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How well do you know your breast lumps? – Business Daily

An illustration of breast lumps. PHOTO | FOTOSEARCH
Not all breast lumps turn out to be cancer.
So how do you know which are likely to be cancerous or not, or which might influence your cancer risk?
Breast experts say three tests must be done to find if the lump is cancerous or not; physically looking at the breast to check for changes, a CT scan or mammography, and a biopsy.
“When a person comes to us, we first ask a few questions to assess the risk. ‘Do you smoke or drink alcohol? Were you exposed to chest radiation? Do you exercise because exercises help lower breast cancer risks? Are you obese?’ Then we inspect the breast to see any changes such as dimpling or discharge,” says Dr Maryam Badawy, a breast surgeon.
All breast lumps must be assessed by a doctor to ensure that if the disease is found, it is caught and treated in its early stages.
For years, many Kenyans have assumed that breast cancer is a disease of older women, but doctors are seeing 25-year-olds with breast cancer that has spread to the spine.
Dr Mariam Omar, a radiologist says the ultrasound scan or CT scan is used the assess breast lumps in women below 40 years while a mammogram is done on older women.
However, women with dense breasts are required to combine both to ensure the results are accurate.
The beauty of a mammogram is that it detects cancer very early, even when the lump is small, that the woman cannot feel it.
“For patients with a family history of breast cancer, they can do MRI combined with a mammogram or an ultrasound,” she said.
Despite mammograms helping decrease the number of women diagnosed with late-stage cancer, a majority of Kenyans rarely go for routine tests, partly due to ignorance, low awareness, and the high cost of the test which averages Sh3,000.
“In a study that was done in Kenya, only 0.4 percent of the patients discovered their breast lump in a routine mammogram test. A majority, 93 percent, found the lump accidentally [either while showering],” says Prof Shaheen Sayed, a pathologist.
If the mammogram or CT scan or MRI shows a suspicious lump, then one must do a biopsy. Core biopsies and fine needle aspiration (FNA), where a needle is inserted in the lump and a small tissue is picked for testing, will show if the lump is cancerous or not.
The doctors say a PET scan usually analyses the stage of cancer.
“If all the tests are clear, then the lump is not cancerous,” Prof Sayed said.
Dr Omar advises on knowing your breasts and getting them checked by a doctor.
For instance, if you know you have fibroadenomas, dense breasts or the disease runs in your family, you will know you are at a higher risk of getting breast cancer, hence you must do yearly tests.
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Joseph Muongi

Financial.co.ke was founded by Mr. Joseph Muongi Kamau. He holds a Master of Science in Finance, Bachelors of Science in Actuarial Science and a Certificate of proficiencty in insurance. He's also the lead financial consultant.