“Lost wealth can be regained, but regaining lost health is almost impossible”. Hence as medical research is progressing, we are concentrating on prevention of various diseases. Prevention is always better than cure. We are trying to win the battles with life threatening diseases like cancer but still we are lacking the preparations. Until we are finding ways to completely treat them, we have found some ways to diagnose them early and overcome them. So it is necessary that everyone should have proper information about it. Hence some information for one of the most common cancer, “breast cancer” is discussed below.
Is It Safe to Have a Mammogram During Pregnancy?
Breast cancer is one of the commonest cancer in pregnant women and 2nd in overall after lung cancer. Almost 30% of the cancers in women are breast cancer. Breast cancer involves the uncontrollable growth of the breast tissues. It commonly spreads to the body through the lymph nodes. Mammary lymph nodes, axillary lymph nodes, clavicular lymph nodes, cervical lymph nodes etc are responsible for the spread of the tumour. Increase in oestrogen is the greatest risk factor for the breast cancer.
Risks for breast cancer
The screening of breast cancers should be done in the following cases-
Early menarche– the normal peak of menarche is 11-13 years, menarche earlier than that age is considered as a risk.
Late menopause– breast cancer is associated with high oestrogen levels. Late menopause means more oestrogen. Thus making women susceptible for breast cancer
Late age of birth– if you are above 35 and pregnant. It increases the risks of cancer associated with you as well as your baby.
Never breastfed– research has found that a woman who has never breastfed, have more chances of getting breast cancer rather than those who are breast fed.
Nipple discharge other than milk– if there is any discharge other than milk like pus, blood, fluid etc. Then it is a matter of immediate attention.
Combined oral contraceptive pills– combines oral contraceptive pills have higher risk of breast cancer than progesterone only pills. As combined contraceptives have oestrogen along with progesterone.
Oestrogen replacement therapy– oestrogen replacement therapy increases body oestrogen thus making women more susceptible to breast cancer.
Familial history of breast cancer– breast cancer is associated with genetic mutations also. History of breast cancer in first degree relative will mean risk in the patient also.
Previous cancer– any endometrial, uterine or ovarian cancer increases the risk of breast cancer.
Breast examination with low dose of radiation is known as mammography and the result is known as mammogram. Mammogram is the most effective screening method for detection of non palpable and minimal invasive method for detection of breast cancer. Though it has a false negative rate of 10-15%, it is most safe and effective screening method. During pregnancy breast are already swollen and tight. Lumps may be present under the hormonal influence. Hence detecting with self breast examination and clinical breast examination becomes quite difficult. Hence mammogram is suggested during pregnancy
Characteristic features of breast cancer in a mammogram
Mammography is mainly combined with self breast examination and clinical examination. But during pregnancy even a small doubt if present then it is cleared with mammogram. Since mammography involves very low radiations, it is considered safe during pregnancy. It should not be delayed as there are chances that the cancer may spread if delayed. A biopsy is done if the following is found in a mammogram-
Asymmetrical tissue density– breast are organs full of fat tissues and ducts. The tissue density is same as that of a fat mass. Asymmetry might be found in pregnancy or if any hormonal imbalance is present. Hence other tests are needed to confirm the diagnosis.
Architectural distortion– architectural distortion of breast doesn’t always mean cancer, but a test should be done to rule out the diagnosis.
Presence of mass– a mass in breast is not necessary a malignant tumours. It may be a benign mass, but doing a mammography will be a great way to be relieved.
Mammography and pregnancy
Mammography is safest during pregnancy. The radiation in mammography is 0.02 rad., the amount which may be dangerous is more than 1-2 rad. And in simple language, a single mammogram is less risky than few cups of coffee and definitely safer than a glass of alcohol. The following are the reason why mammogram is safe during pregnancy
Radiation is focused only on breast– in mammography radiations are focused only on breast. Belly is not at all exposed to radiation; hence the baby is absolutely safe.
Lead shield is kept on belly for protection– for extra protection; doctor will keep a lead shield on the belly. Lead shield reduces the exposure by more than 50%.
Doctors take proper care– you should inform doctor if you are pregnant or breast feeding, they will take extra care to not to expose your to unnecessary radiations.
Radiation is very low– the amount of radiations required to cause problem in baby is more than1-2 rad. While the radiation during mammography is just 0.02 rad. In simple terms it is safer than 5-6 cups of coffee.
The following precautions should be taken when planning for mammography
Give accurate history-doctor will need your accurate family history, history of any past disease. This will help them to arrive at proper diagnosis.
Tell your doctor if you are breast feeding or pregnant– doctor will take extra care while doing mammogram, if you are pregnant.
While going do not apply anything on breast– applying lotion, oil or powder on breast will create hindrance while testing. It will result in false negative result. Hence do not do anything as such.
Put a lead shield on your belly– doctor will invariably put a lead shield on your belly if you are pregnant.
These were some points about mammogram during pregnancy. As the presence of lymph nodes is high in the chest region, the risk of breast cancer travelling is also high. Hence it is important to diagnose it as soon as possible. If diagnosed early, then life can be saved by surgery or even chemotherapy. if you have any query or risk factor than do talk to your doctor. They will properly guide you and do everything possible to keep you and your baby safe. Keeping any of your history a secret from your doctor, may create a problem for your as well as your baby’s life.