The month of October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and in the true significance of this month - let us learn a little bit about Breast Cancer.
For us to understand Breast Cancer, it is first important to know what a Breast actually is and what it is comprised of.
If we have a look at this diagram, it is easily visualized that the breast isn’t just a lump of fat on the chest. It has many components and parts and is actually a really complex part of the body. The ‘lobules’ are the part that produce milk and the rest of the parts are structural support. And you can even see that the pectoral muscle or the ‘pecs’ as we know them, are right behind the breast followed by the ribcage. There are also lymph nodes, which basically drain fluid out of the breast, but they’re closely connected to the blood supply. So overall, breasts are a very important part of the body - visually, and functionally when it comes to lactation and such. What is important to know that breast cancer can start in every single part of the breast that’s labeled here, so when doing a breast exam it is important to examine every part of the breast.
It is said time and again by many reports and statistics that breast cancer is one of the top killers amongst cancers, and is the number one cancer seen in women around the globe. But it is necessary to remember the difference between a cancer vs a benign tumor. Sometimes, one can feel a lump during a breast examination and it could be just a lump that needs some medications or a small surgery to remove it and voila! It is gone! In that case, it is a benign tumor. But if it is not, then it might spread around - in that case one would need more severe treatment options like chemotherapy. To determine whether the lump is cancerous or not, the doctor will perform a biopsy, where a wee bit of the tumor is taken out using a syringe and tested in a lab to determine its nature.
Now, before all of these major measures are taken - it is a great initiative to do a Self Breast Examination. Here are some instructions on how to do it by www.breastcancer.org - https://www.breastcancer.org/screening-testing/breast-self-exam-bse
Make sure to do it in a well-lit room, and to do it a few days after your period. Pair these along with doctor visits, and you’re good to go!
- After the age of 25, it is important to focus on breast health. So it is good to have regular physical examinations with your doctor.
- After 35, a mammogram can be done along with a professional breast exam by a doctor.
- After the age of 40 - an annual mammogram with a clinical exam is important and should be done without fail.
- Now, if there is family history of breast cancer, or even other types of cancer like uterine or ovarian - annual mammograms should be done right after 35.
- And if any point you find a lump, it is good to go to a doctor and get a professional opinion to be safe.
Now, another very important point is that 0.5-1% of all breast cancer cases are actually seen in men, so if there is a visible lump or if you know any man with a bigger chest, kindly urge them to also do a self examination every now and then just to be safe - it is rare but not impossible.
At the end of the day, there is plenty of research, new medications and treatment protocols being found for breast cancer - but the real awareness starts with us in our homes. Being self-aware, doing regular self-examinations, wearing comfortable underwear, eating healthy - all these things can prevent the occurence of breast cancer and nip it in the bud, and bring the gargantuan statistics down. Stay safe, and stay informed!