Dr Tendai Zuze Health Matters
BREAST Cancer Awareness Month is an annual international health campaign organised by major breast cancer charities every October to increase awareness of the disease and to raise funds for research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure. The campaign also offers information and support to those affected by breast cancer. In support of this important initiative, below are some facts on 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 (not cancerous). 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 (cancerous).
It is not known what causes breast cancer, although we do know that certain risk factors may put you at higher risk of developing it. A person’s age, genetic factors, personal health history, and diet all contribute to breast cancer risk. Breast cancer ranks second as a cause of cancer death in women. Today, about one in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime.
Only 5 percent to 10 percent of breast cancers occur in women with a clearly defined genetic predisposition for the disease. The majority of breast cancer cases are “sporadic”, meaning there is no direct family history of the disease. The risk for developing breast cancer increases as a woman ages.
The symptoms of breast cancer include:
Lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm that persists through the menstrual cycle.A mass or lump, which may feel as small as a pea. A change in the size, shape, or contour of the breast. A blood-stained or clear fluid discharge from the nipple. A change in the feel or appearance of the skin on the breast or nipple (dimpled, puckered, scaly, or inflamed).
Redness of the skin on the breast or nipple. A change in shape or position of the nipple An area that is distinctly different from any other area on either breast. A marble-like hardened area under the skin.
If subsequent tests find breast cancer, you and your doctor will develop a treatment plan to eradicate the breast cancer, to reduce the chance of cancer returning in the breast, as well as to reduce the chance of the cancer traveling to a location outside of the breast. Treatment generally follows within a few weeks after the diagnosis.
The type of treatment recommended will depend on the size and location of the tumour in the breast, the results of lab tests done on the cancer cells, and the stage or extent of the disease. Your doctor usually considers your age and general health as well as your feelings about the treatment options.
Local treatments are used to remove, destroy, or control the cancer cells in a specific area, such as the breast. Surgery and radiation treatment are local treatments.
Systemic treatments are used to destroy or control cancer cells all over the body. Chemotherapy and hormone therapy are systemic treatments. A patient may have just one form of treatment or a combination, depending on their needs.
Following local breast cancer treatment, your doctors will determine the likelihood that the cancer will recur outside the breast. This team usually includes a medical oncologist, a specialist trained in using medicines to treat breast cancer. The medical oncologist, who works with the surgeon, may advise the use of hormone therapy or possibly chemotherapy. These treatments are used in addition to, but not in place of, local breast cancer treatment with surgery and/or radiation therapy. To protect yourself from breast cancer, follow these three steps for early breast cancer detection:
- Annual screening mammography between the ages of 40 to 50. Breast cancer experts don’t agree when women need to begin getting mammograms. Check with your doctor.
- Women in high risk categories should have screening mammograms every year and typically start at an earlier age. MRI or ultrasound screening can also be given in addition to mammograms. Discuss the best approach with your doctor.
- Have your breasts examined by a health care provider at least once every three years after age 20, and every year after age 40. Clinical breast exams can complement mammograms.
If you are worried about breast cancer please visit your doctor.