Origin of Breast Cancer Awareness Month: If you’ve happened to notice an increase in pink merchandising from your favorite brands or stores, then we’ve probably hit the month of October which has been deemed breast cancer awareness month. We can thank, former first lady, Betty Ford who helped raise awareness after overcoming the disease herself. In 1985, the month was officially chosen after the American Cancer Society formed a partnership with The Pharmaceutical division of Imperial Chemical Industries.
What is Breast Cancer: The disease is caused by malignant (cancer) cells which form in the breast tissue. As cells grow within the tissues, sometimes they develop incorrectly and new cells, which the body doesn’t need, grow instead and old or damaged cells do not die as they should. This leads to what we call a lump, more formally known as a tumor - the buildup of those damaged cells. These cells then break away from the original tumor, enter blood vessels, and spread throughout the body. The next process, metastasis, begins as these cancer cells travel and damage other tissues and organs.
Breast cancer is the biggest threat to breast health and 1 out of 8 women will likely receive a breast cancer diagnosis in their life.
Breast Cancer for Males: Since the disease is simply attacking the breast tissue, males are still at risk of the disease. With this being said, male breast cancer is still rare with only 1 in 1,000 being diagnosed. However, the mortality rate for men is higher due to the lower awareness for men.
The majority of men diagnosed are over the age of 50.
The role of breast in reproductive health: For females, the breast is both functional for breastfeeding their newborns after birth. This is a decision you can choose to make but is the most recommended option. The many benefits of breastfeeding include decreasing infections by passing antibodies to your baby and reducing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, also known as SIDS. They also have a lower chance of developing conditions like diabetes, obesity, asthma, and ear infections.
Those who choose to breastfeed can also benefit from it. Some cases have shown breastfeeders returning to their pre-pregnancy weight faster. It can also help blood pressure issues, reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and reduce the risk of both breast and ovarian cancer.
Risk Factors for Breast Cancer: Though it is unknown why the cells become damaged, there are established risk factors associated with breast cancer. These all include:
- Gender - Breast cancer occurs nearly 100 more times for women than men
- Race - Breast cancer is diagnosed more often in Caucasian women than other races
- Age – Two out of three women are diagnosed with invasive cancer after the age of 55
- Family history of breast or ovarian cancer
- Radiation the chest
- Combined Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
If you’d like to know more about the risk factors, click here!
Early Detection: If breast cancer is detected early and is in the localized stage, the 5-year relative survival rate is 99%. Early detection includes doing monthly breast self-exams and scheduling regular clinical breast exams and mammograms. Doctors recommended women of all ages perform breast self-exams at least once a month. For information on how to properly perform an at-home breast exam, click here!
Many signs of breast cancer are indivisible or go unnoticed without a professional screening, but some can be caught early.
Symptoms of Breast Cancer:
- A change in how the breast or nipple Looks or Feels.
- Tenderness around the nipples.
- A change in skin texture of enlargement of pores in the skin of the breast.
- A lump in the breasts. (Important reminder that all lumps should be checked, but not all lumps are cancerous.)
- Any nipple discharge – Particularly clear discharge or bloody discharge
- Unexplained Swelling in the breast
- Unexplained Shrinking in the breast
- Recent changes in breast symmetry. Breast can be naturally asymmetrical but if there are recent changes in size differences, seek medical attention.
- The nipple is turned slightly inward or inverted
- The skin of the breast, areola, or nipple that becomes scaly, red, or swollen or may have ridges or pitting resembling the skin of an orange
Treatments for Breast Cancer:
- Surgeries such as lumpectomies, partial mastectomy, radical mastectomy, and reconstruction
- Radiation therapy, which uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells.
- Hormone Therapy
- Chemotherapy, which destroys cancer cells or slows down the growth of new cancer cells.
- Therapies that target the affected area
- Maintaining good physical health, wellness, and nutrition
If you’d like to know more about the ins and outs of breast cancer, visit the National Breast Cancer Foundation, INC.