Every October, you see a rise in the number of posts and articles talking about breast cancer. Suddenly your social media seems to be flooded, while this is a good thing, breast cancer is something that needs to be spoken about all year round. Awareness is incredibly important as early detection can catch the disease when it is most treatable.
What is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in a woman’s breast. Cells begin to grow out of control and cause cancer. Similar to other cancers, breast cancer cells usually form a tumour that can often be seen on an x-ray or felt as a lump. It’s important to understand that most breast lumps are not active and not cancer (malignant). Non-cancerous abnormal growths are not life-threatening but can increase the risk of getting breast cancer.
Causes of Breast Cancer
There can be a plethora of triggers and underlying issues that can cause breast cancer.
- Genetics & Mutation - Genes that are inherited from families can increase the likelihood of breast cancer.
- Lifestyle-related causes - Lifestyle choices can lead to breast cancer as well. Poor diet, lack of physical exercise, obesity, heavy alcohol use, smoking (YES!), and exposure to chemicals and toxins are all associated with a greater breast cancer risk.
- The Importance of self-examining - Gals, you need to know how your breasts normally look and feel, so if changes occur, you can catch them. Now, while looking for changes on your own is important, regular mammograms and scans become necessary.
Experts suggest that premenopausal women should check their breasts on the tenth day of every cycle (day one being the first day of your period). While postmenopausal women can check their breasts on any day. It’s ideal to make your self-exam a part of your daily shower or nighttime routine too.
- Use the tips of your fingers to check. It’s best to know and understand how your breasts have felt through the years as this will help differentiate between what’s normal and what’s not.
- Use your right hand for your left breast and your left hand for the right. Work in circular motions from the nipples and working outwards.
Symptoms and more
Breast cancer may or may not cause symptoms. Some women might discover the problems during a self-examination while others might need to undergo a scan due to negligible or no signs of a problem.
- A lump in the breast or underarm (the armpit)
- Swelling or thickening of the breast
- Skin irritation
- Persistent breast pain
- Scaly or thicker nipples than usual
- Nipple discharge (when not lactating)
- Any change in the size or shape of the breast
How to lower or reduce the risk of breast cancer:
- Maintain a healthy weight and balanced nutrition intake to avoid excess weight gain
- Get moderate-intensity or vigorous-intensity activity on a daily basis
- Limit or avoid alcohol and STOP smoking
There are plenty of resources online to understand breast cancer better. Breast cancer is serious and life-threatening, so remember to talk about it, spread awareness and reach out to your friends and family.