What you need to know about BREAST CANCER

2015-10-07 06:00
PHOTO: sourced

Breast cancer

PHOTO: sourced Breast cancer

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Breast cancer

BREAST cancer is a malignant tumour that begins in the cells of the breast. The disease occurs mainly in women, but men can get it too.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the world.

Risk factors of breast cancer

The exact cause of breast cancer remains unknown, yet certain factors are linked to the chance of getting the disease such as:

• Gender: Being a woman is the main risk for breast cancer, although one percent of men can also get it.

• Age: The risk of getting breast cancer is most likely when the woman is older.

• Genetic risk factors: Damage to certain genes (due to inherited or environmental changes) increases the risk of breast cancer.

• Family history: Breast cancer risk is higher among women whose close blood relatives (either mother’s or father’s side) have the disease. If one’s mother or sister has breast cancer, the risk doubles.

• Personal history: A woman with cancer in on breast has a greater chance of getting a new caner in the other or the same breast. Women with dense breast tissue can make it harder for the doctors to spot cancer on mammograms.

• Menstrual periods: Women who begin having periods early (before the age of 12) or who went through menopause after the age of 55 have increased risk to breast cancer.

• Breast radiation early in life: Those who have has radiation treatment to the chest area (as a treatment for another cancer) earlier in life have an increased risk to breast cancer. The risk is higher if the radiation was given during the teenage years when the breasts were still developing.

Certain lifestyle choices after the risk of breast cancer:

• Not having children or having them later in life: Women who have not had children, or who had their first child after 30 years of age, have a higher risk of breast cancer. Being pregnant many times and from an early age reduces the risk of breast cancer.

• Hormonal contraceptives: Women using them have a greater risk of breast cancer than women who have never used them.

• Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) HRT, which is used to help relieve the symptoms of menopause, increases the risk of breast cancer.

• Breastfeeding: Breastfeeding lowers breast cancer risks, especially if the breast feeding lasts between one and a half to two years.

• Alcohol: It is linked to an increased risk of getting breast cancer. Women who have one drink a day have a very small increased risk. Those who have two to five drinks daily have about one and a half times the risk of women who do not drink at all.

• Being overweight or obese: This is linked to a higher risk of breast cancer, especially for women after menopause or if the weight gain took place during adulthood. The risk seems to be higher if the extra fat is around the waist.

• Lack of exercise: Exercise reduces breast cancer risk.

• Tobacco smoke: Smoking as well as exposure to second hand smoke (passive smoking) on a regular basis appear to increase the risk of breast cancer.

• Some other uncertain or unproven risk factors: These include antiperspirants, underwire bras, pollution, breast implants.

Signs and symptoms

Early cancer of the breast usually has no symptoms. Later, as the cancer grows, it may cause a lump or mass that can be felt in the breast. A lump can be painless, hard or painful and soft. Sometimes skin over the tumour may become coarse and wrinkled. Other signs of breast cancer include:

• Change in size, shape, feel of the breast or nipple

• Swelling of all or part of the breast

• Skin irritation or dimpling

• Breast pain

• Nipple pain or the nipple turning inward

• Redness, scaling or thickening of the breast skin or nipple

• Abnormal nipple discharge

Diagnosing breast cancer

To help diagnose cancer at an early stage involves screening – that is looking for the cancer before a person has symptoms.

1. Breast self-examination: Checking one’s own breast for lumps, change in the size or shape of the breast, or any other changes in the breast or underarm. It should be done on a monthly basis from the age of 20.

2. Clinical breast examination: Breasts examined by doctors. It should be done regularly from the age of 30.

3. Mammography: X-ray of the breast which helps find caner early. Getting mammograms is recommended as follows:

i. After 40 – once every two years.

ii. After 50 every year.

iii. If there is a history of breast cancer in the family it needs to be done before one turns 40.

Preventing breast cancer

Some lifestyles changes may help in the prevention of breast cancer.

• Diet: A healthy diet with a variety of foods that includes a lot of fruit, vegetables, whole grain foods, limiting alcohol, meats that are high in fat and avoid smoking.

• Weight: Achieving or maintaining a desirable weight.

• Exercise: This will improve the physical and emotional health and play a role in preventing cancer.

• Regular checkups: Getting the necessary exams and checkups on a regular basis, especially for those who have a history of breast cancer. - Supplied

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