Breast cancer is a global problem with approximately 1.7 million cases reported per year. According to National Cancer Institute (SEER) statistics, one in eight women in US is diagnosed with cancer every year leading to increased mortality rate in the country. In comparison, situation is much worse in developing countries where, according to NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information), approximately 62% deaths occur due to breast cancer. Although the incidence rate is relatively low in developing countries (reason being the difference in life-style and environmental exposures from that of developed countries), the mortality rate is much higher, the survival rate being 73% for developed countries and 57% for developing countries. This is mainly because of the cancer detection at advanced stages when the risk of survival is much higher. Sometimes, cancer is detected after the symptoms appear but many a time, the symptoms are not visible. Therefore, regular breast screening is crucial for health of body.
A number of modalities are available for early detection of breast cancer in developed countries like the light (optical) i.e. trans-illumination, sound (ultrasound), heat (thermogram), magnetism (MRI), attenuation, microwave, X-ray, nuclear, electrical impedance, tissue sampling, or a fusion of different methods and computer aided diagnosis. The most popular imaging test is mammography, either performed alone or with a combination of ultrasonography examination. However, at present the most sensitive diagnosis test for all age groups is MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). There are other techniques as well, one of them including liquid crystal contact thermography, which when combined with mammography gives accurate results. But the concerns with these tests are they are costly and procedure is painful & prolonging with repeated visits to hospitals.
Despite advances in medicine and technology, cancer is detected at advanced stages in developing countries due to limited resources, lack of awareness and effective promotion of early detection, diagnosis & treatment. Usually the techniques used for screening and early detection of breast cancer are Breast Self-Examination (BSE) and Clinical Breast Evaluation (CBE). BSE is the examination of breasts with hands and touch whereas CBE involves clinical tests like mammography. Though BSE and CBE have long been considered as important techniques for early detection of cancer, the scientific evidence has shown lack of effectiveness of these techniques because the mortality rate remains the same in women using these techniques and those who don’t. Many times women are not well informed about BSE or are unable to conduct the examination properly.
Therefore, it is usually recommended to follow BSE with a mammography test. However, mammography test has its own limitations. Mammograms become difficult to interpret when women have denser breast tissues which is the case with younger women (under 40), as any scars or lumps would be shaded by the density of tissues. Inaccurate mammograms can lead to costly un-necessary follow-up tests and treatments. Mammography tests can be quite expensive if you don’t have medical insurance cover (chances of which are very meager in developing countries). Moreover, the test requires pressing breasts between two glass screens which can be painful sometimes.
In developing countries, proper health care system is not available. Because of the limited economic resources and logistical constraints, limited organized structure is present for detection and screening of cancer. Due to low income and less affordability, most people prefer to use public health infrastructure where provision of health care is dependent on availability of resources for which there are a number of diseases to compete, which makes resource allocation tough. In most developing countries, mammography tests are not performed because of the resource constraints, limited healthcare system, lack of trained staff, cost of tests and difficulty in implementing follow up tests.
While the traditional early detection, screening techniques are either too expensive or are prolonged tedious procedures, Breastlight is a trans-illumination device designed solely for the purpose of breast abnormalities early screening. Breastlight is intended to screen any potential abnormalities in breast. It helps in the internal diagnosis of the breast. Any abnormality in the breast will appear as a dark shadow like a mass or cluster. Not necessary that every abnormality it detects is harmful, but it will keep you aware of your breast health. Not only the device is affordable, it is handy as well (women can carry it in their purse) and easy to use. The device sensitivity rate after clinical trials was found to be 82% (which was almost the same as that of a mammogram test i.e. 83%) and more than 80% women who used Breastlight showed their confidence and satisfaction with the device. While the advancements in technology have increased the survival and recovery rate, the disease is not 100% curable. The best shot is to use latest early screening technologies like Breastlight as they remain the cornerstone of breast cancer control.