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 gynecologist 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 of 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 from its fear.
What is Breast Cancer and what are the signs and symptoms?
Breast Cancer is a 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 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 hormone replacement therapy could suffer. Earlier, the cases of women above the age of 45 suffering from the disease were 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.
Our lifestyle has undergone a sea change today. With rising ambitions, women tend to postpone marriage and having children. This lack of childbearing and breastfeeding 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 for 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 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 excessive 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 discoloration 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 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 gives 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 advise you about the next step to follow, like getting an ultrasound 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 one’s 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 cannot be cancer, but any lump must not be ignored.
If there is a 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 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 bedtime 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.
Do read my blogger friend, Holly Jahangir’s comment below. She survived the Big C and has shared her experience with us.