Raising awareness about breast cancer.

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October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Knowing the fear that is associated with the disease, I thought of doing this post with help from my gynaecologist friend instead of just Googling the information.

It is a sad state, indeed, as most of us today depend upon Google to supply us information about illnesses, diseases and their cures least aware about how misleading it really is. Asking a trusted medical practitioner for guidance will, actually, save us a lot of stress and confusion. Hence, I turned to my friend for details about this disease.

Breast cancer cases have increased over the years and so has the fear revolving around it. Breast Cancer Awareness is an effort to not only raise awareness about the disease, but also educate women about how they can help themselves with better information and the care they can take in order to lead healthier lives.

This is a general post but with a lot of input and helpful advice given by my friend for us women in the hope of clearing the notions about the disease and help drive away its fear.

What is Breast Cancer and what are the signs and symptoms?

Breast Cancer is the cancer that develops from the tissues of the breast.

The main signs of breast cancer are lumps in the breast, change in the shape of the breast, depression in the skin on the breast, unusual fluid discharge from the nipple, an inverted nipple or a patch on the skin.

A change in the appearance of your breast needs to be given due attention

Who is at a greater risk?

Women who have a family history of breast cancer are at a greater risk of this disease. Women who may have suffered from the disease could also fall victim to it because of its recurrence.

Other than these, typically women over the age of 45, especially those who have had late pregnancies or no pregnancies and also those who have undergone hormonal replacement therapy could suffer. Earlier, the cases of women above the age of 45 suffering from the disease was normal, albeit a rarity, but today, due to the change in our lifestyle as well as late marriages and later pregnancies, the age at risk has come down to 30-35 years.

Changing lifestyle:

Our lifestyle has undergone a sea change today. With rising ambitions, women tend to postpone marriage and having children. This lack of childbearing and breast feeding can increase the risk of breast cancer. Also, consumption of alcohol and smoking among women has risen thanks to a modern mindset. This utter disregard to one’s health can increase the risk of not just breast cancer but other diseases, too.

Usage of pills to postpone or stop your periods also exposes your body to hormonal changes that result in hormonal exposure that may show its effects at a later stage.

Workaholics, who tend to place their career before everything else, often put in extra hours, especially at night. And, what my friend told me about this trend was rather disturbing. Our hormones that work during the day are different from those that work during the night and due to this change in our daily schedules, there occurs a hormonal imbalance. This, too, puts people at a risk of not just breast cancer, but also other lifestyle diseases.

Genetics play a huge role in cancer and hence, those with a family history are at a greater risk.

Self-help is the first step:

Self-examination is the first step in staying aware of any changes occurring within our bodies as we know our bodies better! Regular examination of your breast to see if you find any changes in your breast size or the nipple, or if you feel something that resembles a lump could help you act faster.

However, one also needs to know that if you experience pain in your breast, it could be as a result of PMS, or excess exercising or doing an activity your body isn’t used to on an everyday basis.

How to examine your breast:

Early detection through self-examination always helps. A monthly self-examination will, thus, inform you better about any changes than going in for clinical tests.

Stand in front of the mirror and observe your breasts for any outward signs of change. Check if they appear the same size, or if there is any discolouration or patches that weren’t present earlier.

Next, use your palm (and not fingers) to palpate your breast to feel for any lumps underneath. This examination by touch will tell you if there is any abnormality within.

Is mammography really needed?

We come across a lot of advertisements about breast cancer awareness and how we need to get a mammogram done on a regular basis to make sure we are safe. Following these adverts, and going in for mammograms can lead to more heartache and stress.

Mammograms come at a later stage, that is, only if and when you do come across a lump while self-examination. It’s a clinical advice given by the concerned medical practitioner after checking the patient. Therefore, it helps if you trust yourself and not get carried away by all that you read.

Mammography is not recommended for anybody and everybody. it is used to rule out any malignancy. There are new imaging techniques apart from mammography that give you a hint if you require to be monitored or not.

So, do not fall for all such ads from corporate hospitals. These only cause a lot of stress even if there is really no reason to worry. And, if while self-examination, you do come across some lumps, visit your gynaecologist who will examine you further and then advice you about the next step to follow, like getting an ultra sound done.

Ask questions to your doctor and clarify your doubts if mammography is really going to benefit you.

