BY DR. RAMIN TAVAKOLI MARTIN – MBChB, MMED Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at UMC VICTORIA HOSPITAL
Breast cancer is a topic that affects many individuals, directly or indirectly, and understanding this disease is crucial for everyone. Whether you’re a woman concerned about your own health, a man who wants to support a loved one, or simply someone interested in learning more, this article aims to provide you with valuable information about breast cancer.
What is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is a type of cancer that originates in the cells of the breast. It can affect both women and, though less commonly, men. This disease occurs when abnormal cells in the breast grow and multiply uncontrollably, forming a tumour. These cancerous cells can then invade nearby tissues and, in some cases, spread to other parts of the body through the bloodstream or lymphatic system.
While breast cancer can strike anyone, certain risk factors can increase the likelihood of developing the disease. These factors include:
- Gender: Women are at a significantly higher risk of developing breast cancer than men. However, men can also develop this cancer.
- Age: The risk of breast cancer increases with age. Most breast cancer cases are diagnosed in women over 50.
- Family History: A family history of breast cancer, especially in close relatives like a mother, sister, or daughter, can raise the risk.
- Genetics: Inherited gene mutations, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, can significantly increase the risk of breast cancer.
- Hormonal Factors: Hormone replacement therapy, early menstruation, late menopause, and never having children or having them at an older age can affect breast cancer risk.
- Alcohol and Smoking: Excessive alcohol consumption and smoking may increase the risk.
Signs and Symptoms
Breast cancer can manifest in various ways. Common signs and symptoms include:
- A lump or thickening in the breast or underarm: This is one of the most common signs of breast cancer.
- Change in breast size or shape: Any unexplained change in the appearance of your breast should be investigated.
- Nipple changes: Look out for nipple discharge, inversion, or changes in skin texture, such as redness or scaling.
- Pain: While breast cancer is typically painless in its early stages, some individuals may experience breast pain.
Early Detection and Diagnosis
Early detection is crucial for successful treatment of breast cancer. Regular breast self-exams, clinical breast exams by healthcare providers, and mammograms are essential for early diagnosis. Women are encouraged to start getting regular mammograms at the age of 40 or earlier if they have certain risk factors.
Treatment for breast cancer depends on various factors, including the stage of the cancer, its type, and the patient’s overall health. Common treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy. The treatment plan is often personalized to meet the individual’s specific needs.
Prevention and Lifestyle Changes
While some risk factors for breast cancer cannot be changed, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk:
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle: Eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, limit alcohol consumption, and avoid smoking.
- Breastfeeding: If possible, breastfeed your children, as it may reduce your breast cancer risk.
- Regular screenings: Follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations for mammograms and breast exams.
- Genetic counseling: If you have a strong family history of breast cancer, consider genetic counseling and testing.
Breast cancer is a disease that affects millions of people worldwide. Being informed about its risk factors, symptoms, early detection methods, and treatment options can empower individuals to take control of their health. Regular check-ups, a healthy lifestyle, and awareness are key factors in reducing the impact of breast cancer on our lives. Remember that early detection can save lives, so be proactive about your breast health and encourage your loved ones to do the same. Together, we can fight against breast cancer and strive for a healthier future. This month of October, visit UMC Victoria Hospital consult with out specialist OBSY and get a Breast Exam.