Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in developed and developing countries. It is an invasive tumour that develops in the cells of the mammary gland (breast).
Women are more likely to develop breast cancer than men. Many women in developed nations live with the fear of cancer hanging around them like a shadow. The fear is trickling down even into Africa, and statistics show it is no longer a developed nation’s disease or the grandma’s disease.
By 2025, it is estimated that over 19.3 million women will have breast cancer, with Sub-Saharan Africa accounting for most of this figure.
October is a month dedicated to Breast Cancer awareness to stop the disease before it kills and arm women with information on the causes, prevention, and available breast cancer treatment.
Here are five essential things you should know about breast cancer;
Know your breast
This may sound funny if you do not have sufficient information. When you know how your breast should feel, it is easier to detect abnormalities and communicate them to your doctor. Breast self-examination is a simple technique for examining your breasts to detect lumps or swellings. Remember, early detection is key to having a better prognosis. If you notice any abnormalities, kindly refer to your doctor or book an appointment to speak to a Doctall doctor.
Know the risk factors
The first risk factor for breast cancer is being a woman. As women grow older, they are also at higher risk. Family history of the disease and inherited genetic mutations of specific genes such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 also put you at high risk of developing breast cancer. These factors are beyond your control. However, there are some risk factors within your control. You can eliminate these risk factors by eating healthy, being physically active, avoiding alcohol, etc. Other risk factors include;
- High-dose radiation to the chest
- Early-onset menstrual periods (before age 12)
- First full-term pregnancy when you are over 30 years old
- Dense breasts
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Race (Caucasian women have a higher risk)
- Recent use of oral contraceptive use
Know the early signs of breast cancer
The early signs of breast cancer defer for various women, and some women may be asymptomatic for a long time. Some warning signs to watch out for;
- Skin changes – soreness or redness of the skin, irritation around the nipple area.
- Lumps in or around the breast or underarm
- Inverted nipple – when it appears pushed inward instead of sticking out
- Nipple discharge
The normal breast tissue may feel lumpy, but not all lumps are cancer. It is essential to conduct self-breast examinations after your menstrual cycle and see a doctor at least twice a year to evaluate changes.
Know everything about mammograms
Mammograms are low-energy X-ray pictures of the breast used by doctors to look for early signs of breast cancer. Regular mammograms can help detect early signs of breast cancer. Studies show that women should start breast cancer screening with mammograms from the age of 40. Women who begin receiving mammograms from the age of 40 may be less likely to die from breast cancer than women who wait until their fifties or beyond to get mammograms.
Know that men can develop breast cancer too
Breast cancer occurs in men also, though only 1% of breast cancer cases occur in men. As rare as it is, it is important to watch out for symptoms, especially for men with a family history of breast cancer or genetic mutation.
Breast cancer is a real killer but early detection can help get a better prognosis and survive the disease. Self-breast examinations are important but not a pass for a proper health checkup with a doctor.