Never in a million years did I think I would ever put my boobs on show on the internet… but I just did, and for a very good reason too…
I honestly don’t think there would be many of us in this world who could say that they have not been touched by breast cancer. Whether it is that you have had it or that you are facing it right now, you are supporting a friend or family member through it or you tragically have lost a friend or loved one, it is going to touch us, ready or not!
My boys are 8, 11 and 14 and between the three of them alone, they have four friends who have lost a mum, leaving eleven kids to face life without their mothers by their side.
Four of them!
That kills me inside, it really does and it is obviously nothing compared to the tragedy of lives lost to breast cancer every year around the world.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women and it was estimated that 15,600 Australian women were diagnosed with it in 2015 and 1 in 8 Australian women will be diagnosed with it in their lifetime.
They are some eye opening facts people.
Research shows that having a mother, or a sister or a daughter with breast cancer will double a woman’s risk, but please PLEASE don’t let the fact that your mum or sister has never had it - allow you to become complacent because 9 in 10 of women diagnosed with breast cancer DO NOT have a family history of it.
The good news is that the five year survival rate for someone who has the cancer discovered early, before it spreads to lymph nodes, is 96%.
That shouts one thing to me…
EARLY DETECTION is VITAL.
Better yet… the technology exists and is readily available to us.
Last week I met with Dr Peter Hunter at HealthcareImaging Services, a radiology Clinic in Campsie to talk about the Genius 3D Mammography exam.
Traditionally, a 2D mammogram is used for breast cancer screening, which in layman's terms - provides a flat image of a woman’s breast which a Doctor can then use to look for any abnormalities.
If there are any concerns, the patient may be sent off for an ultrasound and possibly a biopsy…thus begins a period of waiting for results, and anyone who has ever played that waiting game knows that it is an experience that can break even the toughest amongst us.
Whilst a 2D mammogram is incredibly helpful in the detection of breast cancer… 3D technology is even better – especially for women at high risk of breast cancer - as it allows your Doctor to view all of the complexities of your breast tissue, layer by layer.
A Genius 3D mammogram works by converting the digital images taken during your mammogram into a stack of very thin slices to build a 3D image. The radiologist can scroll through the various layers on screen and closely examine your breast tissue layer by layer.
This will allow the Doctor to get a clearer view of anything suspicious or something that may be hidden by the tissue above or below, something that may not be seen with a traditional 2D mammogram.
False positives can be common with typical breast screening.
The 2D image on the left shows a potential lesion visible in the breast. However, the 3D image on the right shows there is in fact no lesion present, ruling out the need for further unnecessary tests such as a biopsy.
From my understanding, the younger we are the denser our breast tissue is (although woman of a more mature age can certainly have dense breast tissue too). The denseness means that our boobs have lot of glandular tissue, but not much fatty tissue. A quick check of our breasts in the shower where we find a lump, may have us racing off to the Doctor and jumping aboard the train of testing and worrying, only to discover it was nothing to worry about…. that’s if we are lucky of course.
Whilst I was meeting with Dr Hunter I was shown the scans of a 45 year old woman who came in for a 3D Mammography Exam after she had been to her Doctor concerned about some lumpiness in her breast.
The lumpiness she could feel turned out to be nothing more than dense breast tissue, but the 3D technology did pick up cancer somewhere else in her breast… somewhere she would never have been able to feel in a self exam and possibly not in a 2D screening mammogram either.
Whilst I was learning of this woman’s story, she was off having a lumpectomy done and probably thanking the heavens for the fact that this technology exists.
The Genius 3D Mammography is NOT a screening tool. It is used for diagnostics following a discovery of an abnormality or for early detection for high risk patients and could also be used for women who have tested positive for the BRCA gene.
It used to be recommended that women over the age of 40 took themselves off for a routine mammogram screening, but now it seems that they have moved that recommendation to age 50… earlier of course if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, have any breast changes, signs or symptoms or women with very dense and lumpy breasts.
Regardless of age recommendations, many of us are avoiding mammograms for various reasons and whilst I was visiting the clinic, I wanted to fact find, debunk and devalue the top few excuses we women use to put off having a mammogram.
1. Mammograms squash your boobs and they hurt.
Ok, yep… they squash your boobs and it’s not exactly comfortable, but does it hurt? I don't think so.
But how do I know when I have never actually had a mammogram? Because you guys - I wanted to feel what women actually go through and so I had my boobs squished by the machine for the sake of research.
That’s me. That’s my squished boob. You’re welcome!
It’s not exactly comfortable, but it didn’t hurt!
2. I don’t have time for a mammogram.
Surely protecting the time you have is the whole point of this exercise?! I’m sorry, but MAKE the time, especially when we know that early detection is the key to survival.
3. I’m worried about being exposed to radiation.
This is one of the biggest misconceptions about this kind of technology... in actual fact, it is a very low level of x-ray energy used in the 3D exam… just about the same amount as a film screen mammogram gives off and the total dose is well with the recommended guidelines.
4. I can’t afford this test.
There are over 120 centers around Australia with the Genius 3D. It is worth ringing around as some of the radiology clinics will bulk bill like Healthcare Imaging does, and for those that don’t, a Medicare rebate may be available for high risk or symptomatic patients those who require further diagnostic testing following an abnormal screening.
5. I don’t need to be screened, I check my boobs myself.
I probably fall into this category because I have naturally lumpy dense boobs and after a few freak out sessions, I had my Doctor check them out and reassure me that for now my particular lumps and bumps are normal.
Also, my friend who passed away from breast cancer last year once made me feel her lumps when she first found them and I don't have anything that feels like that in my boobs.
WRONG WRONG WRONG.
You can’t always feel breast cancer, especially if it is forming in deeper tissue.
I certainly don’t want to scare anyone, but remember; early detection could be what saves your life.
If you would like more information about the Genius 3D mammography exam, then please visit their website here.
Please check your boobs, ladies. Use the gift of technology to protect yourself.
You are too precious to others to be NOT doing this.
Have you ever had a mammogram?