A few words about breasts

“I don’t examine myself, because they’ll find something else for me…” – if I got a day off every time I heard this, I wouldn’t have to work for the rest of my life.

Unfortunately, in society the fear of being diagnosed with cancer during preventive examinations has been persistent, so that all too often we encounter delayed diagnosis, resulting in a worsening prognosis and increased aggressiveness of treatment.

Every day around the world, thousands of women hear a cancer diagnosis.

Breast cancer accounts for 23% of all cases in Poland and is responsible for about 14% of deaths from malignant tumors. According to estimates, about 1,700,000 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed worldwide each year.

Poland still does not present the best disease statistics in this matter, but their much-talked-about layout draws attention. There is still a high mortality rate from breast cancer, but at the same time we are among the countries with the lowest diagnosis – what is the reason?

It is not a matter of bad treatment methods. Unfortunately, the low rate of patients performing preventive examinations is responsible for this state of affairs. Among other things, we are still struggling with a very low percentage of ladies enrolling in the screening mammography program.


Can breast cancer be cured?

Yes. A diagnosis of malignant breast cancer is not a sentence! With each passing day, modern treatment methods are being developed and improved around the world, allowing for effective therapy and a return to normal life. Early diagnosis of the disease dramatically increases the chance of treatment success.


Is breast cancer always a mastectomy?

Mastectomy is still a common and effective treatment for breast cancer, but not the only one! Early diagnosis of the disease allows consideration of minimally invasive surgical treatments, including sparing procedures.


What does breast cancer prevention look like?

Start with yourself.

One very important part of taking care of your own health and detecting diseases early is self-examination.

Get to know your body.

Remember the role of regular breast self-examination. Many patients say they don’t examine their breasts because they don’t know how to do it, or they feel numerous lumps in the breasts and are unable to identify abnormalities. These numerous “globules,” as patients call them, are usually glandular tissue, which, depending on the structure of the breast, can be clearly felt in the form of numerous “clusters” and wake up distorting the image in the patient’s mind. Remember, however, that by examining yourself regularly, you get to know your body, and by creating a kind of “map” in your head, you will be able to more easily pick up abnormalities and deviations from the previous appearance of the gland.

According to scientific studies, breast self-examination is characterized by a high percentage of errors on the part of patients, and only 2-3% of women perform this examination correctly, one year after pre-instruction.


Does it mean that it’s not worth getting tested?

NO!  The same studies emphasize that regular testing increases the diagnosis of the disease in its early stages, thus reducing the incidence of diagnosis at an advanced stage with metastasis to the axillary lymph nodes.

If you are unsure how to perform the test, ask your gynecologist, midwife or family doctor for instruction, or alternatively, take advantage of available training on the Internet or at prevention events.

Another extremely important step is to undergo regular ultrasound examinations. Ultrasound is now the standard for detecting lesions and allows us to catch pathology at a very early stage, giving a chance for complete recovery.


 How often to perform an ultrasound examination?

An ultrasound examination should be performed every 12 months, or more often in case of alarming symptoms or complaints. Ultrasound is used during this type of examination and there is no risk of exposure to harmful forms of radiation. The procedure itself is relatively short and painless, and the result is available immediately afterwards in most cases.

It is recommended that the first preventive breast ultrasound be performed around the age of 20, and after the age of 25 it should be performed regularly 1 x a year.


Should mammogram be performed?

Mammography is still the undisputed king of breast cancer prevention, and cannot be replaced by ultrasound, but in the coming years, due to the development of ultrasound technology, this trend may change.

Regular mammography screening is recommended every 2 years between the ages of 40 and 50, and 1 x a year after turning 50.

Ideally, mammography and ultrasound should be performed together, with the goal of combining the capabilities of both procedures and increasing the chance of early, effective diagnosis of the disease.


Is mammography harmful?

Modern digital mammograms emit negligible amounts of X-rays, which are a fraction of the radiation dose we take in due to the mere fact of inhabiting an earthly planet suspended in space. The discomfort, reported by some women, of breast compression during the procedure itself carries no significant health risks.


I was recommended a biopsy, does that mean I have cancer?

No! The mere fact that a biopsy was recommended does not mean a diagnosis of malignant tumor. Histopathological examination, carried out in this case by fine-needle biopsy or, increasingly, by thick-needle biopsy, is a diagnostic method with very high accuracy, and if there is any doubt during imaging, histopathological verification is the best option. This solution avoids unnecessarily prolonging the period until the start of proper cancer treatment. Remember that each time a biopsy is the result of an individual decision by the treating physician, based on the specific clinical picture.


“Cancer doesn’t like knife/needle” won’t a biopsy cause the disease to progress?

A properly performed biopsy procedure does not carry a serious risk of spreading potential cancer, and the mere fact of “stabbing” a lesion will not cause it to transform into a malignant process, if we were initially dealing with a benign lesion.

Remember, don’t be afraid of examinations. Preventive examinations are the most effective method of diagnosing early, asymptomatic or sparse forms of malignant cancer, allowing you to implement the most effective treatment possible and giving you a chance after recovery.




Bojakowska, Urszula Jolanta, Paweł Kalinowski, and Marta Kowalska. “Epidemiology and prophylaxis of breast cancer= Epidemiology and prophylaxis of breast cancer.” Journal of Education, Health and Sport 6.8 (2016): 701-710.