Dr Nisma Haris
Breast cancer is on the rise globally and access to the right information and awareness relating to it can serve immensely towards its prevention and management strategies. We need to know what are the causative factors and how we can control them along with the non-controllable factors and the warning signs so that early access to a healthcare facility can be made and a good prognosis can be inferred and henceforth lives can be saved.
Before anything else, breast cancer is a disease in which cells within the breast grow abnormally and multiply to form a tumour (swelling or a lump). As per CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), studies have shown that a combination of factors puts one at a greater risk for developing breast cancer.
The causative factors which are under our control and can be avoided include being physically inactive, overweight or obese particularly after attaining menopause, prolonged hormonal therapy (for years), delayed first pregnancy (after 30 years), and non-breastfeeding. Whereas certain factors are not under our control such as ageing, gender, family history or personal history of breast cancer, faulty genes, longer reproductive age (early menarche and late menopause), or exposure to radiation therapy in response to some other forms of cancers.
The alarming signs may vary from person to person and they may range from discomfort or pain in the armpit, swelling or lump in any part of the breast, any irritation or changes in skin colour, dimpling or changes in skin texture of breast (scaly appearance or like an orange peel), changes in shape and size of the breast, to any sort of fluid discharge from the nipple. It is notable here that these symptoms may occur with any other medical condition other than cancer. Yet, sometimes there are no symptoms at all, and breast cancer is found at screening mammograms (Mammogram is a kind of breast X-Ray).
Bursting certain myths is equally significant at this juncture that breast cancer is not just confined to women. It can happen to men too. Although elderly women are more vulnerable; this does not guarantee that it cannot happen in young women. Moreover, awareness cannot be a substitute for regular mammography screenings.
Thereby, all we need to do is be more breast aware and regularly look for any unusual changes in the breast region. Don’t hesitate to speak to your physician or gynaecologist for any doubts or guidance. Get the mammography screening as recommended (every 2 years). As there are various types and subtypes of breast cancer, treatment plan varies from individual to individual and is supervised by a panel of experts.
Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy and precision medicine are the available treatment plans that are advocated depending on the type, location, grade and stage of cancer.
Remember early detection is the key to survival. Share and spread the word with family, friends and acquaintances so that we can shelter lives and families.
The author is a general physician, content Creator, health and wellness adviser based in Salalah.
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