Instances of ‘Cancer’, the scary illness, are on the rise across the globe. Even so there are some types of cancer that are more treatable than others, when caught in time. One such is breast cancer, which represents the most common type of cancer in women all over the world, including Indian women. Research depicts that 25.8 cases are recorded per 1,00,000 women across the country, with an approximately 50% mortality rate. Breast cancer is one of the most treatable types of cancer, so why is the mortality rate so high in India?
The answer is simple: awareness. Breast cancer awareness is a range of knowledge and action. It includes being aware about its symptoms, checking yourself for them, and informing your doctor as and when required. This awareness is the single most contributing factor responsible for better survival of patients in the west. In India, because women are unaware about breast cancer and its symptoms, they often get diagnosed at a late stage (2B or later) which directly decreases long term survival.
It’s important for women to know what breast cancer is, how its symptoms exhibit in patients, and how to examine ourselves.
Cancer is a type of disease where cells grow abnormally, at an accelerated rate, and invade the rest of the body. Breast cancer, in particular, begins at the cells of the breast, and gradually move through the rest of the body via lymph nodes. When cancer spreads to the rest of the body, this process is called metastasis. Once this process begins, the treatment becomes difficult, which is why it is integral to catch breast cancer at an earlier stage than Stage 3. There are also some vital facts about breast cancer that everyone should be aware of; and could help save the lives of our loved ones. Read on to know more.
Not Every Lump is “Cancer”
Many women believe that if they find a lump in their breast, it’s definitely cancer. This is a myth. If you find a lump in your breast while conducting a self-examination, you should get it checked out, before diagnosing yourself. Remember that only a small percentage of lumps turn out to be cancer. It could very well be a benign tumour or muscle fibroid, so keep your morale up but get yourself tested regardless.
Breast Cancer Affects Men Too
The larger population believes that like cervical cancer, breast cancer only affects women. This is categorically untrue. While women are more prone to breast cancer, men are also affected by it. In fact, men have a higher mortality rate because they never assume that a lump in their chest area could possibly be breast cancer. It is usually detected as a hard lump underneath the nipple area, and it should not be ignored.
Schedule a Mammography If You’re Over 40
Doctors suggest that after the age of 40, women should get mammography’s done annually. This helps detect breast cancer early and is called a ‘screening’. While women have the option at getting it done at their own discretion, it’s better to be safe than sorry. And contrary to popular belief, mammography’s do not cause cancer at all, they merely help detecting it.
Breast Cancer is Not Contagious or Genetic
Like all cancers, you cannot get breast cancer by being in contact with someone who suffers from it. Also, while women with a family history might be more prone to it, most women with breast cancer have no history in the family. Living a healthier lifestyle by eating right and exercising helps prevent cancer, but at the same time, it is not a guarantee.
Self-Examination is a Must
The best way to ensure early detection of breast cancer is by conducting regular self-exams, which leads to successful follow-up and treatment. Now, if you don’t know how to examine yourself, don’t worry! Here is all the information you need to know:
- Remove your clothing from the top part of your body, shirts, bras, the whole lot. Look at yourself in the mirror with your hands on your hips. Take a good look at your breasts, and make sure your breasts look the same as they always have: size, shape and colour. If you notice any odd bulges, random dimpling or puckering, it’s time to get checked out. Make sure your nipple looks the same and has not changed position.
- Raise your arms above your head to look for similar changes.
- In case you notice any fluids oozing from your nipple (unless you’ve had a recent pregnancy or childbirth), you should definitely consult a doctor.
- Feel your breasts lying down: Use your right hand to feel your left breast and vice-versa. Make sure you keep your fingers flat together and use small circular motions. If you feel any kind of lump which wasn’t there before, you need to get checked out.
- Feel your breasts while standing or sitting: Most women find this easiest when their hands or breasts are wet, so it is recommended to do it in the shower. Keep your fingers flat together and use small circular motions. You need to cover the entire breast to ensure nothing is amiss.
Self-examinations are our first line of defense against breast cancer, and almost always ensures early detection. We need more women to know about how breast cancer presents itself so they can catch it early and get the treatment they need. Let’s raise awareness so we can save lives.