Breast Cancer Awareness
Importance of breast cancer awareness
The importance of Breast Cancer Awareness is to educate women about breast cancer and early detection tests so that they could take charge of their breast health.
As, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide and incidence is increasing rapidly in India, where the majority of cases are diagnosed in late stages.
So, Need of the Hour, is awareness about breast examination and regular screening, so that it can be detected early and treated successfully.
Risk Factors in Breast Cancer
What is a risk factor?
A risk factor is anything that increases your chance of getting breast cancer. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn’t mean that you will not get cancer. Talk with your doctor if you think you may be at risk.
Am I at risk for getting breast cancer?
• Your risk for breast cancer rises as you get older.
• About 80 % of breast cancers are found in women over age 50.
• 75% percent of the women who develop breast cancer have no identifiable risk factors.
• We don’t fully understand why some women get breast cancer and some don’t.
Research suggests that breast cancer is caused by lots of different factors, many of which we can’t control.
RISKS YOU CAN'T CONTROL (NON-MODIFIABLE)
Age: The chances of breast cancer increase as one gets older. Most breast cancers are diagnosed after the age of 50.
Gender: The chances of breast cancer increase as one gets older. Most breast cancers are diagnosed after the age of 50.
Family history : The chances of breast cancer increase as one gets older. Most breast cancers are diagnosed after the age of 50.
Genes: Inherited Genes: About 5 to 10% of breast cancer cases are hereditary, caused by abnormal genes passed from parent to child. Most inherited cancers are associated with mutations in BRCA 1 & BRCA 2.
Acquired Genes: Remaining 90% of breast cancer are due to acquired gene mutation. These genes changes happens over a course of lifetime as a result of natural ageing process or exposure to chemicals in environment.
Past History: If you were treated for breast cancer in one breast, the chances of developing it in the other breast increases.
Mensuration: If you began having menstrual periods before age 12 or went through menopause after age 50, your risk of breast cancer is slightly higher than average. This may be because of the amount of the female hormone estrogen that your breasts have been exposed to throughout your lifetime. But the precise cause is not known.
Dense Breast Tissue: Women with dense breast tissue (as documented by mammogram) have a higher risk of breast cancer.
RISKS YOU CAN CONTROL (MODIFIABLE)
Obesity: Excess weight increases your risk of breast cancer. It also increases the possibility that breast cancer will return after treatment, particularly after menopause. The likely reason is that being overweight increases the level of estrogen in the body. Being overweight is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or higher. Obesity is defined as having a BMI of 30 or higher.
Pregnancy: Women who have never been pregnant have a greater risk of breast cancer. Also giving birth to a child after age of 30 increases the risk.
Breast-feeding: No Breast-feeding or feeding for less than one year slightly increases the risk of breast cancer.
Alcohol: Women who consume 3 or more alcoholic drinks each week have a 15-20% higher incidence of breast cancer as compared to non drinkers. Excessive alcohol consumption also increases risk of other cancers and slightly increases the risk of breast cancer.
Hormone replacement therapy: Women treating to get relief from menopausal symptoms with combined estrogen and progesterone pills have an increased risk of breast cancer. This added risk disappears about three to five years after you stop taking the hormones.
Poor Dietary Choices: A diet high in saturated fat and lacking fresh fruits and vegetables can increase the risk for breast cancer. Avoid foods that contain chemicals, preservatives and excess hormones.
Methods of Early Detection of Breast Cancer
A screening test is done routinely for people who appear to be healthy and do not have any signs and symptoms of Breast Cancer.
Although breast cancer screening cannot prevent breast cancer, it can help find breast cancer early, when it is easier to treat.
Methods used to screen breast cancer are :-
- BREAST SELF EXAMINATION (BSE)
- CLINICAL BREAST EXAMINATION (CBE)
Breast Self Examination
A breast self-exam, is an at-home breast exam you give yourself. You’ll want to check your breasts for anything that feels unusual. You should look for breast lumps, changes in size or shape, leaking of fluid from the nipples, or irregular thickening of tissue.
We recommend breast self-exams monthly for all women but they are not a substitute for the routine breast cancer screenings performed by breast specialist. BSE makes you familiar with how your breasts look and feel. Make sure you know what is normal for you. For some women, breasts become enlarged, tender and lumpy just before a period, and then return to normal once the period is over, others may have swollen breasts throughout their cycle.
When and how to do Breast Self-exam?