The fear revolving around breast cancer:

Breast cancer is something that people fear. The disfigurement that it causes if one has to get a breast removed, or even a part of the breast removed, can lead to trauma. The change in one’s appearance and how it changes ones attitude towards oneself can often lead to depression.

Confiding in your partner and family helps a great deal as that gives you the emotional support you require during such a crisis.

Do not be obsessed that even a slight pain in the breast is going to be cancer if you do not belong to the high risk group.

Remember, every lump can not be cancer, but any lump must not be ignored.

If there is pain, it is infected, and if there is no pain, it can be malignant, but not always.

How you can help yourself stay healthy:

Reduce mental stress, and make your life simpler. Let go of all that clutters your life, as in activities that demand a lot of your time and attention leaving you with no time for relaxation. Remember, not everything is really worth it. Respect your time and also your health.

Follow a fitness regimen as well as a healthy and a balanced diet on an everyday basis. Lack of exercise can lead to a lot of health problems–a fact that is known by all, but not taken seriously.

Follow a daily schedule that gives you enough time to rest at night. Try and complete all your tasks before your bed time so that you get the necessary 7 hours of undisturbed , peaceful sleep.

Do follow the self-examination technique regularly and stay aware of any changes occurring in your body.

I hope this post was helpful to you all. If you have had a family member or friends who might have been victims of this disease, do share their experiences and any advice that could be of help to everyone. It will go a long way in creating awareness and staying healthy and safe.

Love,

SHILPA…

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16 Replies to “Raising awareness about breast cancer.”

  1. Good info, Shilpa, and good of you not to rely on Google alone, but on an actual doctor’s advice!

    A couple of points I’d like to add:

    – Pain is not a likely sign of breast cancer (more likely to be an infection, clogged milk duct, or benign cyst – all treatable, so don’t delay being seen!)

    – Glad you mentioned “unusual discharge” (milky, pink, or bloody) and not just “lumps.” I have had breast cancer (DCIS) and a bilateral mastectomy. Pain and lumps were a symptom of benign cysts, for years, before cancer came into the picture; the discharge was a symptom of the cancer.

    – Men also get breast cancer; this is maybe something that needs increased awareness and removal of stigma (yes, men, you, too, have “breasts” – you’re mammals, get ’em checked)

    – re: hormonal birth control – https://www.breastcancer.org/research-news/do-hormonal-contraceptives-increase-risk – studies have not shown an alarming increase in the number of breast cancer cases (it’s a weak link) and there may be a corresponding decrease in other types of cancer (e.g., colorectal). I wouldn’t ditch the birth control if you’re not ready to have children!

    – sleep is important to health, period. Two of the biggest risks of not getting enough sleep: drowsy driving may be MORE dangerous, even, than drunk driving; and, it definitely leads to weight gain (or greater difficulty in losing weight) and an increase in cortisol levels (as does undue stress).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. First of all, hugs, Holly! It must have been so frightening for you! I hope you are better now and there is no need to fear.

      Thank you so much for the information you have given here. It is really much needed as not most of us are aware about the complications that give rise to the disease.

      True, the way we abuse our bodies, give it hardly any rest that it so needs…

      I so agree with the lack of sleep and too much of stress that can lead to a number of other illnesses and diseases. I just wish we took better care of ourselves.

      I think I will add this information that you have given to my post. The readers do need to read it!

      Thank you! ❤

      Like

  2. This is a very useful article, Shilpa. There is so much confusion about breast cancer these days and it always helps to have first-hand tips and advice from a doctor who knows what is best for us. I like your pointers! Good, you mentioned about pain too, as that is also something that afflicts a lot of women. Unfortunately, Google almost always gets away with scaring us because we rely far too much on it than actually consulting a doctor and go for a check up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes, Esha. I have made mistakes countless times depending upon Google…That’s why I thought it better to ask the right person.
      The disease is scary, no doubt, but it is better to be aware about it and not unnecessarily frighten ourselves.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for this post, Shilpa. Just last year, I had a scare, my breasts were hurting even outside my cycle. Scared I went to the doctor and then got a mammogram done. Turned out I had vitamin E deficiency, however, I still cannot forget the fear I had till I got the scan done. So yes, it is something we should not take lightly. Being aware always helps.

    Liked by 1 person

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