Understanding risk and the importance of screening

Posted on 9 Oct 2020

During October, the focus is placed on Breast Cancer Awareness, but this year the significance of regular check-ups is more important than ever. With patients neglecting their regular screenings, many are putting their health at risk. We got advice from specialists at the Mediclinic Sandton Breast Care Centre, on what screenings are available and the importance of early detection.

The Mediclinic Sandton Breast Care Centre was recently established to offer an expert approach to managing breast disorders and breast surgery. It is one of the very few dedicated centres in Gauteng, and is supported by a multidisciplinary team of specialists and allied healthcare professionals.

“What is important to note is that breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in women – across all races. This is second only to non-melonotic skin cancer. In reality, this means 1 in every 8 women will get breast cancer,” explains Dr Omondi Ogude, Specialist Physician and Medical Oncologist at Mediclinic Sandton. “This staggering statistic emphasises the urgent need for women to diarise and attend all the necessary screening tests to ensure early detection of any possible health concerns.”

According to Dr Lee Kramer, Radiologist at Sandton Radiology, “If breast cancer is detected early, there are more treatment options available and a better chance for survival. Women whose breast cancer is detected at an early stage have a 93 percent or higher survival rate in the first five years.”

Dr Kramer explains the importance of regular screening, “By not getting annual mammograms starting at age 40, patients increase their chances of dying from breast cancer and the likelihood that they will experience more extensive treatment for any cancers found.” It is for this reason that the American College of Radiology (ACR) and the Society of Breast Imaging recommend that women should start undergoing a mammogram from the age of 40.

For those younger than 40 as well as those who are pregnant or lactating, there is another option, where ultrasound is used as a screening tool as it does not use ionising radiation.

“What concerns us is that during recent months, some of our patients have neglected their regular screenings,” says Dr Anusha Naidoo, Specialist Gynaecologist & Obstetrician – Gynaecological Oncologist, “We would like to encourage ladies to take charge of your health and make an appointment for their screening. We know the increased risk attached to delayed detection and we want our patients to have the best possible clinical outcomes – whatever their condition.”

According to Dr Ogude, it is not just breast cancer that requires regular screening, and he outlines the risk and screening options, “The most common malignancies affecting women with the highest associated mortality are cervical cancer, breast cancer and colon cancer.”

Dr Naidoo emphasises, “Appropriate accessible screening is available, these include Pap smears, mammography and colonoscopy, which should all be done routinely. Within the South African healthcare environment patients usually present for Pap smears from about 21 years of age or once sexually active and for a colonoscopy after age 45. Of course patients with significant history should be screened.”

Dr Naidoo also highlights the familial risk to patients, which must be considered when planning your regular health screenings. “There is a breast cancer related gene known as BRCA 1 and 2, which predisposes one to mostly breast and ovarian cancers as well as other cancers such as pancreatic and prostate cancers.”

Guidelines from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) recommend that individuals with the following personal history (amongst others) should be tested for this gene to fully understand their risk:

  • Female breast cancer diagnosed between 45 to 50 years, or any age if Ashkenazi Jewish
  • Triple-negative breast cancer diagnosed before 60 years of age
  • Two or more primary breast cancers, the first diagnosed before 50 years
  • Invasive ovarian or fallopian tube cancer, or primary peritoneal cancer
  • Male breast cancer
  • Exocrine pancreatic cancer
  • Metastatic prostate cancer
  • Breast cancer at any age and with a relative with breast cancer diagnosed younger than 50 years, or with any of the cancers listed above
  • High-grade (Gleason score >7) prostate cancer and Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry or with any of the criteria above
  • BRCA1/2 or other specific pathogenic variant identified from tumour genomic analysis

In consultation with your doctor, any patients hosting this gene would be advised on their particular screening schedule to manage further risk.

During the month of October, Mediclinic would like to encourage our communities to resume their planned screening schedule, positioning your health as a priority.  Please don’t put your health at risk.

For those situated within Sandton and surrounding areas, an encouraging note is that Sandton Radiology is offering a 10% discount for cash patients on mammograms during the month of October 2020; an added incentive to get screened and take control of your health. Please call (011) 706 6166 for more information.

For any enquiries on the Sandton Breast Care Centre please email sbcc@mediclinic.co.za

Published in Patients