With an endless list of daily obligations and priorities, it is not that difficult to get swept up in life and neglect self-care. However, health should always be your number one priority. If you are a woman, this is really for you:
Breast cancer is the most common malignancy in women around the world, and its magnitude is high, particularly in developing countries where the majority of cases are unfortunately diagnosed in late stages. Regretfully true, the UAE is no exception; breast cancer remains the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women according to the Ministry of Health and Prevention. Constituting a significant public health concern in the UAE and with Arab nationals developing breast cancer earlier than in western nations, comprehensive and intense public awareness and educational campaigns across the whole country have been fervently launched to increase awareness about the importance of breast cancer screening practices and its fundamental role in the early detection of this daunting disease.
Despite knowing that screening is fundamental for the early detection of breast cancer, so many female UAE residents refrain from having it done due to several factors. The most notable are cultural sensitivities, the associated costs and the emotional self-denial related to the disease. It is common for many women to experience a mixture of contradictory feelings: dread of being diagnosed with cancer and a false sense of security; “What if it turns out that I do have cancer?”, “I am feeling perfectly fine”, “It may affect other women, but not me!”
It is also important to acknowledge that many women have concerns about the world's most effective method of screening for breast cancer: Screening Mammograms. Here we expose some of the most popular myths related to screening mammograms to encourage all women above 40 years of age to take this positive step and be more proactive in protecting their health and well-being:
Myth 1: Mammograms emit a dangerous amount of radiation.
Fact: The simple truth is that screening mammograms utilise very low doses of radiation. The risk of harm from this amount of radiation exposure is extremely low, compared with the lifetime risk of breast cancer: about one in 4 of all new cancers diagnosed in women worldwide are breast cancers (according to the global cancer data released by WHO in 2018). Beyond doubt, the benefits profoundly outweigh the risks.
Myth 2: Mammograms are ineffective.
Fact: Worldwide, screening mammograms are the gold standard for the early detection of breast cancer. A myriad of studies have proven that it is the most appropriate screening tool for breast cancer. Screening mammograms can detect small breast lumps before symptoms appear, and before a woman or her doctor can feel them during self-exam or clinical examination.
Myth 3: Mammograms are so painful; I would rather not go for it.
Fact: Screening mammogram is a fast procedure (20-30 minutes). Some women may feel uncomfortable because of the pressure of the device's plates on their breasts, but for the majority, it is not painful. Think positively, this possible temporary discomfort ultimately benefits you significantly. Screening mammograms can save lives!
Myth 4: Mammograms are not cost-effective.
Fact: On the contrary, what is not cost-effective for women is to neglect their health and bear the risk of finding an advanced-stage breast cancer! Screening mammograms are a real health investment.
Myth 5: There is no family history of breast cancer, so I do not need it.
Fact: There is no single definite reason for developing breast cancer. Various risk factors can affect any woman's chances of getting breast cancer, with positive family history being just one of these risk factors.
Myth 6: I can rely on breast self-examination instead.
Fact: Women are encouraged to conduct routine breast self-exams; an acceptable practice that can be done regularly and at any age. The more you examine your breasts, the more you familiarise yourself with how they look and feel, and the easier it will become for you to notice if something is amiss. However, it cannot be a replacement for a screening mammogram which can detect early breast changes in women who have no noticeable breast abnormalities or any other symptoms or signs suspicious of cancer. Tumours may not be felt if small or deep in the breast.
Screening mammograms are essential for the early detection of breast cancer. Give your health the priority it deserves and dedicate time to discuss with your trusted doctor the approach to breast cancer screening that is suitable for you. Factors that can influence that approach include age, medical history, and family history. Your doctor will be able to explain all the benefits, risks and limitations of screening tools, including screening mammograms, and help you decide what is best for you based on your individual health needs.
The Dubai London Clinic and Speciality Hospital is dedicated to delivering reader-friendly and comprehensive educational information on breast health. We strive to spread the message of the importance of early detection of breast cancer for improving outcomes, and for empowering women with the information needed for healthy living. Share this information to support our endeavours to reach more women during this breast cancer awareness month.