The breast is an important psychological, physiological and aesthetic part of the female form. Any form of disease doesn’t just affect the physical but also the emotional aspects in the woman’s life. Here’s a look at the statistics.
- Every three minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer. 
- Every thirteen minute a woman dies from breast cancer 
- It accounts for 20% of the total cancer-related diseases in India and is largely prevalent among urban women. 
- 75,000 new cases occur in Indian women every year. 
- One in twenty two women will be diagnosed with breast cancer over the course of a lifetime

Below are a set of Q & As to help you understand it better. 

Q: How does a preventive screening help?
A: All women young and old must be alert and go for regular screening. In fact doctors say that regular mammograms may reduce your risk of dying from breast cancer by 17 to 30 percent. All women 40 and older are more prone to breast cancer and should get themselves tested every two years. Since the genetic component of this disease is high, one stands the risk of getting it if a female member of the family had previously been diagnosed with the same. 

Q: Are screenings foolproof? 
A: No, but if you keep tracking breast changes you have a better chance of early detection which is half the battle won in many cases. Cancers can often be missed especially if they are near the chest wall. The X-ray also does not reveal small cancerous growths since the breast tissue is very dense. If your mammogram reveals a suspicious mass, your doctor may refer you for a follow-up diagnostic mammogram to confirm the existence of a mass or tiny calcium deposit to indicate cancer. Or they might suggest an ultrasound to learn about the composition of the suspicious area. In some cases, patients undergo both tests while some may also undergo a biopsy during ultrasound. Only 10 percent of women are called back after a routine mammogram for additional testing, of which less than 5 percent are eventually be diagnosed with breast cancer. 

Q: When should I go for a screening?
A: It is best to go for a mammogram at the end of your monthly cycles. Because sore breasts during or before your cycles, might make compression painful. It’s best to avoid deodorants, lotions or powders, which may show up as suspicious signs of cancer. It is always advisable to visit the same radiologist to keep track of the changes in your mammogram from year to year. Make sure to keep a record of your mammograms and to carry them along on every visit to the clinic. 

Q: Is there any new method of breast examination? 
A: Most women are used to the age old method of checking their breasts for lumps by using a circular motion. But more and more doctors are now recommending a different technique known as the vertical strips method.

Q: How do I follow the vertical strips method? 
A: First imagine a grid drawn horizontally from your armpit to your breastbone. Then imagine one drawn vertically from your collarbone to just under your breast. Then gently trace little circles using the padded portion of your three middle fingers. Make circles starting at the armpit and go over thoroughly from every imaginary square to the next. This way just every inch of the breast area is covered.

Q: How much pressure should I apply? 
A: Do not confine yourself to a single kind of pressure. Use varying degrees of pressure all along the surface. Cover every square thoroughly using both soft and hard pressure. 

Q: Why should I use this grid method? 
A: It provides more thorough coverage of the breast, including under the arm which now recommends this method for women who do breast self-examinations. According to Harvard researchers, the technique has a better track record of detecting smaller lumps than the circular exam. 

Q: How long should the breast exam continue? 
A: A thorough exam of both breasts should take at least 10 minutes. At your next checkup, ask your doctor to review the vertical strips technique with you.