“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. So the only thing to really be afraid of is if you don’t go get your mammograms.”
– Cynthia Nixon
Breast cancer affects millions of men and women all over the world irrelevant of their race or color. Contrary to common belief, it occurs in both genders, however, it is the most common type of cancer amongst women after skin cancer. Approximately 1 in 8 women suffer from breast cancer and 1 in 39 die of it. The survival rate is expressed in the terms of five or ten years. A 90 percent five-year survival rate means that 90 out of 100 people who have been diagnosed with breast cancer are likely to stay alive five years after their diagnosis. World Health Organization (WHO) has declared October as The Breast Cancer Awareness Month. However, in my opinion, this condition needs attention and awareness all through the year.
What is Breast Cancer?
It is a pathological condition, which is marked by abnormal cellular growth in the breast tissue. There are different types of breast cancers and each type depends upon the type of cells in the breast that turn into cancer.
Breast cancer can occur in different parts of the breast such as ducts, lobules and connective tissue. If it stays localized to the breast, it is benign and less harmful. However, in some cases it can spread to outside of the breast through blood vessels and lymph vessels. In this situation, it is said to be metastasized and is more dangerous. Therefore, it is necessary to get a routine checkup and mammograms.
Signs and Symptoms
Some of the common signs and symptoms observed in breast cancer patients include:
• A lump or swelling in the breast, upper chest or armpit (you will most probably feel the lump but not see it)
• A change in skin of the breast region, such as puckering or dimpling
• A visible change in the color of the breast (the breast may look red or inflamed)
• A change in the nipples, for example they might become pulled in or inverted
• Visible rash or crusting around the nipple
• Any unusual liquid/discharge from one or both nipples
• Changes in the shape or size of the breast
How to Check Lumps?
Touch the breasts to feel anything unusual such as a swelling or lump. Look for changes to see if there is anything different such as changes in shape, size, color and/or texture. Consult with a specialist and repeat this process regularly.
There is no sure way to prevent breast cancer. However, there are things that you can do to lower your risk of breast cancer. This is most importantly helpful for those women who have certain risk factors for breast cancer, for example, having a strong family history or certain gene changes. Risk factors can include family history, genetic changes, aging or certain environmental influences that can increase the chance of the disease. Having a risk factor does not imply that you will surely get the disease. You can adopt certain measures to control these factors.
• Keep your weight in check. Putting on excessive weight can increase the chance of breast cancer, especially in post-menopausal women.
• Always be physically active. The risk of breast cancer lowers if you are involved in some kind of physical activity every day for at least 30 minutes, such as exercising, brisk walking, jogging or dancing.
• Limit hormone therapy, especially after menopause. Post-menopausal hormones have both risks and benefits. While being useful in treating some conditions, they can increase the risk of other diseases as well. Therefore, take them for the shortest time possible and consult your doctor before going for a hormone therapy.
• Adopt breast-feeding instead of other options when it comes to feeding your child. Breast-feed for at least more than a year because it plays a role in protection from breast cancer.
• There are evidences that birth control pills can increase the risk of breast cancer, however, the risk is very small and diminishes if you stop using them.
• Avoid smoking, consuming added sugar, fat, red meat and processed foods.
• Find out your family history and go for checkups regularly.
• Most importantly, get your mammogram yearly from the age of 45 until the age of 54 and then continue every two years.
Dietary Choices for Prevention of Breast Cancer
“Let food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food.” — Hippocrates
Different kinds of foods can play a huge role in lowering the risk of breast cancer, especially those rich in antioxidants. No single food can completely prevent breast cancer but it can help in reducing the risk to some extent.
• Dark, green, leafy vegetables, such as kale and broccoli
• Fruits, especially berries and peaches
• Beans, pulses, fish, eggs and some meat
• Food containing dietary fiber and antioxidants, such a whole grains and legumes
• Foods containing polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, such as avocados, seeds, nuts and olive oil
• Cold water fish, such as salmon and herring containing omega-3 polyunsaturated fat HH
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