Updated: Jan 27
By Niranjana S. Rajalakshmi, MVSc (Vet. Microbiology)
Science Writer (Freelance)
(All information in this article is relevant of October 8th, 2020)
October is breast cancer awareness month. Breast cancer is not only the most frequently occurring cancer affecting women worldwide, but it is also the type of cancer that has a considerably high survival rate (the survival rate in initial stages of breast cancer is almost 100%). Thus, it goes without saying, like other types of cancer, early detection is the key to having the maximum survival rate.
However, the survival rate is not very high in low-income countries which could be attributed to the lack of adequate diagnosis.
Hence, in such cases, doing a routine breast self-exam (BSE) would be of considerable advantage for prompt detection of the disease. BSE is a screening technique that can be done at home to check for breast lump or any other abnormality. In a recent study conducted in Thailand, it was found that the women who were not regularly performing a BSE had a higher risk for late-stage breast cancer compared to those who were regular at it.
What is the right time to do a BSE?
Choose the same time of the month – Normally, hormone fluctuations occur in the body and this directly affects the breast tissue. So, to distinguish between a normal and abnormal breast tissue, it is better to perform the BSE during the same time of the month (We are launching a mobile app soon which doesn’t let you lose track of the exact date!) Use circular motions to identify any change in the breast or the feeling of a lump. Also, lie down and perform the self-exam the same day. The step by step procedure can be found here.
o Premenopausal women – Do the test at the end of the menstrual period when hormones have the least influence on breast tissue
o Postmenopausal women – Maintain consistency by performing the test on the same day of every month
While the BSE can be done every month, there are certain recommendations for regular screening by mammogram (X-ray of the breast). The American Cancer Society recommends women aged 55 years and above to get their mammogram done every two years and women aged between 40 to 54 years old to get screened annually. It is important to have a record of the screening tests that are done periodically.
*Please consult a medical professional if you have any questions or need further advice*
(Use the Miyara app to maintain a database of your health records).
For more information on how to conduct a BSE- https://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/testing/types/self_exam
Myths Vs Facts about Breast cancer
Besides being the leading cause of cancer that affects women, there are a lot of myths associated with it. Debunking common myths might give way to better clarity about the nature of cancer.
Let’s get started!
Myth: Only women with a family history of breast cancer are at increased risk
Fact: The truth is that approximately 70% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no identifiable risk factors. But family-history risks cannot be avoided: For instance, if a first-degree relative (parent, sibling) has or had breast cancer, the chance of developing the disease doubles.
Myth: There is always a lump in breast cancer
Fact: Monitoring breasts for lump is certainly important. However, it is not the only symptom to look out for. In some cases, there may not be a detectable lump at all. Knowing other signs such as changes in the nipple (flatness or invertedness) or discoloration of breast would be beneficial in early detection of the disease.
Myth: Breast cancer occurs only in older women
Fact: It is a common perception that women in their 20s and 30s are less likely to get breast cancer. Any lump or a probable sign of breast cancer should not be ignored at any age. In fact, certain types of breast cancer in younger women can be worse than in older women.
Myth: Mastectomy is more effective than lumpectomy
Fact: Research has shown that in most cases, survival rates are the same for women who have their entire breast removed (mastectomy) and women who choose only a part of their breast to be removed (lumpectomy).
Myth: Abortion increases the risk of getting breast cancer
Fact: Though hormone fluctuation is a common feature in abortion and breast cancer, there is no conclusive evidence to suggest a link between both.
Myth: Breast cancer can be prevented
Fact: Regular screening can detect breast cancer at an early stage making paving the way for prompt treatment interventions. However, the fact that 70% of women have no identifiable risk factors implies that the disease occurs largely by chance and as-yet unexplained factors.
Myth: Men do not get breast cancer
Fact: Men can be affected with breast cancer. Though male breast cancer makes up less than 1% of all breast cancers, they carry a higher mortality rate than that of women primarily due to lack of awareness. It is usually detected as a hard-lump underneath the nipple.
Note: Please consult a medical professional or a trained nutritionist regarding specifics of your health and symptoms or before changing your diet or trying something new.
Disclaimer: Miyara Health does not undertake any financial/ reputational/ legal/ health related/misrepresentational impact or other obligations/ liabilities that may arise from the content.
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