Breast cancer is a form of cancer that, as the name implies, occurs in a person’s breast tissues. What is important to know is that even though it is much more common in women, it is not impossible for men to develop it.
Breast cancer may or may not show clear signs. In very early stages, signs are not as prominent, which is why it makes a big difference for women if they get regular screening tests done. It is also crucial to do so for women of the age of 40 or over.
However, it can develop in women as young as 20 as well, which is exactly why each and every one should know how to examine themselves. Detection is the first stage of treatment and to an early recovery.
Firstly, let’s look at the risks; if you have one or more of the following then you are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer than other people. If you:
Haven’t been pregnant before
Have a family member who has had breast cancer
Have had breast cancer before
Are over-weight (obese)
Have had a first child after you turned 30
Have a high intake of tobacco (i.e. if you are a regular smoker)
If your intake of food consists highly of fats
How to detect breast cancer
There are several ways of detecting breast cancer, the most common self-exam method is to feel around your breast area for any sort of unusual lumps, this also includes checking around your armpit for the lumps. It is not always a sign that breast cancer is present, but if a lump is felt the best thing to do is to get it checked out by a doctor, because lumps are one of the typical symptoms involved in having breast cancer.
Other symptoms usually felt by people with breast cancer include swelling of the breast, which is not the same thing as a lump. There is often bleeding from the nipple area, there could possibly be skin irritation along the breasts, an unusual redness of the breasts, nipples might turn inward and in some cases, if there is pain felt in those parts of your body, it could be a sign of danger. Anything unusual should be a signal for you to be more cautious and aware of your breasts and if you feel there is something wrong, it is best not to hesitate when seeking treatment.
Mammograms are most commonly used in helping find signs of breast cancer. These would be X-ray images of your breasts. These are in fact, also often used for people who have already developed breast cancer to see how certain treatments are effecting its growth.
Magnetic resonance imaging, known as MRI, are also done to detect breast cancer, however it is known as the less reliable method as compared with mammograms. It is mostly used to find out the real size of the cancer.
Then, there are ultrasounds for the breasts. Which involves the usage of sound waves and echoes to create an image on the computer screen that can be examined. Again, it is not as reliable as mammograms.
Other methods usually involve examining nipple discharge in women, which are examined and tested to find the presence of cancer cells.
All women of the age of 20 and over should regularly check themselves or get a professional to do so. It is important to have at least annual check-ups and it is important to focus on good health and keeping yourself away from a bad life style. As long as someone is careful, aware of their own body and gets regular check-ups, even the presence of breast cancer can be a positive thing if people know they have discovered it in its early stages. The sooner you detect it, the sooner it can be treated.
For more information about breast cancer, please check with your family physician or contact the Canadian Cancer Society for a referral to mammography clinic in your area for free screening.