Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October
The Breast Cancer Awareness Month, marked in countries across the world every October, helps to increase attention and support for the awareness, early detection and treatment as well as palliative care of this disease.
There are about 1.38 million new cases and 458 000 deaths from breast cancer each year (IARC Globocan, 2008). Breast cancer is by far the most common cancer in women worldwide, both in the developed and developing countries. In low- and middle-income countries the incidence has been rising up steadily in the last years due to increase in life expectancy, increase urbanization and adoption of western lifestyles.
Breast cancer also affects men with 1% of new cases reported to be affecting males.
Early detection of the disease remains the cornerstone of breast cancer control. When breast cancer is detected early, and if adequate diagnosis and treatment are available, there is a good chance that breast cancer can be cured. If detected late, however, curative treatment is often no longer an option.
In such cases, palliative care to relief the suffering of patients and their families is needed.
The majority of deaths (269 000) occur in low- and middle-income countries, where most women with breast cancer are diagnosed in late stages due mainly to lack of awareness on early detection and barriers to health services.
Mammograms are the best way to find breast cancer early, when it is easier to treat and before it is big enough to feel or cause symptoms.
What Are the Symptoms?
There are different symptoms of breast cancer, and some people have no symptoms at all. Symptoms can include—
– Any change in the size or the shape of the breast.
– Pain in any area of the breast.
– Nipple discharge other than breast milk (including blood).
– A new lump in the breast or underarm.
– Skin changes on the breast.
If you have any signs that worry you, see your doctor right away.
What Are The Risk Factors?
Some main factors that influence your risk for breast cancer can’t be changed including—
– Being a woman.
– Being older (most breast cancers are found in women who are 50 years old or older).
– Having changes in your BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes.
What Can I Do To Lower My Risk?
There are however things you can do to can help lower your breast cancer risk. These include:
– Cessation of smoking.
– Reduced alcohol intake.
– Weight reduction – obesity increases one’s risk.
– Reduced exposure to estrogen. Because the female hormone estrogen stimulates breast cell growth, exposure to estrogen over long periods of time, without any breaks, can increase the risk of breast cancer. Taking combined hormone replacement therapy (estrogen and progesterone; HRT) for several years or more, or taking estrogen alone for more than 10 years increases risk.
Although breast cancer screening cannot prevent breast cancer, it can help find breast cancer early, when it is easier to treat. Talk to your doctor about breast cancer screening.