Early detection is key

I know size isn’t everything, but this is still very clever


(pencil for scale)


Bravo, Canadian Cancer Society!

About Cath@VWXYNot?

"one of the sillier science bloggers [...] I thought I should give a warning to the more staid members of the community." - Bob O'Hara, December 2010
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7 Responses to Early detection is key

  1. Jim Woodgett says:

    The best part of the Thingamaboob (which has been available for several years) is increasing awareness and there is little doubt that early detection through serial mammography can be beneficial to many. However, there’s also strong data to suggest that early detection in some cases does not prolong life and might even cause increased anxiety/discomfort without changing outcome. As a side-product of screening, we are detecting more benign lesions, as well as earlier detection of “lethal” lesions that don’t respond well to therapy and have likely already metastasized (the smallest “bob” represents many millions of cells). We’re also detecting a number of tumours that do respond and thus save the patient. My point is not to criticize the Thingamaboob but to simply say that while early detection is a good thing, it is not a panacea. It also highlights the problem of recalcitrant disease and the relative ineffectiveness of our pharmacopeia towards some tumours. Fortunately, breast cancer outcomes are better than for many cancers but we need better discriminators to save women from unnecessary surgery and better drugs to tackle the 25-30% of tumours that ultimately dodge the bullets.

    • Cath@VWXYNot? says:

      Yes, I agree with everything you said: not everybody benefits. Luckily, I know of (and have worked for/with) several big names in the field who are very focused on both points in your last sentence – sparing unnecessary treatment, and new drug targets. And not just for breast cancer

  2. chall says:

    wow. I love these “real size comparison” thingys. It makes it way more obvious to me.

    that said, I don’t think I need to do mammograms for a few years….. right? There’s still an age suggetion, right? (no, I’m not scared of the pain, just not superkeen on the squishy boob)

    • Cath@VWXYNot? says:

      Yes, there’s an age suggestion for regular screening, but it varies with jurisdiction (and probably with insurance provider, in the US) as well as family history and other risk factors. You’re probably a few years away indeed, unless the family history / other risk factors part applies to you, in which case I’m sure you’d already be getting screened!

      I’m not keen on the boob squishing idea either, I have to say…

  3. Laurence Cox says:

    My wife has personal experience of this, having been diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2009 through the NHS screening programme. Fortunately it was small and wasn’t a highly agressive type, so they didn’t have to cut much out (which meant no need for breast reconstruction). At the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead where she was treated, they also take out the first lymph node as a matter of course and biopsy part of it in the operating theatre (so they can tell whether any cancer cells have spread and they need to remove other lymph nodes). As far as having her boobs squished is concerned, she didn’t like it either but she did like still having boobs to squish.

    • Cath@VWXYNot? says:

      Glad to hear it turned out well, Laurence. My Auntie also had a small tumour removed that was identified via a regularly scheduled mammogram, with no known family history or other known risk factors. That was in 2001 and she’s still alive and kicking – hooray!

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