Dealing with Breast Cancer; Early Detection and Management
Breast cancer is cancer that forms in the cells of the breasts, and it is the most common cancer diagnosed in women. Breast cancer can occur in both men and women, but it’s more prevalent in women.
It has impacted over 2.1 million women each year and also causes the highest number of cancer-related deaths among women. In 2018, it is estimated that 627,000 women died from breast cancer – that is about 15% of all cancer deaths among women.
Detecting breast cancer at its early stage is the most important strategies to avert deaths from breast cancer.
When diagnosed early, when it’s small and has not spread, is easier to treat successfully.
Early diagnosis strategies centre on providing timely access to cancer treatment by subduing barriers to care and/or improving access to effective diagnosis services. Also, regular screening for breast cancer is one of the most reliable ways to find breast cancer early.
What are the screening tests?
The earlier breast cancer gets diagnosed, the better your odds of getting successful treatment. The goal of screening tests for breast cancer is to find it before its present symptoms. Screening refers to tests and exams used to find a disease in people who don’t have any symptoms.
Different methods have been assessed as breast cancer screening tools, including mammography, clinical breast exam and breast self-exam.
Mammography uses low-energy X-rays to identify abnormalities in the breast. A mammogram can show breast lumps up to 2 years ere they can be felt. Different tests help determine if a lump may be cancer, and It has been shown to reduce breast cancer mortality by approximately 20% in high-resource settings according to WHO
World Health Organization position paper on mammography screening inferred that in a well-resourced setting, women aged 50-69 should undergo organized, population-based mammography screening if pre-specified conditions on programme implementation are met.
But in limited-resource settings with weak health systems, mammography is not cost-effective, and early detection should focus on reducing stage at diagnosis through improved awareness. For women aged 40-49 years or 70-75 years, WHO recommends systematic mammography screening in women aged 40-49 years or 70-75 years only in the context of rigorous research and in well-resourced settings.
Clinical Breast Exam (CBE): is an examination of both breasts performed by a professional. CBE looks to be an assuring approach for low resource settings and could be implemented depending on the confirmation from open-ended studies.
Because screening requires ample finance and carries significant likely personal and financial costs, the decision to proceed with screening should be pursued only after (a) basic breast health services including effective diagnosis and timely treatment are available to an entire target group; (b) its effectiveness has been confirmed in the region, and (c) resources are available to support the programme and maintain quality.
It’s a good sense to know how your breasts normally look and feel so you can notice any changes. Your spouse can also regularly help with this. Although the American Cancer Society said there hasn’t been a clear benefit of performing regular breast self-exams. It’s always good to talk to a doctor to know what’s right for you.
A risk factor is anything that makes it more likely to get breast cancer. But having one or even several breast cancer risk factors doesn’t surely mean the person can develop breast cancer. Many women who develop breast cancer have no known risk factors other than simply being women.
Some risk factor includes;
A personal history of breast conditions. If you’ve had a breast biopsy that found lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) or atypical hyperplasia of the breast, you have a high risk of breast cancer.
A personal history of breast cancer. If you’ve had breast cancer in one breast, you have an increased risk of developing cancer in the other breast.
A family history of breast cancer. If your mother, sister or daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer, particularly at a tender age, your risk of breast cancer is increased. Still, the majority of people diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease.
Inherited genes that increase cancer risk. Certain gene mutations that increase the risk of breast cancer can be passed from parents to children. The most well-known gene mutations are referred to as BRCA1 and BRCA2. These genes can greatly increase your risk of breast cancer and other cancers, but they don’t make cancer inevitable.
Radiation exposure. If you received radiation treatments to your chest as a child or young adult, your risk of breast cancer is increased.
Symptoms of Breast Cancer
Signs and symptoms of breast cancer may include:
- A breast lump or thickening that feels different from the surrounding tissue
- Change in the size, shape or appearance of a breast
- Changes to the skin over the breast, such as dimpling
- A newly inverted nipple
- Peeling, scaling, crusting or flaking of the pigmented area of skin surrounding the nipple (areola) or breast skin
- Redness or pitting of the skin over your breast, like the skin of an orange
When to see a doctor
If you notice changes in beast sizes, or a lump or any other change in your breast make an appointment with your doctor for prompt evaluation.
Living & Managing Breast Cancer
If the tests find cancer, you and your doctor will need to develop a treatment plan to eradicate the breast cancer in other to reduce the chance of cancer returning, as well as to reduce the chance of cancer moving to another spot outside of the breast.
Fighting Cancer-Related Fatigue
You’re likely to have some fatigue while you’re getting treated for breast cancer. That’s one of the most common side effects of the disease and treatments for it.
After breast cancer treatment, follow-up care is a must.
Nutrition and Exercise
Regardless of the type of breast cancer treatment you are receiving, this is a time to take care of yourself by eating right, getting enough rest, and, if possible, exercising.
Tips for Family and Friends
Do you have a friend or relative with breast cancer? Here are tips for supporting her.
It can be scary to learn that someone you care about has breast cancer. You might feel sad or worried and wonder how you can help her get through it.
- Be prepared for changes in their behaviour and mood.
- Encourage them to be productive
- Ask other family members and friends to pitch in. They can bring meals, or offer rides to doctor’s appointments sometimes.
- Try to keep a positive attitude around them always.