The nearly grotesque sight of outgrowths felt under the skin on any body part can go a long way in unsettling anyone. They can come off as triggers of unbridled anxiety, mostly if they are perceived as a symbol of a debilitating state of health of an individual. The growths can be lumps, skin cysts or unexplained swellings. Some swellings come off as closed pockets of tissue that can be filled with pus, or other material and are non-cancerous, others are cancerous lumps that painless, firm and maybe more irregular in shape and may be fixed to a tissue in the breast. The latter which is a lump fixed to a tissue in the breast often times leads to breast cancer.
Breast cancer is cancer that develops from the breast tissue. The normal cells always divide as many times as needed and stop. Then they attach to other cells and stay in place in the tissues. These cells become cancerous when they lose their ability to stop dividing, to attach to other cells, to stay where they belong and to die at the proper time. The signs of breast cancer may include:
- A lump in the breast.
- Change in breast shape
- Dimpling of the skin
- Fluid coming from the nipple
- Red or scaly patch of skin
In cases of those with distant spread of the disease, there may be pain, swollen lymph nodes, and shortness of breath or yellow skin.
The risk factors that may predispose an individual to breast cancer include:
- Being female and of older age
- Lack of child bearing or lack of breast feeding
- Higher levels of certain hormones
- Dietary patterns such as consumption of alcoholic beverages an obesity
This is usually by microscopic analysis of a sample of the affected area of the breast (Biopsy)
Breast cancer affects about 12% of the women worldwide and is the most common invasive cancer in women. In 2008, breast cancer caused 458,503 deaths worldwide (13.7% of cancer deaths in women and 6.0% of all cancer deaths for men and women together). The incidence of breast cancer varies greatly around the world: It is lowest in less developed countries and greatest in the more developed countries. The ever increasing number of cases has over the past half a century has been partly attributed to modern life styles. The disease is strongly related to age with only 5% of breast cancers occurring in women under 40 years.
The pink ribbon is the most popular symbol of breast cancer awareness.
This refers to the routine checks done on healthy women with an aim of achieving an earlier diagnosis in a bid to improve outcomes of treatment. These include clinical and breast exams, mammography, genetic screening, ultrasound and Magnetic resonance imaging.
There are many ways that women can reduce their risk of breast cancer by altering lifestyle patterns and these may include:
- The high intake of citrus fruits, soy-based foods and marine omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.
- Regular physical activity coupled with all other intervention to manage obesity, these go a long way in also reducing risks of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
- The act of breast feeding and also reduce risk of breast cancer.
- Reducing of alcohol use.
This may hinge mainly on the stage of cancer or the person’s age, treatment is usually more aggressive when the cancer is at more advanced stages or in case of a recurrence after treatment. Breast cancer is usually treated with surgery which may be followed by chemotherapy or radiation.
The mainstay medications of choice in reducing the risk of breast cancer are the selective estrogen receptor modulators such as Tamoxifen. They have the ability to reduce the risk of breast cancer but might predispose an individual to thromboembolism and endometrial cancer and so might not be recommended to prevent breast cancer risks in average risk women but might be used for high risk women.
- “Effects of age o the detection and management of breast cancer” McGuire,A: Brown,JA: RKerin(22 May 2015)
- “World cancer report” International agency on cancer. 31st December 2011
- “Breast cancer cases rise 80% since seventies” The independent.London.
- World cancer report IARCPress. Lyon 2003 Stewart B.W and Kleihues P
- Saunders, Christobel: Jassa, Sunil 2009 “Breast cancer” Oxford university press