We still do not know how to prevent it or what the direct reasons for its incidence are, but the early detection of breast cancer significantly increases the chances of overcoming this deadly disease. Breast cancer represents as much as 25% of all diagnosed cases of cancer in women. Each year about 1.7 million new cases are diagnosed across the world and more than 500,000 people die from the disease. In Poland the statistics are equally frightening – more than 16,500 women annually develop breast cancer and as many as 5,000 die. The European Breast Health Day – falling on October 15 – helps to make women aware that regular inspection and early diagnosis are crucial for effective elimination of the disease.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is an annual campaign that informs people about diagnosing and treatment of the disease, as well as about post-surgery care and factors that increase the risk of developing cancer. A pink ribbon has become the symbol of fighting breast cancer, and wearing it is an indication of solidarity with women suffering from the disease.
The campaign also takes place in Poland, with representatives of the medical community and non-governmental organizations supporting patients and their families, as well as recognized artists, athletes, and politicians joining in the promotion of the fight against cancer. Pink Ribbon Marches take place in numerous cities, encouraging women to undergo prophylactic tests. The campaign plays a very important educational role – thanks to exposure given to breast cancer, women turn to physicians more often asking for referral for prophylactic tests. Activities taking place during Breast Cancer Awareness Month are supported by media promoting the event.
How to detect breast cancer?
An important role in diagnosing breast tumors is played by self-examination (checking for any changes in your breasts through palpation). It is best to perform it regularly, once a month, immediately after the beginning of the menstrual cycle. The instructions can be found on the Internet, and in case of doubt ask a gynecologist to show you how it should be done. Thanks to self-examination, women are able to detect worrying changes themselves and subsequently report them to a specialist. Promotion of self-examination will facilitate increasing the number of women who thus overcome the disease.
Breast palpation carried out by gynecologists is also crucial. Once the physician notices any irregularities, they will refer the patient to ultrasonography (USG) or mammography. In the case of suspicion of a malignant tumor, the gynecologist will recommend a biopsy, which will indicate the nature of the lesion. In recent times, the positron emission tomography method (PET-CT) has also been used, which facilitates assessment of the size of a neoplasm, occurrence of a relapse, and effectiveness of the treatment applied.
A breakthrough discovery by Polish scientists
Polish scientists have had their part to play in breast cancer detection. A particular mention goes to the founders of BRASTER company, who developed a ground breaking application of liquid crystals in breast cancer diagnostics. The innovative Tester device designed by them uses the “dermothermic effect”: cancer cells suspected of being malignant in nature have a higher temperature than that of healthy cells in a breast, and when examined with this method they are visible as distinct, colored areas.
Paweł Basta, MD, PhD from Jagiellonian University points to the fact that the Tester is a perfect supplement to traditional methods for diagnosing breast cancer. “We have noted higher effectiveness of breast cancer detection with the combination of the two methods – thermography with mammography – as well as high sensitivity and specificity of the Tester in comparison with mammography, in the case of younger patients with glandular breast tissue. It could be an important component of diagnostics of young women, among whom we record an increase in the occurrence of breast cancer,” says the scientist.
The Tester is now being fine-tuned by the team of scientists connected with the company. In the near future – in the second half of 2016 – women in Poland, the United Kingdom, and Germany will be able to carry out an examination with the Tester device at their gynecologist, who will interpret the images and present a diagnosis. In the subsequent step, women across the world will be able to carry out an examination with the Tester on their own, in the privacy of their own homes. They will only have to send the outcome of the examination for analysis and they will receive the result electronically. The Tester will facilitate regular, painless, non-invasive and neutral-for-the-body examinations of breasts and will surely contribute to increased detection rates of cancer at an early stage, when it is relatively easy to undergo further treatment. Inventions of this type bring hope of more and more women winning the fight against breast cancer.