Once a month, preferably 5-7 days after your periods. If you are pregnant, no longer have periods or your period is irregular, choose a specific day each month.
Follow the procedure as illustrated below to do self-examination of breast:
1. Stand in front of a mirror
Stand in front of a mirror with your breasts exposed and your hands pressing firmly down on your hips as shown in Figure 1.
2. Notice changes in breast
Look in the mirror for any of the following changes in your breasts (see Figure 2): * Any discharge from nipple * Changes in textures (size, shape, or contour) * Dimpled or depressed skin * Nipple turning inward * Visible lump * Lymph discharge
3. Examine underarm
Raise one of your arms slightly and examine that underarm (see Figure 3). Feel that underarm for any changes or lumps. Do the same thing with your other underarm. Don’t raise your arm straight up because this tightens the tissue in this area and makes it harder to examine.
4. Lying down
Lie down on your back and place your right arm behind your head. When you lie down, your breast tissue spreads out as thinly as possible, making it easier to feel all the tissue.
5. Use finger pads
You’ll need to use 3 different levels of pressure. Use all 3 pressure levels on each spot to feel the breast tissue before moving on to the next. Use pads of your 3 fingers as shown in Figure 5. Use light pressure to feel the tissue closest to your skin. Use medium pressure to feel a little deeper. Use firm pressure to feel the tissue closest to the chest and ribs. It’s normal to feel a firm ridge in the lower curve of each breast.
6.Examine entire breast
Next, examine your entire breast using an up-and-down pattern. This is sometimes called the vertical pattern (see Figure 6). Start in your underarm and move your fingers downward little by little until they reach the bottom of your rib cage. Then move your fingers slightly toward the middle and move back up until you reach your collarbone. Continue this pattern, covering your entire breast all the way to the middle of your chest bone (also called sternum or breastbone). Repeat the exam on your left breast using your right hand. If you notice any changes in your breast(s), call your doctor.
Clinical Breast Examination
A clinical breast exam is a physical exam of the breast performed by a doctor. It includes an examination of both breasts, your underarms, and your collarbone area to check for any signs of breast cancer.
Mammography is simply an X ray of the breast using low dose radiation. During a mammogram, you will stand in front of the x-ray machine while the person who takes the x-rays places your breast between two plastic plates. The plates flatten your breast in order to produce a clear picture of the tissue inside.
Screening mammograms have been shown to significantly reduce the number of women who die from breast cancer.
Mammograms are used for both screening and diagnosis.
A screening mammogram is used to find breast changes in women who have no signs of breast cancer.
If you found a breast lump that needs to be checked, you may have a diagnostic mammogram. During a diagnostic mammogram, more x-ray pictures are taken to get views of the breast tissue from different angles.
Breast Tomosynthesis (3-D Mammography)
Breast tomosynthesis, also called 3-D mammography, is a new technology. It takes images of the breast from many different angles and creates a three-dimensional picture of the tissue. Like breast ultrasound, breast tomosynthesis may be particularly useful for women with dense breasts.
Contrast-Enhanced Digital Mammography (CEDM)
Contrast-enhanced digital mammography, or CEDM, combines digital mammogram with the injection of a special dye called a contrast agent. Because cancers absorb more of the contrast agent than the surrounding healthy tissue, it is easier for doctors to detect cancers on the mammogram. CEDM is still a relatively new technology, it may have a role in screening for breast cancer in women at above-average risk or women who have dense breasts.
Breast ultrasound (or ultrasonography) uses sound waves to create images of your breast tissue. Breast ultrasound plays an important role in evaluating breast lumps.
- It is complimentary to mammography in detecting breast cancer.
- It is patient friendly and requires no compression.
- It is used primarily to differentiate between a cyst and solid mass.
- Recommended in younger women with dense breast.
- Screening of pregnant women.
Breast MRI involves the use of radio waves and a powerful magnet linked to a computer that creates detailed pictures of your breast.
During an MRI test, fluid/contrast are injected to improve the visibility of the inside of the breast. It requires breast coil also.
Studies show that having regular mammography plus breast MRI may offer some advantages over other screening methods for women who are at high risk for the disease.
Myths & Facts About Breast Cancer
There are many myths regarding breast cancer and combined with lack of awareness, it delays the diagnosis and proper treatment. Here are some common myths and the truth about breast cancer:
Risk Reduction Tips
Can I lower my risk of Breast Cancer?
There is no sure way to prevent breast cancer. But there are things you can do that might lower your risk: