Breast cancer is considered to be one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in women all around the world. The cancerous mass originates from the tissues of the breast. Either from the internal lining of the ducts or lobules that mainly supply milk to the ducts. It also affects men in rare cases and that usually occur over 60 years of age.It is a fast emerging cancer and becoming a major health risk for all the women especially in Pakistan.
“A woman who lives to age 90 has a one in eight chance of developing breast cancer.”
Every year one million women are diagnosed with breast cancer. This cancer is supposed to be increase by about a third over the next 20 years. Although, easily accessible to self examination, clinical and lab diagnosis, still horrendously continues to exact such a heavy toll.
Pakistan at alarming situation:
Pakistan has the highest rate of breast cancer in Asian countries. According to the recent statistics, approximately 9000 new cases are diagnosed every year out of which 4000 die. This alarming situation demands every woman to get out of her cave and learn about this monster. Family history is incredibly important in this regard. The risk is double in women with first degree relatives having breast cancer.
Most of the women in our society prefer remaining quiet when it comes to such issues and by the time they even realize it is too late. Spreading awareness among common people is the need of the time to encounter such a distressing situation. Majority of the population in Pakistan lives in rural areas and they have neither awareness nor proper medical facilities. The sad part is the fact that this cancer is often silent as there is no pain. Unknowingly women in our rural areas are not just carrying this cancer but also transmitting it to their generations. So, poor socio-economic condition poses a big threat when it comes to our society mainly responsible for major disease burden.
Warning sign and symptoms:
- A lump in the breast or any swollen area like a nodule that persists after your menstrual cycle.
- Change in the size and shape of the breast or nipple.
- Redness, scaling or any change in the texture of breast skin.
- Nipple retraction (turning inward).
- Discharge from the nipple. It can be clear, bloody or milky if you are not breastfeeding.
Major risk factors:
Female gender is a very strong and independent risk factor. .Women is 200 times more likely to develop a cancer than men do.Rarely, men can also develop cancer i.e. one in thousand men can ever get a breast cancer.
Older the women more are the chances of getting breast cancer especially in post menopausal years.
Genetics and family history:
5 to 10% of breast cancer is hereditary. Strong family history is linked to inherited mutations in BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 genes eventually increasing risk of breast cancer.
Women of developed countries are at a greater risk due to less frequent duration of breastfeeding and fewer numbers of children.
Smokers have 10 to 20% increase risk than non smokers. Recent studies proved that women who start smoking before age 20 or before delivering their first baby have increased risk of getting breast cancer in their lives.
Researches indicate that obesity can be an important risk factor. Obesity not just increases chances of breast cancer as well as have worse affects on progression and prognosis of cancer.
Breast dense women are 5 times more susceptible to breast cancer than women with low breast density.
Life style related factors:
- alcohol use
- Diet and vitamin intake
- Oral contraceptive pills
- Less physical activity
- Hormone therapy
- Previous chest radiation
Studies have proven that breastfeeding mothers are more resistant to mutations.They also have less exposure of estrogen due to breastfeeding, that prevents breast cancer growth. Breastfeed your children for longer than one year. The longer you breast feed, greater is the protective effect.
Child bearing age:
Younger the women at her first child birth, fewer are the chances to develop breast cancer. Having more children especially in younger age (before 30) also reduces the risk. 3% increase in risk of breast cancer occurs for each year of delay.
Healthy diet and physical activity:
Maintain your quality of life by acquiring a healthy life style. Consume diet including more fruits and vegetables and cut down processed and high fatty foods that increase the risk. Be more physically active and maintain a healthy body weight. Physical activities like sports, walking, cycling has a protective effect against breast cancer.
Breast self examination (BSE):
Examine yourself in the shower, in the mirror or in lying down position once in a month. Check for any lump, knot, puckering, dimpling or any visible change.
Get yourself examined by a doctor or a trained person, if you find something suspicious under yourself examination.
Screening mammogram is an x-ray of breast to detect breast tissue changes. It can pick up cancer years before it become clinically evident.
“The American society recommends women over age 40 and over get a mammogram done every year along with breast examination by a clinician.”
Early diagnosis is the cure:
Every year thousands of women die due to this deadly disease. Painless lumps are usually the earliest diagnostic feature which can be known by breast self examination.Lack of awareness and different cultural taboos makes women reluctant to share their health issues and get medical checkup done.Early screening and detection techniques are foremost important as the survival rate is 100% in initial stages.
“According to WHO, breast cancer rates are getting worse and it is not sparing even younger age group.”
Early detection not only improves the survival rates but also increases chances of successful treatment.Not all wars are fought with guns; some are fought with hope, courage and brave attitude. Losing is not an option for us, believe in pink and spread awareness against breast cancer. Together we will win the fight against breast cancer.
“When fear knocks the door, let faith answer the door.”
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