This month is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, representing an opportunity to promote and encourage screening for, and therefore aid early detection of breast cancer. p
What is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is a malignant tumor of the breast. It arises in the tissues of the breast, most commonly in the ducts that drain milk to the nipple, as well as the milk-producing cells. Approximately 1 in 8 women in this country will develop breast cancer – it is the second most common form of cancer in women, with skin cancer leading the list.
It is important to remember that breast cancer may have no signs or symptoms, and may not be painful, especially in its early stages. Any changes in the breast should be reported immediately to a physician, including findings such as:
- A lump in the breast or underarm region
- Any changes in the skin covering the breast
- Pain in any region of the breast
- Any change in breast shape or size
- Abnormal discharge from the nipple
- Nipple inversion
- Breast Self-Examination: Women in their early 20s should practice this regularly in order to become familiar with how their breast tissue and underarm regions feel. This may enable early detection of some abnormalities that can be immediately reported to a physician.
- Clinical Breast Examination: In addition to breast self-examination, a breast exam by a physician should also be incorporated into an annual physical examination.
- Mammography: The American Cancer Society recommends that women begin receiving an annual mammogram starting at 40 years of age. Although not perfect, mammography is an extremely accurate means of detecting breast cancer. This low-dose x-ray procedure can detect up to 90% of cases of breast cancer that occur in women without any symptoms.
How Can You Help Yourself?
Unfortunately there is currently no way to prevent breast cancer, which is why regular screening mammograms remain important for early detection. Thanks to this, as well as improved treatments, however, the news isn’t all bad for patients diagnosed with breast cancer. And in fact, millions of women now survive breast cancer, living longer than ever after a diagnosis. And although we can’t totally prevent breast cancer developing, we can take steps to keep the risks low as possible by not smoking, eating nutritious food, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising routinely, and limiting alcohol.
All in all, you have a much better chance of surviving breast cancer if it’s detected early. So if you haven’t done so already, talk to your physician about your risk for this disease, especially if breast cancer or ovarian cancer runs in your family. Your doctor will be able to help you decide when to have a mammogram, and also how frequently you should be screened.
How Can You Help Others?
If you literally have $2 to spare (or more!), please consider donating to the Susan G. Komen “3 Day For The Cure” – Cathy Miller is about to embark upon her 8th of these walks in the fight against cancer. She still needs a wee bit more by way of donations to allow her to undertake the walk, so dig around under the sofa or in that old never-used-teapot! Any spare few dollars that you can find will be massively welcomed! Visit her page to make a small donation today. Your few dollars will make a world of difference.
Image credit Free Digital Photos.