two years. The aim of BreastCheck is to reduce deaths from breast cancer by finding and treating the disease at an early stage. I’d barely sat down in the waiting area yesterday when I was whisked away to be screened. The service was fast, efficient and friendly and could not be faulted. However, I recently read that a revolution in breast cancer screening is on the cards. Results of research in Galway suggest that a simple blood test may soon be sufficient for breast cancer screening.

“Mammography is currently the gold standard diagnostic tool and is the basis for national breast cancer screening programmes. But it is not perfect; it involves exposure to radiation and some 8 to 10 per cent of women who have the test, but who don’t have cancer, will be told initially they do have a tumour.

The ideal test for breast cancer should be easily accessible: it could be sampled in a minimally invasive way; must be sensitive enough to detect the early presence of tumours in almost all patients who have the disease; and should be absent, or at very low levels, in women who are cancer-free.

Ground-breaking research into breast cancer has just emerged from the Department of Surgery at NUI Galway. Not alone does the newly-discovered blood test have the potential to more accurately assess how a woman with breast cancer responds to current treatment, but it may, subject to further research, replace mammography as the main screening method for breast cancer.

Preliminary analysis suggests that the blood test will be 92 per cent accurate in detecting the presence of breast cancer in women who have yet to develop symptoms. If this finding is replicated in larger studies, there is a real possibility of breast cancer screening taking place in your local surgery, using nothing more complicated than a blood test.”

Although medicine has come a long way in recent years in the management of breast cancer, this research offers great hope for the future. Roll-on the revolution!

Information Source: The Irish Times HEALTHplus

5 Responses to Breast Cancer Screening

  1. Baino says:

    Well thank God for that. I hate mamograms, they’re uncomfortable, humiliating and as you say, often give a false positive. Bring it on!

  2. Grannymar says:

    Research is improving all the time. What gets me are the number of women who choose to ignore these routine screening programmes. A few minutes discomfort are worth it if it prevents suffering or death.

  3. Steph says:

    Baino – It is uncomfortable having a mammogram but if it lessens the chance of a breast lump going undetected, then I’m prepared to put up with it. My body has been poked and prodded so often by medics, it would take a lot more than a mammogram to humiliate me!

    Grannymar – By chance, I bumped into a friend on the street outside the door of BreastCheck. When I enquired if she too had an appointment there, she shook her head and said “No way, I don’t ‘do’ mammograms, I don’t want the radiation”. Her reaction really surprised me and it made me wonder how many other women choose to take a risk rather than radiation. A simple blood test for breast cancer screening, would rule out this fear.

  4. JBBC says:

    Very interesting Baino, Steph and Grannymar to read your comments. We are lucky in this country and indeed particularly if living in Dublin, to have this free service. We mustn’t forget that it still hasn’t been rolled out fully throughout the country! As you all point out, it is indeed uncomfortable and yes, even humiliating, and for those of us who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, a scary appointment we keep each year, and although not perfect, it is currently the best diagnostic tool at our disposal. Thanks for reminding us Steph.

  5. Steph says:

    JBBC – Cheers! I greatly respect where you’re coming from. When having my mammogram the other day, I felt really lucky to have access to this free screening service.

    It’s not right that BreastCheck is not available across the country and also, that we still have no bowel screening programme in place despite dire warnings from the Irish Cancer Society.

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