October is commemorated as breast cancer awareness month worldwide. Itr is the most common cancer in urban women. One in seven women are likely to develop the disease in US. With changes in lifestyle, the incidence of breast cancer is increasing very rapidly in developing countries. For example, about one lakh women are detected in India (one in twenty eight). Number of cases cases are expected to double by 2025. However awareness and early detection can help fight the fatal disease because detection in stage one has about 90% chances of cure while in stage three there are minimal chances of cure. Therefore when it comes to breast cancer, awareness is the key.
AGE : About 80% cases are found in women over 50 years of age. Therefore risk of having the disease increases with age. However the risk of disease is increasing in 30s and 40s also. Women who are 40 years or older should get themselves screened once a year and women in 20s and 30s should get themselves screened every three years. FAMILY HISTORY : Women who have family history (mother, sister, daughter,etc) of breast cancer has higher risk of developing the disease especially at a young age (below 40 years). PERSONAL HISTORY : Breast cancer in one breast increases the risk of developing the disease in other breast. CHILDBEARING : Older a woman while having first child, higher is the risk of the disease. Risk is also higher to women who never had children. MENSTRUAL CYCLE : Women who menstruate early (before 12 years) or have menopause late (after 55 years) are at higher risk.
Women should learn to do self examination of the breast because it increases the chances of early detection of the disease. About 40% of cases are detected by women who feel the lump. It underlines the importance of awareness and self examination.
How to do breast self examination?
In the shower : Use pads of your finger and move from outside of the breast to inside in a circular pattern and check entire breast including armpit region. Check for any lumps, hardened knots or thickenings. Do this examination once a month. In front of mirror :
(i) Observe and visually inspect your breasts first with arms on your sides and then arms raised overhead. Look for any swelling, changes in contour, changes in nipple or dimpling of skin.
(ii) Place your palm on your hips and flex your chest muscle. Look for signs of dimpling, puckering or changes in nipple,etc.
3. Lying down : Lie down, put a pillow under right shoulder and place your right arm behind your head. Using light, medium and firm pressure, move pads of fingers of left hand in circular fashion around right breast and cover the entire breast and armpit. Look for any lump, knot or swelling. Also squeeze the nipple to check for any discharge. Repeat the procedure for the left breast.
If you find a lump or any other sign, consult a doctor and get yourself screened. Do not panic because 8 out of 10 lumps are not cancerous. Women should do breast self examination once a month. The best time to do breast self examination is about a week after your period starts. Early detection is the key for the treatment of breast cancer. It can happen to anyone so don't feel shy to talk about it. Also share the information among your friends and loved ones so that they remain secure from the risks of breast cancer.
Pink ribbon is the international symbol of breast cancer awareness. So the message is – Think Pink and Go Pink.