This year has been a powerful wake-up call to the world that we are in a crisis together and that what we choose to do and the actions that we take have the power to protect us. During October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the same sentiment holds true. Remember, early action can save your life.
The best way to raise awareness about breast cancer is to learn more about it. Let’s take a look at some common questions about breast cancer.
How would I know if I have breast cancer?
You may manifest one or more of the following symptoms
- Lump in the breast or under your arm.
- Swelling around the breast due to blocked lymph vessels
- Dimpling in the breast
- Itching around the nipple area
- Flaky skin or unusual redness
- Pain in nipples
- Discharge from the nipples
How do I know whether I am at risk for breast cancer?
Some people are at a higher risk of getting cancer. Common high risk factors include:-
- Genetics – Inherited mutation can increase risk
- Age – Risk increases after 50 years of age
- Sex – Women are at a higher risk
- Menstrual history – Early onset of periods (less than 12 years of age)/ late onset of menopause (over 55 years), can increase risk.
- Dense breasts
- Family history – Having a first degree relative who has had breast cancer
Also Read: Types of Cancer Treatments
What can I do to lower my risk of breast cancer?
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain an optimum body weight
- Lower intake of alcohol
- Stop smoking
Also Read: 10 signs that suggest you don’t have Cancer
What is breast cancer screening?
Breast cancer screening is the checking of a woman’s breast for early signs of cancer. It should ideally be done once a year, to detect anomalies early and start treatment.
What are the different breast cancer screening methods?
- Self breast exam
- Clinical breast exam
How do I do a breast exam at home?
Lie down and put a cushion under the left shoulder. Lift your left arm over your head and lie on the cushion with your head on the arm. Use the palm of your right hand and with medium pressure examine your left breast, moving in circular motions and checking the entire breast and armpit area. Repeat on the other side. Squeeze nipples to check for any discharge.
How does mammography work? Is it painful?
Mammography is a type of imaging using low dose x- ray to scan the breast. It can detect if there are any anomalies in the breast tissue much earlier than a self exam or clinical exam. It is not a risky or painful procedure. When prepping you for the scan, some pressure may be applied on the breast to obtain a good image. This may cause a few seconds of discomfort.
When should I start doing screening mammograms? How often should I do it?
Screening mammogram should be started at 40 yrs of age. Ideally, it should be done every year.
Till what age should I do mammograms?
It is better to continue yearly breast examination, including mammograms from 40 years of age for the rest of your life as it will help in early detection of cancer. The earlier it is detected and treatment started, the better the chances of survival.
How do I know what stage of breast cancer I have?
Your oncologist will be able to diagnose what stage you are in depending on your tests.
Stage 0 – Detection of abnormal cells in breast tissue
Stage I: Small lumps, no spread to lymph nodes
Stage II: Larger lumps, spread to nearby lymph nodes
Stage III: Has grown into nearby tissues and/or spread to many nearby lymph nodes
Stage IV: Cancer has spread beyond the breast to other parts of the body.
Also Read: What you eat can help you fight cancer
Will I die of breast cancer?
Though this is a difficult question, it needs to be asked. Most breast cancers, especially in the early stages pose a low level risk. There are millions of women who have survived breast cancer and gone on to lead healthy lives. The most important factor in surviving breast cancer is early detection and treatment.
Advances in medical technology and cancer treatment have helped in better detection and treatment of breast cancer. Make sure that you get your cancer screening done regularly. It could save your life!
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