Pink October: Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Self-examination at home is not always enough for early detection of breast cancer – that’s why we do a yearly or bi-annual screening. Finding a lump, tumour, or swollen node during your breast self-exam is not a good sign and requires immediate attention.
Awareness education is a crucial part of all early detection programs, and this month, breast cancer is our main focus. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared October as the Breast Cancer Awareness Month worldwide, intending to increase attention and support early detection and treatment of this highly curable disease.
What Is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is a process of oncological nature in which the healthy cells of the mammary gland degenerate and transform into unusual cells, increasing and multiplying until they form the tumour. It represents the most common cancer in women in the western world, and the number of cases and how it affects the family and social environment drives the research to find new drugs and treatment guidelines every day.
Breast cancer affects both men and women, with an incidence between 20 and 25 per cent in women and less than 1 per cent in men. There are many types, but invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) and invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC) are the most common.
Invasive ductal carcinoma accounts for about 70% to 80% of all breast cancers.
What Is Breast Cancer Awareness Month?
Since 1983, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, or Pink Month, has been a valuable opportunity to spread the word about breast cancer and the critical role of early detection, treatment, and palliative care.
The way physicians treat breast cancer has changed radically over the last ten years. Treatments now differ substantially according to tumour classes, so professionals tailor treatment to each case.
Thanks to the WHO decree awareness month, more and more physicians, human resources, and scientists are dedicated to researching and treating this condition as a multidisciplinary team effort.
The large advances focused on the treatment and early diagnosis, to which all patients should have access, are already showing excellent results, which is a very positive sign for breast cancer control.
The Importance of Breast Screening and Regular Yearly Check-Ups
Breast cancer starts in many ways, even silently. Most women with breast cancer have no physical changes (signs) or symptoms during the early stages of the disease. Most are surprised by the diagnosis because their breast looked completely normal when they received it. Herein lies the value of regular medical check-ups over breast self-examination.
Self-examination is useful because it lets you notice any visible changes in the breast, just as you should be aware of any changes in a mole. Still, your breast may look normal and healthy when a malignant process occurs inside, so self-examination is not enough for a diagnosis.
Why It’s Important To Do Regular Screening? Early Detection Can Prevent Development.
Breast screening is done through regular medical check-ups with specific tests. There are many ways to reach a diagnosis, and each one will depend on the physician’s criteria.
Mammography is the most commonly used breast screening test consisting of a low-power X-ray to find abnormal areas inside the breast. The radiation does not pose any danger and can detect lesions that are too small to be discovered by the touch of self-examination.
As well as mammography, there are other screening techniques such as ultrasound (US), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and breast biopsy. All of them can be used in combination or separately according to the physician’s suggestions.
Since the cause of breast cancer is unknown, it is still a not-preventable disease. However, it is possible to cure it if it is detected early. This “early” detection, together with proper treatment in all diagnosed cases, is the key to achieving a real cure. The more advanced it is, the worse the prognosis and the lower the chances of cure.
Starting at age 40, you must have an annual breast exam to detect or rule out any abnormal changes in the mammary gland.
Please consult your doctor as soon as possible, don’t let it pass you by.
Have a breast exam today!