October is observed as ‘Breast Cancer Awareness Month across the globe. Breast cancer is one of the most prevalent types of cancer in the world, and in India, it is ranked as number one among the type of cancers affecting women. Breast cancer is a disease that develops when cells in the breast tissue change and keep multiplying. These abnormal cells cluster together to form a tumour, entering areas of the breast through the bloodstream or lymphatic fluids.
Breast cancer usually occurs in the cells of milk-producing glands and caused due to a genetic mutation in the DNA of the breast cancer cells. It is generally diagnosed in women over 40 and above and can also affect women in younger age groups.
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Risk Factors That Could Trigger Breast Cancer:
Age: Breast cancers are mostly diagnosed in females aged 40 and above, and the average age is 60 to 65.
Family History: The risk increases if you have a close family member like your mother or sister diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer before age 45 or younger. Also, inherited gene mutation BRCA1 or BRCA2 elevates the risk of genetic predisposition.
Early Menstruation/Late Menopause: Women with the onset of menstruation before age 12 and menopause after 55 are highly prone.
Late Pregnancy: Getting pregnant after the age of 35 can up the risk.
Hormone Replacement Therapy After Menopause: Women on hormone supplements after menopause are at a higher risk of getting breast cancer.
Breast Density: A few studies disclose that women with dense breasts are highly susceptible to breast cancer.
Poor Lifestyle Habits: Physical inactivity, obesity, excessive intake of alcohol, and smoking elevates the chances of breast cancer.
Exposure To Radiation Therapy: Women who had undergone previous cancer treatment at a young age.
Symptoms Of Breast Cancer
The symptoms of breast cancer differ from person to person, but if you feel an area of thickening breast tissue or a lump in your breast, which is generally painless, or an enlarged underarm lymph node, consult your physician.
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Early Signs And Symptoms
- A new mass or node-like structure in the breasts or the armpits with or without pain. It usually feels hard to touch but can be soft in certain cases. Do not worry; not all nodes are cancerous; they can be benign or just a cyst.
- Change in breast size or shape and observe for any swelling, thickening, or shrinkage, especially in one breast.
- Lumpiness or redness, peeling or scaling breast skin.
- Red, scaly, or inverted nipple. Clear or bloody secretion from the nipple.
- Soreness or unusual heat could be a sign of inflammation in the breast.
- Enlarged lymph nodes under the arm or around the breast region are a sign that breast cancer is spreading fast.
Breast Cancer Screening And Diagnosis
Early detection is crucial in treating breast cancer; the earlier the disease is diagnosed, the less it has advanced and the better the treatment outcome. A mammogram can help to identify the presence of cancer before the rise of symptoms.
Women at high risk of cancer are also advised to screen with a breast MRI. Women with a higher risk of breast cancer family history or gene mutation should undergo a mammogram test every year after 30 years of age.
- Foods are always believed to be a part of a healthful diet in general, and they may help to prevent the development of breast cancer:
- Go for a broad spectrum of colourful fruits and vegetables. Specifically, these vegetables and fruits are potent in preventing breast cancer, including green leafy vegetables, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, citrus fruit, carrots, broccoli, onions, apples, pears, peaches, and strawberries.
- A high fiber-rich diet that covers whole grains, beans, and legumes.
- Skimmed milk or low-fat milk and milk products.
- Include soy and soy-based foods- tofu, soy milk, and soy nuts.
- Foods rich in vitamin D (mushrooms, fortified cereals and juices, egg yolks, fatty fish like salmon and mackerel)
- Consume anti-inflammatory-rich foods such as green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, berries, pineapples, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and turmeric.
Foods To Avoid
Some foods are considered a high risk of breast cancer, and people are advised to cut down on alcohol, added sugar, fat, and red meat.
In case you are diagnosed with breast cancer – do not get scared. Being brave and fighting the disease is the key to healthy survival. Modern medicine and advanced cancer care techniques can help in treating breast cancer.
Consult an oncologist to learn about the best treatment options, including radiation, chemotherapy, and surgical intervention, if required.