What is Breast cancer?
Cells in the body normally divide only when new cells are needed. Sometimes, cells in a part of the body grow and divide out of control, which creates a mass of tissue called a tumour. If the cells that are growing out of control are more normal cells, the tumour is called benign which means it is not cancerous and not life-threatening. If, however, the cells that are growing out of control are abnormal, don't function like the body's normal cells, and begin to invade other tissue, the tumour is called malignant, which is cancerous. In the case of Breast cancer, this malignant tumour is a mass of cells located in breast tissue. Hence the name Breast Cancer.
There are different types of breast cancers which depend on the location of a tumour;
- Ductal cancers- This is when the breast cancer begins in the ducts that carry milk to the nipple. This is the most common form of breast cancer.
- Lobular cancers- This is when breast cancer starts in the glands that make breast milk which is not as common as Ductal Cancers.
A small number of cancers start in other tissues in the breast.
These cancers are called sarcomas and lymphomas and are not really thought of as breast cancers.
Early signs and symptoms of Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer symptoms vary widely. Like many cancers, there is not one single symptom, rather various symptoms, although not all symptoms present themselves and vary from each individual. Most people who have breast cancer symptoms and signs will initially notice only one or two, and the presence of these symptoms does not automatically mean that you have breast cancer.
Signs of breast cancer may include;
- A lump in the breast
- A change in breast shape
- Dimpling of the skin
- Fluid coming from the nipple
- A red scaly patch of skin
- Inverted nipple
When cancer has distantly spread, the symptoms can include;
- There may be bone pain
- Swollen lymph nodes,
- Yellow skin.
It’s also important to understand that most breast lumps can be non-cancerous and are not life-threatening. Many women can experience lumpy breasts before her period- fibrocystic breast tissue which is due to hormones. Therefore, don’t worry and stress if you are showing signs, we all know how stress can affect the body, it does more harm! Book an appointment with your doctor where he/she will ask you about your personal and family medical history to determine your risk factors. A physical examination and mammograms and a list of tests will give you the diagnosis so there is no need to worry until then. Physical examinations are very important for detecting cancer early before it spreads so if you have never had one before it may be a wise decision to book in for one today.
Breast Cancer Prevention?
Cancer prevention is action taken to lower the chance of getting cancer. As the saying goes, prevention is the best cure for cancer. Avoiding risk factors and increasing protective factors can be the best prevention for breast cancer. Breast cancer risk factors are anything that increases your risk of developing breast cancer. Breast cancer protective factors are steps taken to decrease your chance of developing the disease.
Risk Factors include;
- Drinking alcohol
- Having previously contracted the disease increases the risk of it returning
- Getting older
- Dense breast
- Family members having breast cancer.
These are some of the many risks factors for developing breast cancer and as you can see from the list the majority of these risks factors are totally out of our control. We can’t control our breast density, our genes inherited, we can’t help getting older although how much we try to fight it with all our anti-ageing skincare, some things are just inevitable. Therefore, it is important for breast cancer prevention to introduce as many protective factors as we can.
Protective factors include;
- Regular physical activity
- Childbearing and the more children you have the lower your risk
- Cutting out alcohol
- Not smoking
- A healthy balanced diet
Introducing these factors into your lifestyle does not guarantee you will not have breast cancer but will certainly decrease your chances.
At home physical examinations
It is recommended that women check their breasts for any abnormalities every 4-6 weeks. Although many surveys carried out found that women don’t do this and may never have. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women so early detection is key to survival. I have listed a few tips for self-examination.
- Ensure you use a firm, smooth touch with the first few finger pads of your hand, keeping the fingers flat and together. Use a circular motion, about the size of a quarter.
- Many women find that the easiest way to feel their breasts is when their skin is wet and slippery, so they like to do this step in the shower or some like to use a moisturiser when carrying out their examination.
- Cover your entire breast.
- Exam your breasts in a standing and a lying down position.
- Don’t forget to lift up your arms and look for any changes there too. Ensure you massage this area too for any changes like lumps.
- Check the nipples too, what your looking for are any changes such as fluid coming from them or an introverted nipple.
Regular breast checks are so important as you need to know how your breasts look and feel so you can detect any abnormalities, therefore early detection of the disease.
Misconceptions related to Breast Cancer
“You have to check your breasts in a certain way”
Truth is, there’s no set way to check your breasts and there’s no right or wrong way to do it. The most important thing is that women get to know how their breasts feel. Then with regularly checking them every 4-6 weeks, they will be able to detect any changes and any abnormalities.
“Women with small breasts don’t need to bother examining their breasts”
Many women feel if they barely have any breasts that there is no need to check them but this is not the case at all. Everyone has breast tissue, and women of all sizes and shapes should examine them regularly for any changes.
“You should check them when you’re not on your period”
Yes, it is true that some women experience breast changes when they’re menstruating but that doesn't mean you can't perform your check during your period. Sometimes their breasts will change during periods so it’s knowing what will change for them, and if there’s an unusual change. We’d encourage women to check at all times.”
“You only need to check the breasts”
Most women tend to think a breast cancer check involves only looking at their breasts. Many women disregard any changes in the nipple or never think to check the lymph nodes in the armpits or lymph nodes in the neck.
I know this page may seem very daunting and something we would want to turn a blind eye to it, as what you don’t know can’t hurt you, the thoughts of contracting this disease can be all too consuming for many, but remember awareness about the disease, knowing the risk factors and protective factors and the signs and the symptoms is the best hope that you will not get the disease and if you are unfortunate that you do, that you catch it early for the best chance of survival. Remember prevention is the best cure for any type of cancer.