Breast cancer awareness month is celebrated every October globally to raise awareness and support for the early detection and treatment, as well as palliative care of the disease. The pink ribbon is a symbol of awareness and fight for the cure of breast cancer.
There’s so much fear and hush-hush surrounding this important topic hence I did a lot of research to give you accurate information on all you need to know. As the name implies, it’s a cancer that forms in the cells of the breasts. It can occur in women and rarely in men. Early detection is realllyyyy important. Signs to watch out for are discussed below.
Self Breast Examination (SBE) is the most important basic tool of detecting breast cancer. It can be ideally done by yourself in front of the mirror after your menstrual cycle because you’re less likely to be bloated then. Regular examination is recommended. I remember during my medicals on entering university, the doctor explained how to check my breasts for foreign lumps.
- Turn to a mirror and stand aright. Observe for skin changes or lumps around the areola (dark area around the nipples).
- Raise your arms and feel for lumps around your breasts. Ensure you examine from the armpit area towards the breasts, inwards to the midline.
- Examine the entire depth from the front to the back of the breasts — the skin to the rib cage with differing pressures. Feel the breasts whilst lying down in the same manner as above.
Note that lumps in the breasts may be benign or non-cancerous like fibroadenoma (also called breasts mouse), fibrocystic breast disease or breast cyst. Whatever the case may be, do not self-diagnose. Be sure to see a gynecologist or a breast specialist/surgeon especially if you notice the following:
- The lump has lasted more than one menstrual cycle.
- It is growing bigger and feels hard or irregular.
- Skin changes over and near the lump.
- Blood discharge from the nipples.
- Lumps in the armpit.
- Nipples seem pulled inwards.
- Unexplained redness, swelling, skin irritation, itchiness or rash around the breasts.
- Swelling or lump in the underarm.
- Dimpling of the breast surface.
- An “orange peel” texture to the skin.
- Vaginal pain
- Unintentional weight loss.
- Enlarged lymph nodes in the armpit.
- Visible veins on the breast.
Breast cancer In Men
Typically, cancer of the breast isn’t affiliated with men. News flash! Men can have it too (although on rare occasions because male breast cells are much less developed), especially older men. Pls watch out for discharge, redness and nipple scaling.
Statistics say about 5% to 10% of breast cancer cases are thought to be hereditary, indicating that they result directly from gene mutations or changes passed on from a parent (inherited mutation in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene). Causes of the cancer include:
- Being born female.
- Inheriting certain gene changes.
- Having a family history of breast cancer.
- Having a personal history of breast cancer.
- Your race and ethnicity.
- Being taller.
- Having dense breast tissue.
- Having certain benign breast conditions.
- Going through menstrual periods early.
- Having a radiation to your chest.
- Exposure to diethylstillbestrol (DIE), a synthetic, nonsteroidal form of estrogen. Read more on causes here
Ensure you look out for signs then consult a doctor to properly diagnose. Your doctor will examine your breasts and ask about your health history, including any medications you might be taking, as well as the medical history of immediate family members.
Your doctor may request a mammogram, which is an X-ray of the breast, to help distinguish between a benign and malignant mass. Alternatively, an ultrasound, MRI scan or biopsy may be taken to test for breast cancer.
Common treatments of breast cancer:
- Lumpectomy is the surgical removal of a breast cancer tumor.
- Mastectomy is the surgical removal of one or both of the breasts, partially or completely.
- Chemotherapy is the use of powerful chemicals to kill rapidly-growing cells in the body.
- Radiotherapy is the use of high doses of radiation to kill cancers and shrink tumors.
- Hormonal therapy is a treatment that involves the removal of hormones to halt the growth of cancer cells.
MYTH: Maintaining a healthy weight or lifestyle obliterates the possibility of having cancer.
FACT: Although these behavIors can help lower breast cancer risk, they can’t eliminate it.
MYTH: WearIng a bra causes breast cancer.
MYTH: Using underarm antIperspIrant causes breast cancer.
FACT: No connection whatsoever but it is recommended you look out for dangerous compositions in antiperspirants.
MYTH: Consuming too much sugar causes breast cancer.
MYTH: Breast cancer always causes a lump.
FACT: Not in all cases, especially at its formative stages.
MYTH: Breast cancer only occurs in mIddle-aged and older women.
FACT: Younger women and men can and do get breast cancer.
MYTH: When treatment is over, you’re finished with breast cancer.
FACT: Breast cancer can have a long-term impact on people’s lives and well-being.
Before and after being diagnosed with breast cancer, endeavor to seek help and support from loved ones. Millions of people survive it, most especially if detected early. You can send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org if you just need to banter or speak about your progress.
Don’t forget to lend your voice to the #EndSars campaign. Protest peacefully and spread the word. Till next time!