The Breast Cancer Awareness Month is marked nationwide every October. The purpose of the campaign is to help increase awareness, support and care for breast cancer. Supporters hope that awareness will lead to sensitization of the disease and early detection of breast cancer, which increases the survival chance of those diagnosed. The pink ribbon is the most prominent symbol of breast cancer awareness and in many countries the month of October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Within the month, a day is set aside and tag, a No Bra Day. The observance of this day has spun off a medical event in Toronto, Canada, that encourages breast cancer survivors to consider reconstructive surgery.
According to Global Cancer Observatory (2018), over 2 million women have been diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 400, 000 deaths occurs every year as a result of breast cancer. Both sexes can have this disease, however, it is far more common in women than men. According to CDC, about 1 out of every 100 breast cancers diagnosed in the United States is found in a man. Also, older women stand a higher chance of having the disease, though young women can get it too. Most breast cancers are found in women who are 50 years old and above. Presently, there is no cure or permanent treatment for cancer. Early detection remains the best chance at controlling and treating all forms of cancer. Most breast cancer deaths (269 000) occur in low- and middle-income countries, where most women are diagnosed in late stages, due to lack of awareness and access to health services.
Breast cancer symptoms differ in people, while some do not present any symptoms. Generally, warning signs of breast cancer are:
- Changes in size, shape and texture of breast.
- Swelling in armpit or areas around the breast.
- Lumps or thickening
- Nipple discharge and irritation
- Pain in any area of the breast.
As stated above, early detection increases the chance of survival exponentially and no cure has been made for cancer. However, there are treatments that can be adopted. Treatment depends on the type and stage of cancer and oftentimes, more than one treatment is recommended. Treatments include:
- Surgery; An operation where doctors cut out the cancerous tissue.
- Chemotherapy; Using special medicines to shrink or kill the cancer cells. The drugs can be pills you take or medicines given in your veins, or sometimes both.
- Hormonal therapy; this block cancer cells from getting the hormones they need to grow.
- Biological therapy; this works with your immune system to help it fight cancer cells or to control side effects from other cancer treatments.
- Radiation therapy; Using high-energy rays (similar to X-rays) to kill the cancer cells.
Risk factors of breast cancer can be reduced when you:
- Avoid alcohol or reduce intake
- Don’t smoke
- Exercise regularly and maintaining a healthy diet
- Reduce the intake of hormonal therapy and birth control pills
- Avoid exposure to radiation or environmental pollution
Remember to see your doctor immediately you notice any changes in your breast. It could be nothing, but then, it could be something.