Most of us get tense when we hear the big C(ancer) word, others don’t speak about it at all and some become activists by creating awareness of this disease after losing someone close to them. We’re here to tell you that wherever you fall on this spectrum, it’s important to understand the hype around breast Cancer.
Why have a whole month dedicated to this disease? Well, we’ve done some research and it shows that breast Cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide, with nearly 1.7 million new cases diagnosed, according to research done in 2012. This is why we’re saying it’s important to take control and educate yourself on everything you need to know about breast cancer, including getting intimate with your breasts and performing regular breast examinations – which could lead to early detection of breast Cancer and makes all the difference.
Let’s get to the basics, shall we?
While breast cancer affects anyone with breasts (so, everyone), no form of breast Cancer is the same. Some forms are particularly aggressive towards the beginning and cannot be treated while others are also aggressive from the beginning but can be treated. So, it’s important to note that one person’s Cancer journey cannot be compared to another’s, as breast Cancer manifests itself differently in different people based on genetics. Doctor’s usually classify these differences in stages of the Cancer’s aggression.
However, when it comes to the causes of breast Cancer, it’s important to know that it lays dormant in everyone’s blood and things in your life, environment or diet can ‘activate’ Cancer. Some of these causes are:
- Getting older.The risk for breast cancer increases with age; most breast cancers are diagnosed after age 50.
- Genetic mutations.If anyone in your immediate family has had Cancer, specifically breast Cancer – it can be detected with a blood test that tests for the, BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Women who test positively for one or both of these gene changes are at higher risk for breast and ovarian cancer. Knowing if you have any or both of these genes will allow you to make the decision whether to remove the area where breast Cancer could possibly develop with a mastectomy or double mastectomy, which could reduce breast Cancer from developing later in life.
- Early menstrual period.Women who start their periods before age 12 are exposed to hormones longer, raising the risk for breast cancer by a small amount.
- Late or no pregnancy.Having the first pregnancy after age 30 and never having a full-term pregnancy can raise breast cancer risk.
- Starting menopause after age 55.Like starting one’s period early, being exposed to estrogen hormones for a longer time later in life also raises the risk of breast cancer.
- Not being physically active.Women who are not physically active have a higher risk of getting breast cancer.
- Being overweight or obese after menopause.Older women who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of getting breast cancer than those at a normal weight.
- Having dense breasts.Dense breasts have more connective tissue than fatty tissue, which can sometimes make it hard to see tumors on a mammogram. Women with dense breasts are more likely to get breast cancer.
- Personal history of breast cancer.Women who have previously had breast cancer are more likely to get breast cancer a second time.
- Family history of breast cancer.A woman’s risk for breast cancer is higher if she has a mother, sister, or daughter (first-degree relative) or multiple family members on either her mother’s or father’s side of the family who have had breast cancer. Having a first-degree male relative with breast cancer also raises a woman’s risk.
- Previous treatment using radiation therapy.Women who have had radiation therapy to the chest or breasts before age 30 have a higher risk of getting breast cancer later in life.
- Regular exposure to toxic chemicals: Working with chemicals and radiation daily could raise a woman’s risk of getting breast or ovarian cancer.
The next thing we’ve heard being associated with breast Cancer is, ‘mammogram.’ But, what is it and who can go for one?
A mammogram is a screening test. A mammogram checks for breast Cancer and any other irregularities with the breast and breast tissue. If you’re a woman aged 40 or older, or a woman of high risk – which means you are in remission after being diagnosed with Cancer (A.K.A a breast Cancer survivor) a mammogram needs to be done annually. Research shows that mammograms for women under 40 years old are not usually recommended because breast tissue tends to be denser in young women, making mammograms less effective as a screening tool. However, this does not mean younger women cannot get breast Cancer or test for it at all – you can definitely do a self-examination of your breasts if you feel something is not as it should be, or speak to a doctor or two who can recommend whether you need to go for a mammogram or not.
If you’re thinking – “How do I do a self-exam on my breasts?” – It only takes 5 minutes to do daily, weekly or monthly. If something does feel wrong, you will know early enough that you need to see a doctor immediately. This timeliness could help treat the breast Cancer and stop it from spreading to other parts of the body. Let’s get to it…
5 Steps to a breast self-exam:
Remember that self-care is important, ladies! Delaying doctor’s appointments and leaving unusual bumps untreated until they ‘go away’ isn’t always the best thing to do when it comes to a pain or lump in your breasts (or anywhere else).
Here’s to all of you who have breast Cancer, those who have won the battle against Cancer and are now in remission, those with mastectomies and those who have lost the battle. We celebrate and remember you all this month – your fighting spirits give us strength. ✊💕
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