We Know: All About Breast Cancer

What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer occurs when abnormal cells begin to grow uncontrollably in the breast, forming a malignant tumor.

What are the risk factors of breast cancer?

A combination of lifestyle and heredity make up 10% of breast cancers with known causes. The remaining 90% appear for apparently no reason. However, the risk factors that can increase the likelihood of developing breast cancer with a known cause include:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes.
  • Women who have taken hormone replacement therapy.
  • Women who began menstruating before 12 years of age.
  • Women who experience menopause after 50.
  • Consuming a diet that's high in fat.
  • Consuming more than two alcoholic beverages a day.

What are the warning signs of breast cancer?

Breast cancer can make itself known in your body in several ways. Paying attention to the warning signs can save your life.

  • Lump in the breast.
  • Change in shape of the breast.
  • Nipple discharge.
  • Inverted nipples.
  • Ridges on the breast that appear like an orange peel.
  • An increased prominence in the veins of one breast over the other.

How can breast cancer be detected?

A self-exam should be performed once a month to look for any changes in the breasts or lumps. Mammograms should be given yearly to women over 40. These ensure early detection of any abnormalities, meaning a much higher survival rate.

How can I perform a self breast exam?

The best time to perform a breast self-exam is the week following your period on a monthly basis. Start by standing in front of a mirror. Do you notice any discoloration, bulges or indentations of the skin? Repeat this visual exam while placing your arms above your head, bending over and placing your hands on your hips. Next, begin the physical exam. Place one arm above your head and use the other examine the opposite breast. Using the pads of your fingers, make rows from the top to the bottom of the breast, making sure to maintain a steady pressure and contact with skin at all times. Repeat on your other breast.

What are the treatment options for breast cancer patients?

There are typically three types of treatment options for people diagnosed with breast cancer including surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. These treatments may be used alone or in combination for optimal results.

  • Surgery: Depending upon the size of the mass, either a lumpectomy, a procedure involving the removal of the tumor and its surrounding tissues will be performed, or a mastectomy, which is the removal of the entire breast.
  • Radiation: This form of treatment involves being placed under a machine that directs high energy rays at the tumor to ensure the cancer cells die.
  • Chemotherapy: This treatment involves the patient taking drugs intravenously, orally or through injection. The medicines kill cells that replicate quickly, which of course gets rid of the cancer cells, but can also kill healthy cells, explaining hair loss and a general ill feeling.

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