Overweight or obese women may not detect cancerous breast lumps until they are much larger and more difficult to treat, a Swedish study has found. Researchers from the Karolinksa Institute studied more than 2,000 women who developed breast cancer between 2001 and 2008, all of who had been receiving mammograms every 18 months to two years, as is standard in Sweden. They found that women with higher body mass indexes (BMIs) were more likely to have a larger tumour when detected than women who were slimmer. Lead author of the study, Fredrik Strand, said this was either because the tumours were harder to detect because overweight women have larger breasts or because their tumours grew faster. Women who are overweight are already at greater risk of developing breast cancer and, unfortunately, larger tumours carry a worse prognosis. Therefore, these women may need more frequent mammograms to help spot tumours early, say the researchers. Women who are judged to be at greater risk of developing breast cancer – such as those with a family history – are already offered more frequent screening. Speaking about the findings of the study, Strand said: “Our study suggests that when a clinician presents the pros and cons of breast cancer screening to the patient, having high BMI should be an important 'pro' argument”.
If you’re a woman over the age of 40 you should undergo routine health check-ups, even if you aren’t exhibiting any symptoms or feeling unwell. Some of these tests will probably be new to you but they are ultimately important. The earlier that cancers and other conditions are detected, the greater chance of a full recovery. Therefore, the following screening tests for women should be carried out in addition to the ones outlined in our previous blog post. Cervical Cancer Screening Even though cervical cancer screening tests are regular occurrences for women of all ages, it is important that you continue them as you get older. During screening, a doctor or nurse will use a speculum to hold your vagina open and gently collect some cells from your cervix using a small brush. These cells are subsequently tested in a laboratory and if your sample is normal, you will be invited for another test every three years until you reach the age of 49, after which time the screening schedule is extended to every five years until you reach the age of 64. Breast Cancer Screening Depending on your medical history and country of residence, you will usually be invited for a mammogram between your 50th and 53rd birthday. However, you should get into the habit of regularly checking your breasts and seeking medical advice if you detect anything unusual. Breast cancer screening is designed to pick up any signs of breast cancer at an early stage, making any subsequent treatment more likely to be effective. During your screening you’ll be asked to undress to the waist and your breasts will be X-rayed two times. Bone Test Osteoporosis affects both men and women but it is more common in women over the age of 50. The primary symptom of the disease is a tendency for bones to fracture easily. A DEXA bone scan will help determine if you have Osteoporosis or are at risk of developing it in the future. The scan itself is a special type of X-ray that measures your bone mineral density – hence why it is also known as a bone density scan – and is quick and painless.