Early detection of breast cancer aims to reduace mortality and other serious consequences of advanced disease through the early clinical diagnosis of symptomatic breast cancer or by screening asymptomatic women (Sankaranarayanan, 2000). When earlier treatments are available for detected cases, life expectancy, loco regional control of disease, and quality of life are much improved. In turn, early detection relies on access to prompt and effective diagnostic and treatment services).
Early cancer detection is part of a cancer control strategy, which also should include:
- Health education
- Breast cancer awareness
- Health-care providers with sufficient clinical skills, particularly at the primary care level
- Availability of accessible, affordable, and efficient health services with adequate infrastructure, human resources, and information systems; prompt diagnosis, staging, and treatment; and follow-up care
Breast awareness is intended to encourage women to be conscious of how their breasts normally look and feel, so that they can recognize and report any abnormality. Breast awareness programs also provide information about the efficacy of treatment when breast cancer is detected and treated early.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month is observed worldwide every October. Breast awareness is distinguished from breast self-examination (BSE). The purpose of BSE is to detect breast cancer by performing regular, systematic palpation and inspection of the breasts. The common goal of breast awareness and BSE is to improve breast cancer survival by detecting breast cancer at an early stage.
In 1991, the NHS emphasized a five-point plan for being breast aware:
- knowing what is normal for you;
- looking at your breasts and feeling them;
- knowing what changes to look for;
- reporting any changes without delay; and
- attending breast screening if you are aged 50 years or older (NHSBSP, 2006).