Health: What you need to know about breast cancer: Cancer has increasingly become part of our everyday life. Nearly everyone knows of someone afflicted by the big C, and in honour of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we take a closer look at the prevalence of breast cancer, ways to detect it and treatment methods.
A recent SABC report describes breast cancer as the most common cancer in South Africa. It affects predominantly women, but a very small proportion of the male population will also develop it and a handful may even die from it.
In women, however, breast cancer is far more common. Worldwide estimates suggest that one in every 31 women will develop breast cancer during their lifetime.
The good news, according to the National Cancer Institute, is that in the last five years the worldwide survival rate for those battling breast cancer has risen to an encouraging 89,4%.
WebMD shares a few ‘need-to-knows’ regarding breast cancer. The first and most important thing you can do to aid early diagnosis is to know your breasts. It is important to discuss both the correct procedure and the pros and cons of breast self-exams with your doctor before you start. Once you are clued up on how your breasts are ‘supposed’ to feel, you will be able to better report any changes to your doctor.
It’s important to note that if you do feel something irregular, regardless of your age, you need to speak to your doctor about it. WebMD reports that patients as young as 18 years of age have been diagnosed with breast cancer.
It is also important to remember to go for a yearly mammogram after the age of 40. Fred Hutch warns that blowing off your yearly check-up for fear of discomfort can seriously delay early detection. If you are afraid of unnecessary pain, schedule the mammogram after your monthly period when the breast tissue is less sensitive.
Knowing your hereditary history is another great way of aiding early detection. If you have family members — especially a mother or sister — who have had breast cancer before reaching menopause, you need to tell your doctor as it may mean that your own risk of cancer is higher than the average.
Cancer Research UK outlines the different types of treatments for breast cancer. The main treatments used in the fight against breast cancer include surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy and biological treatments.
Treatment plans may consist of only one or a combination of the aforementioned treatments. Since each case is unique, your doctor will provide you with the best possible treatment solution.
Factors that doctors use to determine your specific treatment plan include the type of breast cancer you have, the size of your breast tumour, the stage of your breast cancer, the grade of your cells, whether you’ve had your menopause and your general health.
In the fight against breast cancer, it is always important to be aware of your breast health. Early detection is the best weapon we have against the threat of breast cancer and with the correct treatment, anyone can be a cancer survivor.