Is cancer contagious? Modern technology offers more precise detection

Written by Jan Adler. Posted in Health & Wellness

Published on December 19, 2018 with No Comments

Back in the 1500s and 1600s, it was believed that cancer was contagious if members in the same household developed breast cancer.  To prevent the spread of this disease, cancer patients were to be isolated, ideally outside the city and town boundaries.  The first cancer hospital in France was forced to move out of the city for fear cancer would spread citywide.

Today, one would think breast cancer is contagious due to the increased number of cases heard of.  Are more women getting mammograms?  Are the mammograms more precise in detecting cancerous cells?  Or has the incidence of breast cancer increased in recent years?

Being a nurse and having breast fed my five children I neglected to get regular mammograms. I learned during my childbearing years that breastfeeding and childbirth help prevent the likelihood of a breast cancer diagnosis.  In 2017, I got a mammogram due to my primary care physician’s insistence. Much to my shock and dismay I was told I had breast cancer.  I felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me. But I breastfed five children forever!!!! My primary care physician stated it must be due to a genetic mutation.

When asked if there was a history of breast cancer in the family I said, “No.”  I know my mother never was diagnosed with breast cancer.  What about my grandmothers?  They both lived to be 93. Did they have mammograms available to them?  If so, were they precise in detecting cancer? In the 1960s, mammography exams were conducted using general X-ray equipment without performing breast compression.  The results were poor for diagnosis.  Much of the breast close to the chest wall was underexposed and showed up as “white” on the X-ray film.

Improvements in technology during the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s have made mammograms a more precise tool in breast cancer detection and have shown breast cancer to be a public health threat that needs much attention. Not only has the new technology proven to enhance diagnosis, it also has elevated the knowledge and practice of breast cancer treatment.

I am still floored by the fact I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  I am thankful for the technology we have today and the increasing knowledge put forth.  Cancer is a scary word.  Take care of yourself and get the necessary testing done.


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