The importance of self-examination and screening

October is international action month in the fight against breast cancer. According to recent figures, the disease affects more than 10,000 new patients a year in Belgium.

Self-examination and screening cannot prevent the development of breast cancer, but they do ensure that more breast cancers are detected and treated early. Treatment is also often less severe, while the chance of full recovery is also greater.

We would therefore recommend that everyone, of any age, check their breasts very regularly, preferably the week after their period. Because only you know how they feel and only you can notice changes the quickest.

While doing so, watch for any irregularity that feels different than before, such as a retracted nipple, dimple or lump in the breast, fluid loss from the nipple. Not every irregularity is breast cancer. Did you know that in the majority of cases (even more than 75%) the irregularity is benign?

A recent study set up by Pink Ribbon shows that a lot of women, even 1 in 3 do not (dare to) look at their breasts and this is especially true in the younger age groups under 35. However, this group of women is also the most vulnerable. Thus, we see an increasing percentage of breast cancer diagnoses at a younger age (pre-menopause). Early detection is very important for a favorable prognosis towards a cure, and self-examination is crucial for this.

The Flemish Breast Cancer Screening Program also gives women aged 50 to 69 the opportunity to have a quality screening mammogram every two years. The examination is completely free if you are a member of a Belgian health insurance fund. So you don't pay a co-payment either. But those under 50 years of age are not covered by screening programs and thus mainly need a breast cancer awareness campaign.

There are some factors that increase the risk of breast cancer, such as age, smoking, as well as lack of exercise or obesity. Heredity or family strain can also play a role.

Regarding breast cancer, in recent years, with the discovery of the BRCA gene, there has been a shift toward prevention. Meanwhile, several genes have been discovered as well as several risk factors described. Concerning genetic and family burden, you can find more information here Genetic factors

With our "Laat ze scannen" campaign, in cooperation with Tietje, we want to call on everyone to perform regular self-examinations, at least once a month, and create more awareness among all age groups.