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by Lee Trask
My great aunt died of breast cancer. Well, let me be more specific. She was diagnosed with breast cancer, and underwent a mastectomy, and chemo. It ravaged her already 70-year-old body. But then it metastasized, and moved to her uterus. She had that removed, and then she had more chemo. Then it reappeared, and reappeared, and each time, she went through more surgeries and more chemo, until, at 76, she finally lost the fight. (The only thing she EVER complained about? The wig she wore made her head hot.) That cancer had started digging in years and years before, but there was no way to find it until it reared its ugly head as a lump.
Because of this, I have been having yearly mammograms and ultrasounds since she died (I was 34 at the time.) Even though my results have always been normal, I still worry that by the time a lump is found, cancer has already made its home in the tissue. The earlier cancer is detected, the better the chance of survival. But mammograms aren’t usually recommended (or paid for by insurance) until the age of 40.
A new test, called Forecyte, allows doctors to test you for precancerous cells in the breasts. A small pump (called the MASCT) painlessly suctions a small amount of Nipple Aspirate Fluid (NAF) from each breast, and a pathologist then examines the fluid. If there are milk duct cells in the fluid that are growing too fast, or growing abnormally, this could be a sign of a higher risk breast cancer risk. Factors like consider personal reproductive history and family history of breast cancer are also taken into consideration for risk assessment.
The Forecyte test has proven effective for women as young as 18, over twenty years before a mammogram is recommended. This test can also be used by women who are unable to undergo radiation (women who are pregnant, for instance.) It can be used in conjunction with mammograms and ultrasound, and can be used for as often as deemed necessary by a physician for a woman who is at high risk for cancer due to her familial history.
Much like a cervical PAP smear, abnormal cell growth can identify women who are at risk for developing breast cancer years before it would develop into cancer, and could be detected by a mammogram. This test can give health care providers the chance to intercede before the disease progresses, giving the patient options for intervention.