October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an annual campaign to raise awareness about the impact of breast cancer.
Breast Cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide; it is estimated that Breast Cancer affects 1 in 3 women and accounts for 15% of all cancers. It is believed Breast Cancer can be caused by a combination of environmental and genetic factors like:
- Being overweight or obese.
- Alcohol consumption (highest risk in postmenopausal women)
- Breast implants (increase chance by 20%)
- Gaining weight as an adult
- Increasing age (risk increases with age)
- Early Menarche and Late Menopause
As Breast Cancer is so widely spread, it comes to no surprise that there are multiple signs and symptoms associated with this disease.
Listed below we have compiled a list of Breast Cancer symptoms so you can keep a watchful eye on your own body.
Breast Cancer symptoms:
- Breast lumps
- Lump, thickening or swelling in the breast tissue
- Nipple discharge ( red , green) not associated with breastfeeding or menstruation
- Breast pain that is persistent, ongoing and/or worsens over time
- Breast skin changes including puckering, dimpling, rash, redness or scaling. These changes may be caused by inflammation due to irritation from excess tissue growth
- Breast shape changes such as distortion of the nipple & areola or a new inverted-teardrop shape of the breast where parts of the breast point inwards
Breast Cancer Screening
As Breast Cancer is such a widely spread disease, it is important that you know the Breast Cancer symptoms and risk factors as well as screening methods. If Breast Cancer runs in your family or you just want to get tested for peace of mind then there are Breast Cancer screening programs available:
- Digital Breast Tomosynthesis (a special x-ray exam): Breast cancer can be found up to 3 years earlier with this new technology and Breast imaging combined with Breast Awareness education may help find Breast lumps at their earliest stage when they are easier to treat
- Mammogram Breast Imaging: This helps detect any changes in breast tissue through X-ray waves mammography.
- Breast Biopsy: This procedure collects a small sample of Breast tissue for diagnosis in a lab. If Breast cancer is found then a team of Breast cancer specialists will discuss Breast treatment options with you .
- Breast Self Examination: Breast self-examination is a way of checking your Breast for lumps and changes in Breast tissue which you can do at home.
- Clinical Breast Exam: This involves a doctor or nurse feeling the Breast to check for any masses, tenderness or Breast changes.
Breast Cancer treatment options:
- Lumpectomy: This is an operation to remove the tumour and some surrounding normal Breast tissue. A wire may be left in place temporarily inside the Breast, either as part of the lumpectomy procedure or after it. After surgery, radio wave therapy (see below) is commonly used.
- Breast-conserving surgery : This is Breast conserving surgery combined with postoperative radiotherapy. Breast Cancer treatment options may include Breast-conserving surgery alone, which means removing the tumour plus some of the surrounding normal Breast tissue.
- Partial or segmental Breast removal (quadrantectomy) : Partial Breast removal (quadrantectomy), commonly called a lumpectomy , is an operation to remove part of your Breast and some of the underlying glandular tissue. It involves removing one or more sections (quadrants) of your Breast.
- Mastectomy: This operation involves total removal of the Breast and typically includes taking away the lymph nodes under the armpit on that side of the body too. If necessary, part or all of the Breast tissue may be removed.
- Breast reconstruction: This Breast cancer treatment is done after Breast removal surgery to give you a Breast that better matches your natural Breast appearance. There are three ways to do this, which all involve taking muscle and fat from another part of your body (usually your tummy) or using allograft tissue . The surgeon will discuss with you the best method for you depending on what type of Breast cancer surgery is needed.
- Radio wave therapy (also called radiotherapy ) :This cannon be given as external beam treatment (see below) or internal brachytherapy (see below). It uses high-energy beams of radiation to damage and kill Cancer cells. Side effectssimilar to Breast Cancer treatment with surgery.
As Breast Cancer is a very complicated disease which develops inside the Breast, it can be difficult to detect. However, if you are adequately informed about the Breast Cancer Symptoms in women before knowing your Breast Cancer test results, you will be less stressed when your doctor informs you of any Breast abnormalities.
Also, always remember that Breast Self Examination (BSE) involves checking the Breast for any changes or lumps when doing it regularly . It is very important that women over 50 carry out this check once every month. It is very important to do Mammography once year after 50 years of age helps in early detection of breast cancer.
During October Breast cancer awareness month activities are held around the country to raise awareness about Breast cancer particularly Breast self-examination which is especially recommended for all women aged 18-50 years old. You can get in touch with me if you want any help regarding breast cancer.