Why all women should be breast aware

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October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Dr. Supriya Kulkarni, a radiologist with University Health Network in Toronto shares important information about screening, prevention and treatment.

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Ontario women. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. In Ontario, breast cancer happens mostly in women ages 50 to 74 (61 percent of cases). Regular breast cancer screening is important because it can find cancer early when it may be smaller and easier to treat.

Dr. Kulkarni is a radiologist with the University Health Network in Toronto. She is actively involved in breast screening and diagnostic imaging, as well as research. As October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, she shares important information about the condition which has one of the highest survival rates out of all of the cancers in Ontario. Deaths from breast cancer in the Ontario population went down by about 47 percent in women ages 50 to 74 from 1990 to 2013. This decrease in deaths is probably due to improvements in breast cancer treatment and more women getting screened.

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Here are excerpts of an interview with Can-India News:

Why should women, regardless of age or risk factors, be breast aware?
The Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP) recommends that all women – regardless of age or other risk factors – be breast aware. This means knowing how your breasts normally look and feel so you can tell if there are changes. In most cases, changes in the breast are not signs of cancer but to be sure, you should have them checked by your doctor or nurse practitioner. This is also a good time to talk to your doctor about regular breast screening.
However, breast cancer can be impossible to see or feel. This is why the OBSP recommends that most women ages 50 to 74 get screened every two years with mammography. Regular breast cancer screening is important because it can find breast cancers when they are small, less likely to have spread and more likely to be treated successfully.

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How does a healthy lifestyle reduce risk?
There are some habits or personal characteristics, called risk factors, that increase a woman’s chance of getting breast cancer. Some risk factors are those that a woman cannot change or control, such as her age and the genes she is born with. Others, such as alcohol consumption and level of physical activity, are risk factors that a woman may be able to control. Leading a healthy lifestyle, including limiting alcohol and being physically active, can reduce your risk of breast cancer. Other factors that may lower a woman’s chance of getting breast cancer are not smoking or using tobacco products and having a healthy body weight.

Why is breast screening important?
Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Ontario women. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. Regular breast cancer screening can find cancer early when it may be smaller and easier to treat. Studies show that regular mammograms (and proper follow up testing for abnormal results) lower the risk of dying from breast cancer in women ages 50 to 74.

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Are South Asians and Indians particularly at risk for breast cancer?
A large number of recent immigrants to Canada are from India. According to a 2016 report from Statistics Canada, of the ‘top ten’ countries of birth of recent immigrants, India was number two. When you arrive in a new place, it’s important to keep your health at its best. Part of that may involve getting screened for breast cancer. It is important to know when to get screened. If you are eligible for screening in the OBSP, you can book your appointment at an OBSP location through your doctor or on your own.

For more information, visit www.cancercareontario.ca/bcam. -CINEWS

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