Home Device For Detecting Breast Abnormalities

August 4, 2010 by  
Filed under featured, Womens Health

A new hand held device for women to use at home as part of their regular monthly self examination can actually view the inside of their breasts to detect abnormalities and cancers. Developed in the UK, is now commercially available, and could prove invaluable for early detection and particularly useful for women with a family history of breast cancer.

A trial recently took place at the symptomatic breast clinic at Sunderland City Hospital which involved 300 women and was designed to assess whether a UK device, Breastlight, could accurately detect abnormalities and cancers. It works by shining a very bright but harmless red LED light through breast tissue where veins and other blood vessels show up as dark lines, often referred to as the ‘map’ of the breast. This is normal, but if a woman detects other dark spots or shadows, this is generally an indication that there is an abnormality. Of course there may be nothing to worry about such as a benign lesion like a bruise or blood filled cyst or it may require further investigation

The researchers found that it could detect malignancies as small as 7 mm and presented this data at the European Institute of Oncology’s 12th Milan Breast Cancer Conference. confirms that Breastlight, a device for women to use at home when carrying out their breast health awareness routine, detects malignant tumours, picking up lesions as small as 7mm.

The women in the trial had all been referred by their G P for a breast assessment and they were examined with Breastlight before their standard clinical assessment. The findings were then compared to those seen with mammography, ultrasound and biopsy. Breastlight was highly effective as it:

• detected 12 out of 18 malignant tumours which were then confirmed as positive using biopsy (giving a sensitivity of 67%)

• correctly identified as negative 240 out of 282 breasts (giving a specificity of 85%)

• detected malignant tumours as small as 7mm (it is generally accepted that malignancies below 1.8cm are non-palpable)

• detected a number of variants of cancers regardless of age or density of breast tissue or menopausal status of women1

The researchers were impressed with the sensitivity and specificity of the Breastlight device though of course it should not in any way replace mammography but that can provide an early warning as part of an early warning screening routine as it can reliably pick up abnormal lumps which can be further investigated to assess whether benign or malignant. It could also be extremely useful for women who have confirmed recurrent benign cysts and find it difficult to examine themselves.

In addition to trial in Sunderland, Breastlight usage has been evaluated at-home in a User Study involving over 1,200 women that reported it encouraged breast examination, at recommended frequency levels, and gave women confidence in their breast examination. 80% of women said they felt more confident when using Breastlight in addition to their existing routine and it increased the frequency of examination considerably.

It is not intended to replace but to augment regular self examination, backed up by regular mammograms. You should find it in major Boots stores, online at www.breastlight.com or at www.boots.com with a recommended price of 84.99 – not cheap, but as an early warning system for cancer it could prove priceless.

Breast cancer natural preventives


As I always believe prevention is better than cure, I am happy to report two new pieces of information this week on easy, natural and enjoyable ways to reduce breast cancer risk.

Breakthrough 1 gives you even more reasons to enjoy a nice cup of tea. If you are a regular black or green tea drinker then you are already helping to reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke and endometrial cancer. Regular tea drinking has two important functions: it inhibits uncontrolled cell growth, known as cell proliferation, and encourages the death of cancer cells, known as apoptosis. A recent study found that smokers who drank four cups of decaffeinated green tea per day showed a 31 percent decrease in oxidative DNA damage in white blood cells as compared to those who drank four cups of water. Oxidative DNA damage is implicated in the promotion of many forms of cancer. Now a new study has also linked tea to a substantial decrease in breast cancer risk. Particularly for women under 50, the risk is reduced by 37%, and as this is the group in whom the cancer can be particularly virulent and fast acting this is very worthwhile news. In fact, let’s raise a cup together, preferably green or white tea as these are the least processed. The darker the tea, the more processing as a rule, but these two have even more health benefits, and up that to three cups a day to boost your immune system and lower your cancer risk.

Breakthrough 2 concerns another favourite staple, and that is olive oil. Australian researchers have reported that that olive oil has a host of positive health effects, and now researchers from the Catalonian Institute of Oncology (ICO) in Girona have discovered specifically that extra virgin olive oil appears to be a powerful weapon against breast cancer.

The key ingredient is the polyphenols that are present in extra virgin olive oil. These are powerful natural antioxidants found in abundance in olive oil and are highly active against both HER2-positive and HER2-negative breast cancers cells. Polyphenols in the oil not only inhibit the activity of cancer-promoting HER2 activity but also promotes the protein’s degradation.

As Jamie Oliver would say, give it a good glug and not only will your food taste better, but your cells will thank you.

Exercise lowers post menopausal breast cancer risk

November 5, 2008 by  
Filed under Fitness & Sport, Womens Health

Breast cancer is a serious concern for women, and anything we can do to minimise that risk has got to be good news – especially when it’s natural, and free. An eleven year follow up study from the National Cancer Institute in the USA on over 23,000 women, appears to suggests that women who reported the highest levels of physical activity had an almost 20% lower risk of breast cancer compared with women who exercised the least. Two pointers here: the activity has to be vigorous or it appears to have no influence on reducing the risk, and the benefits were seen only in women who were fairly slim. As postmenopausal women have a tendency to put on weight, it seems as though combining exercise with a sensible diet might also be in order.

The survey defined vigorous activity to include scrubbing floors, chopping wood, and running or fast jogging. Though obviously not at the same time – how many women in the States still chop wood? They also defined non-vigorous exercise as activities including washing clothes, lawn mowing, and walking. They obviously have much more powerful lawn powers in the US that do all the work for you, rather than the old push-me pull-you mowers of my childhood which no one could define as non-vigorous as the aching back and arms afterwards would testify.

The message is clear; if you want to avoid post-menopausal breast cancer – especially if you have any history of it in your family – you could start by walking briskly to the nearest salsa class and then jogging home.


If you are thinking of taking up running the marathon – as many do to help breast cancer charities – then please approach with caution and do it under professional supervision. Why? Well, there is now accumulating evidence from recent studies that pushing your body to run 26.2 miles can cause at least minor injury to your heart.

Dr Arthur Siege is director of internal medicine at Harvard’s McLean Hospital in, Massachusetts – and he has run 20 marathons. He is the ideal man to study the subject and he has published many studies on the health consequences of marathons. His main conclusions that you might want to think about before you strap on the running shoes are that the physical effects of running a marathon include changes in your immune system and kidney function, but obviously your muscles take the worst punishment. The further you run then your muscles stiffen and this can result in injury-signalling enzymes leaking through the heart membrane, and that is consistent with significant stress on the heart.