Breast Cancer Month: Understanding The Power Of Self-Awareness

Your self-awareness of your body will not prevent cancer. It will certainly alert you as soon as there is some issue you must heed to prevent escalation. With breast cancer more than other forms of cancer, early detection is key to your doctor being able to take appropriate measures to lessen your distress and cure cancer at its root. This requires medical and surgical interventions in accordance with the magnitude of the problem. Early detection helps the doctor to opt for treatment regimens which could be less invasive, saving you a great deal of pain, expense, and your family sleepless nights.

The good news:
The good news is that patients whose breast cancer have been detected early have lived healthy lives after appropriate care from highly skilled doctors. Some have survived for even three decades and more as narrated by an oncologist of Chandigarh in his book celebrating those who survived breast cancer.

Correlation Diagnosis between Prognosis
Once it is diagnosed, the prognosis for Stage 1 breast cancer is usually encouraging, especially if there is no known history of breast cancer in the family. It is important to realize that in this instance, family means those whom you are related to genetically. Aunts by marriage (the wife of your uncle) or your sister-in-law are not blood relations. Therefore, even if one of them had breast cancer, your doctor won’t consider it in family history of the illness. This is because of breast cancer and most other cancers are considered to be inherited genetically. However, if the cancer is detected at a later stage, the prognosis is not so encouraging.

Be Proactive with Regular Breast Self-Examination

Most women are very shy about looking at or feeling their breasts. Coyness needs to be set aside to ensure that you are not among the cancer death statistics later. You will be able to detect any abnormality only if you are aware of what is normal. Set aside a specific date every month to conduct a thorough breast self-examination. It should not vary in any month. If you have set aside the 15th for breast self-examination, ensure that every month you conduct it on the 15th.

How do you go about it?

Always stand in front of a mirror which will reflect at least your torso. Take your breasts in your hand one by one to take note of their weight. If you find one or both increasing in weight or becoming denser, and you are not pregnant; consult your gynecologist first. She might recommend some tests, or might refer you to an oncologist, if you have a family history of breast cancer. You should take note of any lumps on the breast/s and in the underarm region.

Take Note of Every Minor Change, Not Just the Major Ones

Always ensure adequate light to notice even mild changes like dimpling of the skin, any kind of discoloration, and/or the sudden appearance of moles. If you had any beauty spots or moles on either or both breasts, watch out for their growing bigger or disappearing totally. Also, keep a weather eye open for any lumps you can see or feel. Examine the nipples carefully. If either or both are turned inwards, it is your cue to consult your doctor. If there is any discharge other than lactation even when the nipple has not been squeezed; especially if the discharge is foul-smelling, has blood in it, or is simply clear fluid, then you should seek an expert opinion. You might be advised to undergo some pathological tests after your doctor has performed a physical examination to rule out any surface infection of the nipple.

Don’t Ignore These as Minor Self-Limiting Issues
It can be quite frightening how women easily ignore redness of the skin, a rash, sudden warmth which is inexplicable, or soreness of the breast as normal. If you are menstruating, or it is just before the monthly cycle, a certain amount of density or soreness might occur. If it isn’t noticed every month, then report it to your doctor. Itchiness, dry scaly skin on the breast, and small bumps resembling insect bites are often ignored signals of cancer developing in the breast/s.

With a Family History of Breast Cancer, You Can’t Afford to Avoid Mammograms
Doctors advise regular mammograms for the high-risk ladies who have breast cancer in the family. If your mother or grandmother had breast cancer, you must undergo mammograms regularly. If between 30 and 40, then mammography every three years is recommended. After 40, it should be an annual test.

Limitations of mammography: When a woman’s breasts are very dense, or there is a lot of fatty tissues in them, sometimes mammography can’t detect lumps which lie closer to the bones. However, you should be persistent in your checkups, and your monthly breast self-examination.
Awareness is the key to survival, and becoming a winner should breast cancer be detected.

Content Reviewed by – Asian Hospital Medical Editors