All About Breast Cancer

Undergoing regular breast examination is important in detecting cancerous growths because in early stages, cancer of the breast may not manifest any symptom at all. As the cancer develops women may experience one or a combination of the following.

Breast cancer has been one of the leading health concerns for women. For over 3,600 years the cancer has affected the lives of women in immeasurable ways. According to the Edwin Smith papyrus, awareness of breast cancer has been well established since 1600 BC in Egypt, thus making it the oldest form of cancer known to humans. "There is no treatment", this is what early Egyptian physicians writes about breast cancer according to the papyrus and for centuries this has been the attitude displayed by both health practitioners and patients.

But while the Egyptians have considered the disease incurable, we now have medical advancements that make survival almost an absolute certainty at early stages. All we need is a firm knowledge on warning signs of the cancer and the determination to go through the treatment process.

What are the Causes of Breast Cancer?

About one in eight women will be diagnosed with this cancer in a lifetime. There are several risk factors which are part of our lives that we could not change. This includes aging, familial history, genetics and menstrual cycle.

The risk of getting cancer becomes higher as a person ages. Advanced cancer stages are commonly found in women fifty years old and above. About thirty percent of women who have breast cancer have a family history of breast, ovarian, uterine or ovarian cancer.

Some people have gene defects that make them more susceptible to acquiring the disease. This includes defects commonly found in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Women with these gene defects have an eighty percent chance of getting breast cancer. Those who have started menstruation before the age of twelve or went through menopause after the age of fifty-five have higher breast cancer risk.

Women who never had children or gave birth only after the age of thirty also have an increased risk for breast cancer.

Other risk factors include alcohol consumption, obesity, hormone replacement therapy to avert menopause, the use of the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES) to prevent miscarriage, and radiation.

Curiously, there is no evidence linking the use of breast implants, antiperspirants, pesticides and underwire bras in raising cancer risks.

What are the Symptoms of Breast Cancer?

Undergoing regular breast examination is important in detecting cancerous growths because in early stages, cancer of the breast may not manifest any symptom at all. As the cancer develops women may experience one or a combination of the following.

A painless hard lump with uneven edges in the breast or armpit area.
Noticeable change in size, shape, feel and texture of the breast and nipple.
Unusual fluids, such as pus, coming out of the nipple.

For women who are in advanced breast cancer stages, symptoms may include bone pain, pain and discomfort in the breast area, skin ulcers in the breast or underarm, weight loss, and swelling of one arm.

How to Prevent Breast Cancer?

Since some risk factors are uncontrollable, awareness is the most important step in fighting the disease. In general, having a healthy diet and lifestyle reduces a person's chance of getting cancer. Early detection of the cancer raises the cure rate and thus, breast self-examination (BSE), clinical breast examination and screening mammography are highly recommended.

Experts advise BSE once a month for women over twenty. The test should be done a week after their menstruation. For those between the ages of twenty to thirty-nine, clinical examination should be done every three years

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Health & Fitness

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2014, breast, cancer