• Breast Cancer Awareness: Stay Informed, Stay Healthy

    October is Breast Cancer Awareness month globally; the campaign world-wide is now symbolised by the pink ribbon many of you are familiar with. It is a symbol of awareness of this deadly disease that accounts for 27 percent of all cancers in women in India alone, according to cancerindia.org

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    According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with this disease at some point in their lives. Scary, isn’t it? So let’s take advantage of this month of awareness to gather information and learn the facts. Knowing symptoms of this disease is of importance as it can help you or someone you know diagnose breast cancer at an early stage, when it is reversible.

    Self-examine

    We’ve all heard this one. Every awareness camp encourages women to conduct a monthly self-examination to observe if there is any change in their breasts. There is a possibility that you may find a lump in your breast — you must consult with your doctor if you do. And don’t panic. Getting diagnosed at an early stage is your chance of winning the battle against the disease.

    Get regular check ups

    Mammography is a technique that helps diagnose and locate tumours of the breasts through an X-ray. Many doctors differ on when one needs to start getting mammograms, but the safe age to start getting it would be around 40. By your 50s, you should be getting them regularly. Getting annual mammograms can be helpful as it shows if there are any changes in the breasts over time.

    Be aware of changes

    By the time the symptoms occur, it may be too late. That is why it is important to be aware of any new changes that your body goes through. Stay aware if there is any lump or mass, which may not be painful, but has begun to form in your breasts. It is important to get this to your doctor’s attention. Avoiding a warning sigh is the worst mistake women can make.

    Size is of no consequence

    The size of your breast does not indicate higher or lower risk of getting breast cancer.  Dr. Allyson F. Jacobson, MD, from Illinois said that detecting cancer depends on how close it is to the surface of the skin, the difference in the texture from that of your breast tissue, and where exactly is the cancer in the breast.

    Don’t depend on family history

    An average risk of getting breast cancer is 12 percent. Many women believe they are off the hook if their family has no history of breast cancer, but that is not true. Being fully informed is better than suffering from the consequence of half information.

    The myth

    Many women believe that it is safe to remove both breasts even if only one is diagnosed with tumours. This is a myth that needs to be broken. Breast cancer does not spread from breast to breast, because the medication taken to treat the disease lowers the risks of making new cancer tumours. This is not to say that mastectomy is not a legit procedure; it of course it but only for the breast that is diagnosed with cancer. Angelina Jolie made headlines and raised awareness with her — rare — choice of getting a preventive double mastectomy, but it’s not for everyone. Very few women fall in that specific high risk category, as this NYT piece reported, citing some doctors’ concerns. It’s important to make an informed decision, whatever you do, so make sure to talk to your doctor to learn more.

    Precaution is always better than cure and being informed is the best gift you can give to yourself. Consult a doctor, read up, and take care of yourself.

    Feature Image Courtesy: The Inquisitr