Are you safe from breast cancer?

It’s October: the month for Breast Cancer Awareness. In other words, it is time for the Great Pink Push once again. Breast Cancer is dreaded by all the women around the world. And even though men too can be affected by it, we very rarely hear about it. It is the most common invasive cancer as well as the second main cause of cancer death in women. Therefore, as women, we should all be aware of breast cancer as you can never be too careful. Better safe than sorry, right?

Symptoms:

  • New lump or mass
  • Swelling of all or part of a breast even if there is no distinct lump
  • Skin irritation or dimpling
  • Breast or nipple pain
  • Nipple retraction
  • Redness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
  • Nipple discharge

Risk factors:

  • Age – the older you get, higher the risk of developing breast cancer
  • Genetics
  • A history of breast cancer or lumps
  • Estrogen exposure due to early periods or late menopause
  • Body weight – obesity and weight gain after menopause and high sugar intake
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Radiation exposure – if you are getting treated for another form of cancer that is different from breast cancer, you might be at a higher risk of getting it.
  • Oral birth control pills and hormone treatment
  • Cosmetic breast implants

Diagnosis:

  • Breast exam – when a physician examines a woman’s breasts to check for lumps or other forms of abnormalities by having the woman sit or stand doing different gestures.
  • Imagery test – includes mammograms, ultrasound scans and MRI scans
  • Biopsy – a sample of tissue is surgically removed for laboratory analysis to check whether the cells are cancerous or not. The size of the tumor, the stage of the cancer and whether the cancer is invasive or non invasive can all be detected through this. The oncologists can also see if the cancer has spread to other organs of the body.

Treatment and surgery:

Treatment depends on the type of the cancer, the stage, its sensitivity to hormones, and the patient’s age, overall health and preference.

The options of treatments include,

  • Radiation therapy
  • Biological therapy
  • Targeted drug therapy
  • Hormone therapy
  • Chemotherapy

The types of surgeries include,

  • Lumpectomy – removing the tumor and some healthy skin to prevent the cancer from spreading in the future
  • Mastectomy – removing the lobules, ducts, fatty tissues, nipple areola and skin. Radical mastectomies remove muscle from the chest wall itself.
  • Sentinel node biopsy – Removing one lymph node to stop the cancer from spreading
  • Reconstruction

Prevention:

While there is no confirmed way to prevent breast cancer, you can always try the following to be on the safer side:

  • A healthy balanced diet
  • Daily Exercise
  • Annual checkups
  • Maintaining a healthy body mass index (BMI)
  • Avoiding excess alcohol consumption
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