Mon, May 08, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Young women need more regular breast cancer scans: doctor

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

As the incidence of breast cancer among younger women is increasing, women should start having ultrasound scans after they turn 35, while those older than 45 should have regular mammograms, a surgeon said.

National cancer statistics released last week by the Health Promotion Administration (HPA) showed breast cancer ranked third among the 10 most common cancers in Taiwan in 2014, but was first for women.

Chang Jung-jung (張容蓉), a physician at Healthconn Clinic, said breast cancer has been ranked as the most common cancer for women in Taiwan for many years, but most of the cases were not diagnosed until they had progressed to the second or third stage, while in the US and Europe, most breast cancer cases are diagnosed at stage one.

“The breast cancer screening rate in Taiwan is only about 40 percent, showing that women have a relatively low rate of breast cancer awareness,” she said.

As early stage breast cancer is difficulty to detect through self-examination, by the time a patient can feel a lump, treatment will have become more difficult, she said.

While the highest breast cancer incidence rate is among women older than 45, the average age of female breast cancer patients in Taiwan is about 10 years younger than those in the US and Europe, and on average one in every 11 female patients in Taiwan is younger than 35, she said.

“The HPA provides mammograms once every two years for women older than 45, but that might not be enough to detect breast cancer in younger women,” she said.

Younger women have denser breast tissue, which reduces the effectiveness of mammograms, as it can fail to detect some tiny calcifications, but ultrasound scans can help improve screening, even among pregnant women, Chang said.

Women aged between 35 and 45 should have a breast ultrasound at least once every one or two years, while women older than 45 should have annual mammograms or both exams for better detection, and women with a family history of breast cancer should start having regular mammograms from the age of 40, she said.

Chang said that the increase in the breast cancer incidence rate among younger Taiwanese women could be due to lack of regular exercise, oversleeping — which can affect melatonin secretion — and poor nutrition caused by unbalanced diets.

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