Just a couple of years ago, one of the ruling Hollywood actresses sent ripples across, not just the tabloid but even the medical world, announcing a double mastectomy or breast tissue removal.
Sending out a message as to how real the threat is to women especially in these times.
Now as readers one may be quick to brush this prophylactic surgery off as paranoia but the stats will make you sit-up and read on.
Epidemiological studies have revealed that at an incidence rate of 25%, it is the most common cancer in women, and at a significant 12%, second most common cancer (skin cancer topping the chart).
Home examination to check for any suspicious, sudden lumps is often discussed and advised. A quick anatomical trivia because it’s important you know and understand your body, recognize anything unusual, communicate the same to your physician and make informed decision.
So, the breast is largely adipose or fat tissue forming the major bulk. Then comes the structural and functional units, which are the 12-20 lobes, each of these lobes is made up of smaller lobules, connected by milk ducts, which are channels to carry the milk to the nipple. Cancer develops either in the ducts or in the lobules, therefore called ductal and lobular carcinoma, respectively.
Ever wondered why a lot of examination also includes checking under your arm pits, apart from the obvious, proximity to the breast. Tiny, bean-shaped immune system pit stops called Lymph nodes are scattered throughout the body, connected by an independent circulatory system, called the lymph vessels.
In the event of a cancer, examining these lymph nodes help the doctor determine the extent and spread of the cancer. Conversely, breast cancer also metastasizes to distant organs through these very channels.
What Causes Breast Cancer?
Now, what causes breast cancer? There is no single cause that can be incriminated for cancer.
Yes there are Risk factors, which we will discuss but before that it’s important we bust a few myths about the same.
Breast cancer is NOT caused by the following: – cell-phones, caffeine, contact with someone who has it, microwave cooking and deodorants.
The origin of the argument for these “causative agents” perhaps lies in the fact that anything that causes DNA damage from radiation to chemicals causes cancer.
However, it’s very important to keep in mind, we are exposed to radiation and chemical agents, all the time, and it is our bodies’ ability to repair the damage that is the final determinant.
The Risk Factors: A risk factor is something that may increase the chance of getting a disease. Having a risk factor does not mean that a woman will get breast cancer. Many women who have risk factors never develop breast cancer.
1) Lifestyle: no prizes for guessing the obvious, Tobacco and Alcohol consumption increase your risk for developing breast cancer. High fat diets, obesity are the other no brainers on the list.
Hormone Replacement therapy in post menopausal and hormonal birth control in pre-menopausal women have been attributed as risk factors thus suggesting that Breast cancer could be a hormonal etiology too.
2) Genetics: the part you cannot modify. A family history of breast cancer or any glandular cancer needn’t turn you into a hypochondriac, but a little more punctual with your annual screening.
3) Medical: Certain abnormalities in the lobules or the ducts, which often give rise to benign tumors.
Although, now with advanced medical facilities breast cancer prognosis has improved by light years but an early detection, nevertheless saves one a lot of stress, trauma and reduces morbidity.
Check for any lump or mass, classically painless, hard and irregular borders but can be tender, soft and well defined border. As explained earlier any nodular enlargement in the arm-pit or under the collar bone should not be ignored.
The other symptoms to watch out for are, skin irritation or dimpling, Everson of nipple, chronic breast/ nipple pain, swelling of the breast even without any apparent mass, nipple discharge and scaly red nipple or breast skin.
. Mammography: “Mammogram before you Instagram”. Mammography guidelines are:
- Women ages 40 to 44 elective
- Women age 45 to 54 annual mammograms.
- Women 55 and older yearly screening or once in 2 years.
- Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live 10 more years or longer.
It is advised that if someone is predisposed i.e. increased risk factors such as genetics as well as hormone replacement therapy, be screened with MRI’s as well.
Don’t count your days, make your days count, is what is said about cancer. Early detection is your savior.