Health

How early breast-cancer screening could save your life

For me, as for many women, it's not just during Breast Cancer Awareness Month that the disease seems to keep hitting closer and closer to home.

breast

Masterfile

For me, as for many women, it’s not just during Breast Cancer Awareness Month that the disease seems to keep hitting closer and closer to home. First, it was distant relations. Then, the mothers and aunts of good friends. And now, I’m starting to hear about acquaintances — women my own age — who are being diagnosed. As with so many cancers, early detection is crucial. And there’s new research that indicates that starting breast cancer screening as early as age 25 may help some women live longer.

The study was reported by Linda Thrasybule over at Reuters — “Early breast cancer screening may help some: study” — and it focuses on women who carry a genetic mutation (BRCA) linked to a higher risk of breast cancer. Compared to no screening at all, annual screening started at 25 extended life by 1.3 to 1.8 years. In women under 40 with breast cancer, about 10 percent are likely to have a BRCA mutation.

Breast cancer screening is normally recommended for women ages 50 and over. But for women who have a known genetic mutation linked to breast cancer in their family, starting earlier could be crucial — even with concerns the costs of increased screening, and potential exposure to radiation from breast MRIs. Regular breast checks are recommended for women over 20 — and while I don’t do it every month, I do often find myself checking things out while soaping up in the shower. Ultimately, vigilance on the part of all women — and paying attention to any changes in our bodies — is one of the most important parts of early detection.