Breast cancer is cancer that affects the breast and surrounding areas. It occurs when the cells in the breast divide uncontrollably and abnormally. It usually begins in the lobules or the ducts and is initially confined there. It is commonly found in women but occurs in men too. It is said to be the most prevalent cancer according to WHO as 2.3 million women are affected by it.
Who is at risk?
Unlike other cancers, where some specific risk factors prevail like cervical cancer has HPV(human papillomavirus) as one of the major factors, this type of cancer doesn’t have one. Apparently, half of the patients had no risk factors or family history for this disease. On the other hand, certain factors may increase the risk of developing this cancer like age, obesity, intake of alcohol, smoking, family history, exposure to radiation, reproductive health and history, and postmenopausal hormone therapy.
Certain genetic mutations are said to be a high-risk factor for breast cancer. Genes like BRCA1, BRCA2, and PALB-2 are identified as high-risk factors. Women having these mutations can opt for strategies to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer.
Adopting a few lifestyle and behavioural changes can help to reduce the risk of breast cancer. Such practices or changes can be prolonged breastfeeding, regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding smoking and tobacco, taking alcohol in moderation, refraining from long-term use of hormones, and staying away from radiation exposure.
It is important to note these changes can only reduce the risk by as much as 30 percent. These practices cannot safeguard you against this disease but an early detection can.
Signs and symptoms
Breast cancers are quite treatable in the early stages. Timely detection can enhance survival rate and quality of life after recovery. So, early detection is the key here. The most common symptom of breast cancer is a lump. But not all lumps are associated with breast cancer. Most of the lumps are benign and are non-cancerous. Let’s discuss all the symptoms in detail.
Breast lumps: Most cases of breast cancer have this sign. A lump or a mass in the breast is usually the early sign. Although a lump or a mass can be non-cancerous.
Swelling in the breast: If you have swelling in the breast, regardless of the type of swelling or area where the swelling has happened, you shouldn’t ignore it. But you should attend to it and find the underlying reason behind it. Swelling can happen due to other reasons too like pregnancy or infection. So you need to look for secondary symptoms like dimpling, irritation, or any unusual changes. You should do a self-examination to find out if it is something serious or not. If you are in doubt then consult a doctor immediately and don’t stall.
Change in skin colour: Any change in the skin colour or texture is a concerning matter. There might be redness, or irritation in the breast skin. Or skin can feel thicker than other areas. Apart from these, the texture of the skin can change and there might be dimpling.
Nipple changes: Any kind of change in your nipple can be a sign of breast cancer. You should neglect any kind of discharge from the nipples but consult a specialist. Another thing to consider is nipple inversion. It is also a sign of breast cancer. If you have pain in the nipple then it is also something you can’t leave unattended.
Lump in the underarm:
Not just the lumps in the breast but a lump in the underarm could be a sign of breast cancer. This is because the breast tissues are connected to your underarm. The lymph nodes in your arm can be affected by cancer cells that might have spread from the breasts. So if you find any lump in the underarm, then you should get it checked.
What should you do?
You should take care of yourself and do regular checkups. Mammograms should be done from time to time to ensure that everything is okay. Apart from mammograms, you can do a self-examination every month. Self-examination can be very vital in detecting breast cancer in the early stages. Know your body and learn how to perform a self-examination. You can easily learn it from the youtube videos. It is very simple to perform and hardly takes ten minutes. It might seem unnecessary but can help you to detect the signs of breast cancer in the early stages.
As discussed earlier, a few lifestyle changes can also help to reduce the risk of breast cancer. So, try to stay active and do exercise regularly. You can also do mindfulness techniques like yoga and meditation to manage stress and anxiety. Incorporate healthy diet choices like eating more fruits and vegetables. Try to put a limit on processed and packaged food products. Take alcohol in moderation and avoid smoking. If you like fat then try to choose healthy fats like mono and polyunsaturated fats over saturated and trans fats.
We discussed breast cancer and its some common signs and symptoms. Identifying the signs and symptoms is very important for the early detection of cancer for starting the treatment as soon as possible. A lot of times, this cancer goes undetected and is found in the advanced stages which reduces the chances of survival and quality of life for the survivors. On the other hand, if detected in the early stages, breast cancer is quite manageable and the recovery process becomes so much less difficult. Doing a few lifestyle changes, being vigilant, and performing self-examination can help a lot in battling this disease. As a woman, you can stay a step ahead by being aware of all the key aspects to combat breast cancer and also about its prevention and detection.