Top cancer affecting women in the developed and developing world is breast cancer. Previously, cervical cancer was the most common cancer among women. However, breast cancer has surpassed cervical cancer as the most common form of cancer among women in India.
The incidence and deaths due to breast cancer are much more than that due to cervical cancer. Both low and middle -income countries fall prey to breast cancer as there is a lack of timely diagnosis. Increased life expectancy, increase in urbanization and the spread of western lifestyles is responsible for the increase in the incidence of breast cancer in the developing world.
October, every year, is observed as the breast cancer awareness month. It is imperative to understand the warning signs, risk factors, the ways in which the risk can be reduced and other nuances of breast cancer.
Although the warning signs of breast cancer are different for different woman, it is important for the woman to pay close attention and see if they spot any unusual changes in the breasts and get themselves examined.
Common signs and symptoms of breast cancer are as follows:
- A lump in the breast is the most common, initial symptom of breast cancer.
- A lump in the underarm
- Nipple discharge other than breast milk
- A rash on or around your nipple
- Unbearable breast pain
- Pulling in of nipple
- Dimpling or skin irritation
- Change in size, shape or appearance of breast
- Darkening, redness or swelling of the breast
Appearances of these signs always do not mean the occurrence of breast cancer it is always best to get these signs checked immediately by a doctor.
According to the Centre for Disease control and prevention, most breast cancers are diagnosed after the age of 50. This means the risk for breast cancer increases with age.
As per World Health Organisation (WHO), breast cancer causes the greatest number of cancer related deaths among women with about 1.5 million women getting affected each year.
Inherited genetic changes like BRCA1 and BRCA2 increase the chances of breast cancer by many times.
Risk factors other than age and genetic mutations include:
- Alcohol consumption
- Treatment using radiation therapy
- The family history of breast cancer
- Personal history of breast cancer
- Consumption of oral contraceptive pills
- Using combination hormone therapy
- Having dense breasts
- Being obese post menopause
- Being physically inactive
- Late menopause
- Late or no pregnancy
- Early menstruation
Early detection and replacement of unhealthy lifestyles can help to keep this disease at bay. Some measures to prevent the development of breast cancer are:
- Keep exercising as it prevents numerous types of health disorders including breast cancer.
- Regular exercise should always be accompanied by healthy eating as the right food can boost your immune system.
- Women who breastfeed are at a lower risk for breast cancer.
- Quit smoking and limit your alcohol intake.
- Go for periodic screenings. The two screening tests available are mammography and ultrasound.