October is International Breast Cancer Awareness month, make sure you know how to be aware of this life-threatening disease and take preventive measures!
Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer, prevalent mostly in women but also, albeit in a small percentage, prevalent in men. Quite recently, famous singer Beyoncé Knowles father was screened and diagnosed with breast cancer – because women are associated with more lymph nodes in their breasts, it is often assumed that the disease is linked to women alone.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month, marked in countries across the world every October, helps to increase attention and support for the awareness, early detection and treatment as well as palliative care of this disease and we, at Edition, have a few tips and guidelines of how to test for breast cancer: both for those who are at risk and those may not necessarily have any known family history of breast cancer.
Currently there is not enough knowledge on the causes of breast cancer, therefore, early detection of the disease remains the cornerstone of breast cancer control. When breast cancer is detected early, and if adequate diagnosis and treatment are available, there is a good chance that breast cancer can be cured.
If detected late, however, curative treatment is often no longer an option. In such cases, palliative care to relief the suffering of patients and their families is needed.
Since there is so much information out there to inform us ladies on early testing, symptoms and screening methods – why not avail this? Especially if you have a history of breast cancer in your immediate or extended family or have been exposed to fertility drugs and other hormones – you must follow some tips given below:
How do you keep informed and be proactive to check for breast cancer symptoms?
Common breast cancer signs and symptoms:
a lump or swelling in the breast, upper chest or armpit – you might feel the lump but not see it
a change to the skin, such as puckering or dimpling
a change in the colour of the breast – the breast may look red or inflamed
a change to the nipple, for example it has become pulled in (inverted)
rash or crusting around the nipple
any unusual liquid (discharge) from either nipple
changes in size or shape of the breast
On its own, pain in your breasts is not usually a sign of breast cancer. But look out for pain that’s there all or most of the time.
Noticing an unusual change doesn’t necessarily mean you have breast cancer, and most breast changes are not because of cancer. But it’s important to get checked by your GP.
How to check your breasts: It’s as simple as TLC: Touch Look Check
Touch your breasts: can you feel anything unusual?
Look for changes: does anything look different?
Check any changes with your GP
What are the common causes of breast cancer? (note, that this list is not limited to the factors stated below:
1. Genetics – your genes play a huge role in determining the carry forward of diseases
especially in the case of breast cancer, if you have someone in your immediate family or
even extended family who has been diagnosed and even obtained treatment and is doing
well, it is highly recommended that you be on the look out by examination techniques listed
2. Lack of exercise and excessive weight gain – both factors lead to the prevention of certain
natural hormones being released and lack thereof can indicate abnormal lifestyles so make
sure exercise and healthy foods (i.e. minus preservatives and excessive microwave use) are
incorporated in your lifestyle.
3. Smoking – although there is little to prove that smoking can be directly linked to breast
cancer, but it can manifest itself into several complications, resulting in a weak immune
system and perhaps hence falling victim to breast cancer.
4. Over exposure to birth control pills, fertility drugs, injected hormones may result in
complications at a later stage in a woman’s life and could be ignored as the need and
pressure to have a baby in our society is so high. Please also note that a good prevention
method is breast feeding, although some may find it tedious, not only are there innumerable
benefits for your child but also the flow of breast milk allows for lack of blockages in lymph
nodes and keeps the system running as it should be normally.
5. Exposure to tanning beds, radiation therapy can lead to complications and may lead to
mutation in cells, working counter productive and leading to cancer.
However, this form of cancer, if one is proactive in self checks and regular mammograms can lead to a huge risk being evaded – mammograms are not expensive. In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic’s recent research, it is recommended that between the ages 40-45 mammograms should be an annual check up just like any other you may get even if you have examined yourself and do not find any cautionary signs.
After the age of 50, yearly mammograms are definitely mandatory as the chances of breast cancer post menopause is indefinitely higher than at earlier stages of a women’s active reproductive cycle. However, these recommendations in no signify that those younger than 40 cannot get mammograms – like it has been emphasised in this feature, the more often regardless of symptoms the better it is.
Where can one get a mammogram from?
Karachi: Agha Khan University Hospital, Indus Hospital, South City, Hilal e Ahmar Clinic by Teen Talwar
and many other clinics which offer a lower cost of mammograms but if you would like a hospital to have a
history it is better to go to them for a test.
Lahore: Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital, Pink Ribbon Organisation (https://www.pinkribbon.org.pk/),
where not only can you get screened, tested and have a biopsy but where you can donate to the cause.
Islamabad: Breast Cancer Clinic at PIMS Hospital, Advanced Diagnostic Center (https://adcl.com.pk/)
Remember, prevention and proactiveness is always key! This is the one self care that does not pain or
cost too much and can save lives! To donate to charities working on breast cancer – look online and