October turns pink to increase awareness of the importance of breast cancer early detection, treatment, and palliative care. This disease is the main cause of death among women.
In 1988, the WHO (the World Health Organization) designated October 19th as the International Day Against Breast Cancer. Much is said about preventive medicine and self-care, and perhaps this is one of the first things that women should put into practice.
As with most diseases, prevention and early detection are vital to accessing timely treatment; therefore, it’s important to get the opinion an of a specialist in the field, in addition to using the resources at your fingertips to learn more. According to WHO studies, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer of all and the leading cause of death for women. Almost one in 12 women will get breast cancer in her lifetime. In 2020 alone, 2.2 million cases were recorded and around 685,000 women died as a result of the disease.
What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer mainly affects women over 40 years of age and occurs when cells in the breast grow abnormally and divide rapidly, forming a lump or tumor. Over time, this cancer can progress and invade the surrounding breast tissue (invasive breast cancer) and then spread to nearby lymph nodes (regional metastasis) or to other organs in the body (distant metastasis).
Breast cancer risk factors:
- Being a woman over 40 years of age.
- Breast cancer is extremely rare in men; it is estimated that 2% of patients with this type of cancer are men with family history with breast, ovarian or prostate cancer.
- Not having children; breast cancer is sensitive to estrogens and progesterone, hormones that the ovaries stop producing during pregnancy.
- Breast cancer in women under 40 is linked to hereditary factors such as family members with a history of breast or ovarian cancer.
- Beginning menstruation at an early age (before age 12).
- Beginning menopause at an advanced age.
- Taking hormonal contraceptives for more than 7 years.
- Doing hormone therapy after menopause.
Behaviors that lower the risk of breast cancer include the following:
- Prolonged breastfeeding
- Regular physical exercise
- Weight control
- Reducing the harmful use of alcohol
- Avoiding exposure to tobacco smoke
- Refusing the long-term use of hormones.
- Avoiding excessive radiation exposure
Early detection is vital for this disease. Currently, there are a few ways that this condition can be detected early:
- Self-examination: Starting at the age of 20, women can self-examine their breasts and identify any abnormality in the shape, size and color.
- Medical tests: mammography and breast ultrasounds help detect precancerous lesions or early breast cancer when a tumor cannot yet be felt. These studies must be carried out annually starting at 40 years of age.
Signs and symptoms
Breast cancer most often presents as a painless lump or thickening in the breast. It is important that women who detect abnormal swelling in the breast see a health professional within 1-2 months even if they do not feel any pain associated with the nodule.
Generally, the symptoms of breast cancer are as follows:
- A lump or thickening in the breast.
- The alteration in the size, shape or appearance of a breast.
- The appearance of dimples, redness, cracks, or other alteration to the skin.
- The change in appearance of the nipple or the alteration in the surrounding skin (areola).
- Abnormal discharge from the nipple.
Treatment of breast cancer can be very effective, particularly when the disease is caught early. Treatment often consists of a combination of surgical removal, radiation therapy, and medication (hormone therapy, chemotherapy, and / or targeted biological therapy). All this depends, of course, on the clinical stage in which the disease is found, which is why so much emphasis is placed on getting checked by specialist at least once a year and doing self-examination once a month.