Beyond the pink ribbons, October is marked as the Breast Cancer Awareness Month for more than 30 years. Statistics reveal that breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among Malaysian women -1 in 30 will be diagnosed in their lifetime! Yet, a majority of women do not routinely check their breasts for abnormalities, or go for annual screenings, even after the age of 40.
What is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells/growth form in the tissues of the breast. Cancer occurs as a result of mutations, or abnormal changes, in the genes.
What Is A Tumor?
A tumor is a mass of abnormal tissue. There are two types of breast cancer tumors: non-cancerous (benign) tumor and cancerous (malignant) tumor.
When a tumor is diagnosed as benign, doctors will usually leave it alone rather than remove it. Unless, the tumors continue to grow, pressing on organs and causing pain or other problems; in these situations, the tumor is removed.
Malignant tumors are cancerous and may eventually cause death. They are very aggressive as they invade and damage surrounding tissue or spread to other parts of the body. When a tumor is suspected to be malignant, the doctors will perform a biopsy to determine the severity of the tumor and will suggest suitable treatment.
What are the Symptoms?
Breast cancer symptoms vary widely – from lumps to swelling skin changes, and some may not have obvious symptoms at all. It is important to have anything unusual checked by your doctor. Some common symptoms of breast cancer include:
- Skin changes, such as swelling of all or part of the breast
- Skin irritation
- Changes in size or shape of the breast(s)
- Changes in the appearance of one or both nipples
- Breast or nipple pain
- Redness, peeling or flaking of the nipple skin
- A breast lump or thickening
- A lump in the underarm area
Any of these symptoms are alarming and should immediately pay a visit to your doctor for a checkup.
Screening and Testing
Breast self-exam (BSE) should be part of your monthly health care routine, and you should visit your doctor if you experience breast changes.
Annual screening tests should be done through a mammogram or ultrasound scan and a blood test for cancer marker.
If you are suspected to have breast cancer, your doctor will further conduct a diagnostic test (such as biopsy). Once breast cancer is diagnosed, many tests are used during and after treatment to monitor how well therapies are working.
Prevention is better than cure! Eating a healthy balanced diet, practice an active lifestyle and increase the quality of life helps to reduce the risk of cancer. In the next article, we will be talking about foods to eat for healthy breasts.
Early detection is as important as prevention, the earlier you catch it, the better to increase survival rate!
Written by: Jasmine Lim
(Love Earth Nutritionist)