Breast cancer accounts for 16% of all female cancers; it’s more widely afflicted than any other cancer in women. Women must add a mammogram to routine checkups, done at least once every 1 to 5 years (depending on your age).
However, mammograms may not be enough.
They cannot detect all types of tumours and cancer. What is even more important than mammograms is for women (and men) to educate themselves on breast cancer awareness:
Breast cancer symptoms, prevention, treatment, causes and recurrence.
Table of Contents
What are the early signs of breast cancer?
There are many ways breast cancer can develop, but it normally begins inside the lining of milk ducts. Early detection (during stage 1 of breast cancer) is key to getting cured. This is when the chances of survival are nearly 100 per cent! It’s the best time to fight cancer because the tumour size is relatively small, usually less than 2 cm in diameter.
Therefore, like other cancers, ‘prevention is better than cure’ applies to breast cancer.
Having regular mammograms and other screening tests can detect the onset of cancer long before any warning signs.
Breast cancer will spread to other parts of the body through the lymphatic system if it is left untreated. The first place it attacks are the lymph nodes in the underarm area.
What are breast cancer symptoms?
Breast cancer can either be painless or quite painful. For breast cancer awareness to be effective, timely checkups are key. Plus, you must get any new breast lumps checked immediately by your doctor or an OB-GYN (gynaecologist). According to the American Cancer Society, these seven signs that are the more common initial symptoms of breast cancer:
- Small lump on the breast
- Pain in the breast or nipple
- Skin looked dimpled or irritated
- Breast skin looks red and thicker
- Nipple turns inward
- Nipple discharge other than milk
- Lump in the underarm area
Who is more likely to get breast cancer?
Experts and scientists are not sure what causes breast cancer in every case. However, there are risk factors that increase the chances including:
- Age: Women over 50 are much more vulnerable – approximately 80% of all cases are over 50.
- Genetics: Women with a close relative who has ovarian or breast cancer are also more likely to have it.
- Pregnancy: Women who have never had a child and those who had a baby after 30 are more susceptible to this cancer
Can my breast cancer return?
Yes, it may return in some cases. Every woman who has suffered from cancer of the breast wonders if it will recur. If it does, most breast cancer recurrence happens within the first five years after breast cancer treatment. So women with a history of the disease, even non-invasive have a higher risk of getting it again.
What are the ways of detecting breast cancer?
If you see that your breast looks different or feel a lump when you shower, you definitely need to see your doctor. Doing self-exams on a monthly basis is a good preventive measure, but it does not beat medical help. A lump could be too small or too soft to prevent you from detecting it with self-examination only. In addition to annual mammograms, it is wise to get the occasional 3D mammogram, especially if you or anyone in your family was diagnosed with breast cancer.
If breast cancer spreads, there are 2 consequences:
- it either attacks the bones first, or
- it attacks the lymph nodes.
Your doctor will ask you to get a bone scan, CT scan, or a lymph node evaluation. Another option is a breast MRI scan which is for those who show genetic mutations.
What steps are you taking for your health this breast cancer awareness month?