October is the month of breast prevention and data from the AIOM-AIRTUM 2017 (Italian Association of Medical Oncology – Italian Association of Cancer Registers) report on cancer numbers in Italy shows that there are about 50,000 new cases of breast cancer in our country, with a slightly increasing trend of incidence. However, the percentage of women surviving 5 years after diagnosis is also on the increase.

Early detection is a key weapon against breast cancer, but too few women in Italy are screened with mammography: about half of those who received an invitation in 2015. On the other hand, it is important to adhere to these programs, because early detection of the tumor while it is still small significantly increases the chances of defeating it.

Professor Marco Alloisio, Head of Thoracic Surgery in Humanitas and President of the Milan section of LILT, the Italian League for the Fight against Cancer, spoke about prevention, early diagnosis and mammographic screening at Obiettivo salute Weekend on Radio 24.


Mammography screening

“The AIOM and AIRTUM data lead to optimism, against an incidence that slightly increases (0.9% per year) there is a mortality that is reduced (1.5%), with healing rates around 87-90% and certainly improved.

In Italy, however, there are substantial differences in the actual extent of breast screening between the North, the Centre and the South of Italy: this geographical imbalance is a critical issue on which much work needs to be done. It is also necessary to extend the screening programmes to women under 49 years of age: we have seen that in women between 40 and 49 the incidence is high and it is therefore important to screen this age group as well,” explained the professor.


Checks before 49 years of age

“It is often women under 40 who fall ill and are excluded from screening programmes. We still recommend a monthly breast examination between the ages of 18 and 30, a week after menstruation, and a regular breast examination and possibly an ultrasound scan between the ages of 25 and 40. It is good to emphasize how self-examination (or self-palpation) may have partially lost its validity over the years, because today we are able to detect non-palpable, very small breast cancers,” emphasized Professor Alloisio.

“Diagnoses are then increasingly accurate, thanks to cutting-edge equipment such as digital mammography with tomosynthesis, which can detect very small breast cancer lesions. This mammography provides high-resolution digital images with 3D reconstruction, ensuring the highest levels of diagnostic accuracy.


Prevention and lifestyle

Prevention is also essential, as it involves a healthy and active lifestyle. It is therefore a good idea to eat in a correct and balanced way, to have regular physical activity and not smoke. “Rules that apply both to prevention and to the diagnosis of cancer”, the specialist concluded.