The folded pink ribbon is the international symbol for breast cancer awareness. Breast cancer is a form of cancer that develops from breast tissue. It originates in ducts that carry milk to nipples. If it remains confined to the duct, it is in-situ and can be easily found on Mammogram (a diagnostic test for breast cancer). But if it moves beyond duct, it becomes invasive and the treatment becomes quite difficult.
Sounds scary! Isn’t it? This is why it is important to create awareness about breast cancer among the common people. It is necessary to reduce the fear and understand the things that one can do to deal with this curse.
It is a fact that 1 in 8 women who reach 85 will develop breast cancer and it is the leading type of cancer killer in women. In 2012 it resulted in 1.68 million cases and 522,000 deaths. It is more common in developed countries and is more than 100 times more common in women than in men.Yes, men can have breast cancer too, but it is very rare. Actually, men possess a small amount of nonfunctioning breast tissue that is concentrated in the area directly behind the nipple on the chest wall. Like breast cancer in women, cancer of the male breast is the uncontrolled growth with the potential for spread of some of the cells of this breast tissue.
The good part is that 80% of the lumps that develop may be benign; which means that they are not malignant or cancerous. Also, 90% of early stage breast cancers are curable, with breast-conserving treatments. Survival rates in the developed world are high.
To fight the cause, one needs to be aware of the following points.
The risk factors for breast cancer that are unavoidable include-
- age (more common in women of age 40 and above),
- personal history,
- family history (may be genetically inherited),
- hormonal history, and
- Harmful radiations.
The avoidable factors include-
- improper diet, and
- Lack of exercise.
One can self-examine for breast cancer. Signs of breast cancer may include-
- a lump in the breast,
- a change in breast shape,
- dimpling of the skin,
- fluid coming from the nipple, or
- A red scaly patch of skin.
In those with distant spread of the disease, there may be-
- bone pain,
- swollen lymph nodes,
- shortness of breath, or
- Yellow skin.
Apart from this, women of 40 years of age and older should have a Mammogram every year and get clinical examinations done by health professionals.
The treatment options for breast cancer depend on the cancer type, extent of disease and the person’s age. The surgical options include-
- Lumpectomy (removal of discrete portion or “lump” of breast),
- Mastectomy (removal of one or both breasts partially or completely) and then breast reconstruction.
- Surgical removal of both breasts is another useful preventative measure in some high-risk women.
The non-surgical options are-
- radiation therapy and
- Systematic treatment that includes chemotherapy and hormonal therapy.
To sum up, it’s absolutely essential to take responsibility for one’s own health. One should not only be fully aware but should also take considerable care and avoid the risk factors that cause breast cancer. One must remember that cancer is NOT a death sentence. The only weapon is early detection, prevention and proper treatment. The fight is on!