It’s generally called the “C” word; a word that spells doom, fear, and alarm in everyone. In the case of women, breast cancer has been the biggest adversary. The number of cases of breast cancer has been increasing with high mortality rates. Most developed and developing countries have a lot to do toward spreading awareness on this menacing killer.
This uncontrolled growth of the breast cells are a result of mutations in the genes and has not spared different populations and races. In a worldwide statistics published by WHO on the incidence of breast cancer, it was stated that it was the most common form of cancer in women. The incidence rates in Africa and Middle East were lower than of North America and Europe; however, the survival rates varied vastly.
It’s a pity to note that though the incidence rates are low in Africa and Middle East, the survival rates are lower when compared to the other parts of the globe. Lack of early detection and awareness were seen as the main reasons for the low survival rates. This issue becomes more alarming with the incidence rates increasing in the developing countries.
The onus rests on health care providers and medical practitioners to create awareness on breast cancer. The month of October is dedicated as the “Breast Cancer Awareness Month,” and we from Apollo Hospitals feel that it is our responsibility to do our part to spread the message.
What is breast cancer?
A malignant tumor or the uncontrolled growth of the breast cells is breast cancer. Occurring usually in the lobules and the passages of milk, they invade the healthy cells and spread to other parts of the body. In some cases, breast cancer can also affect the connecting tissues of the breast.
Risk Factors of Breast Cancer
There are several identified risk factors of breast cancer in women.
- • Family History.
- • Mutations in genes like BRCA1, BRCA2, and P53.
- • Long time exposure to endogenous estrogens.
- • Early menarche.
- • Late menopause.
- • Oral Contraceptives.
- • Hormone Replacement Therapy.
Other lifestyle risk factors include use of alcohol, physical inactivity, obesity, and shorter breastfeeding.
Breast cancer is classified into Stage 0, IA, IB, IIA, IIB, IIIA, IIIB, IIIC, and Stage IV. Each stage marks the extent of metastasis with the final stage signifying metastasis to other parts of the body. It is this final stage that is lethal and the survival rates are very low.
It is of high importance that women across nations be aware of the early signs and symptoms of breast cancer in order to increase the survival rates and maybe avoid it.
Here are five alarming signs of breast cancer, which none should ignore.
1.Breast Lumps or Masses:
This is one of the most common symptoms that appear in cases of breast cancer. One has to be worried if the lump is a new one, and is painless. Also, these lumps tend to have irregular edges, tender, soft or even rounded.
It’s very important that any new mass or lump that appears in the breast be checked and one should contact a healthcare provider immediately.
2.Swelling to whole or part of the breast:
Any kind of swelling of a part of the breast or the entire breast has to be taken seriously. Though this can happen in other conditions like infections or even pregnancy, it is important to look for other symptoms like irritation of the breast skin, and/or dimpling of it. A self breast examination would help notice any unusual changes. If so, women should immediately contact a doctor.
3.Changes in the skin of the breast can also be an indicator of breast cancer. These include:
- • Irritation/redness of the skin.
- • Thickening of skin.
- • Dimpling of breast tissue.
- • Change in the texture of the skin.
4.Change in the Nipple:
Any kind of abnormal discharge from the nipple apart from milk is to be taken seriously. Also, an inversion of the nipple might also be a symptom of breast cancer. Pain in the nipple is also something that needs medical attention.
5.Lump in the Underarm:
When there is a lump in the underarm, there is a good chance that it might be related to the breasts. The tissue of the breast extends to the underarms. Also, cancer of the breast can spread through the lymph nodes present under the arms.
Women need to undergo regular mammograms along with lifestyle changes like maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding smoking and alcohol, and maintaining a diet rich in vegetables, fish, and low fat products to reduce the risk factors.