GML employee Nekisha Alexander prepares for her mammogram recently.

[email protected]

Early detection is the key to beating breast cancer. That means getting screened and one of the places you can do so is the T&T Cancer Society (TTCS). Breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women with at least 2.1 million women affected each year.

In honour of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I faced my fears and decided to get a mammogram—an x-ray of the breasts recommended for women 40 years and over.

When done regularly, a mammogram is an ideal option for early detection as it can identify changes in the breast tissue.

Many women fear getting a mammogram due to misinformation in the public domain.

However, TTCS radiologist Dr Ashton Ramsundar said: “People are usually nervous because of misconceptions surrounding the exam.”

He advised that one of the best ways to avoid the anxiety of the screening is to research the subject area.

Well, I did my research and the nervousness was still there, not because of the process, but the possible outcome was nerve-wracking.

My fears were soon alleviated by the hospitable staff of the TTCS who gently and patiently guided me through the process.

Getting a mammogram requires a bit of flexibility as X-ray pictures of each breast are taken, typically from two different angles.

There is also a bit of discomfort when your breasts are pressed between the plates, but it is minimal. When you weigh the odds, a few seconds of discomfort can improve chances of survival and can help avoid more extensive treatment.

Another imaging procedure used to detect breast cancer is breast ultrasound. It’s often used as a follow-up test after an abnormal finding on a mammogram.

Dr Ramsundar explained: “If a suspicious lump is discovered in your breast, an ultrasound helps us determine whether the lump is a fluid-filled cyst or a solid tumour. It also allows us to determine the location and size of the lump.”

The ultrasound can also look at nearby lymph nodes. My breast ultrasound was a painless, simple procedure.

My test results were negative for any traces of breast cancer. However, about one out of eight women will develop breast cancer during their lives.

If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, it is important to discuss your treatment options. You should also weigh the benefits of each treatment option against the possible risks and side effects.

Dr Ramsundar said chemotherapy, surgery and radiation are possible treatment options, but it all depends on the stage of cancer.

Support is also necessary when coping with breast cancer. Find a breast cancer support group, where you can safely and openly discuss the challenges you have encountered.

Breast Cancer Awareness is not just a month, it is a yearlong fight.

Identifying breast cancer cases in the earlier stages means patients have a better chance of successful treatment and survival.

Contact the T&T Cancer Society at 665-6712 to arrange for a screening.