At some time or another we'll all have experienced how devastating it is when a disease strikes a loved one; and when it's a disease that could have been detected early enough to be treated, the impact is even greater; Breast cancer is just such a disease.
Families are being driven from mothers, sisters, and daughters every day; and it really does not have to be that way. Most countries around the world have breast cancer awareness days and, not only do they raise the awareness of the problem for women, they also do an amazing job in raising money to help find a way to fight and cure this form of cancer.
Want to know more about breast cancer? Well, the following are 10 of the most frequently asked questions, and some of the answers you may be looking for.
1 What actually is breast cancer?
Breast cancer will, for the most part, begin in the ducts. It happens when your cells grow, divide, and occasionally invade the tissue surrounding the breast. This could happen slowly, or quickly, but in all cases the body has no natural control over it.
2 What leads to breast cancer?
Unfortunately, the exact cause is still unknown.
Researchers are continuously working to find out why these abnormalities happen, and persistent breakthroughs in medicine and DNA are helping, but it's still an ongoing process to find the cause.
3 Is it preventable?
Unfortunately, at the moment, there's no known way to avoid breast cancer. As the understanding of how it starts increases, the chances of finding a way to prevent it also increase.
You may not be able to prevent it, but, if you want to catch it in its early stages you should start to do regular self checks, visiting your doctor, and having mammograms done.
4 What if you have a family history of having breast cancer?
If a member of your immediate family has had breast cancer then, sadly, you have a high risk of developing it, too, and the reason for this could be down to an inherited gene mutation, or even the lifestyle that your family has been living .
5 Are there any risk factors?
For 90% of the women who develop breast cancer there were no known risk factors, and that makes constantly checking for it all the more important.
However: gender, age, family history, hormones, diet, physical activity, previous medical history, and alcohol, have all been known to play some part in its development.
6 What are the symptoms to look out for?
When breast cancer is in its early stages there may be no symptoms at all, but, as it grows you may start to notice:
- A reoccurring thickening, or lump, either in the breast or in your armpit.
- You may notice a change in the color of the skin of the breast.
- Your nipple has become inverted.
- There may be blood, or some other discharge from the nipple.
- You may see a change in the size or shape of your breast.
- If you do notice any of those things, see your doctor as soon as you possibly can.
7 From what age should you start having regular screening?
This is something that may range from country to country, but, it's recommended that you start annual screening from the ages of 40 to 49, and then every second year from the age of 50.
8 Why are not regular mammograms recommended if you're under the age of 40?
Your breasts are usually denser when you're under 40 years old, and that can make detecting small changes more difficult, so it's usually recommended that an ultrasound is done instead.
9 How safe are mammograms?
Because only very low levels of x-rays are needed to pickup the tiniest of breast cancers, the equipment uses a very low level, and this means that mammograms are completely safe.
10 What should you do if you find a change in your breast?
Not all changes are going to be the result of breast cancer. 9 out of 10 lumps are not cancer, but, you should still get them checked out.
When you talk to your doctor it will help if you can tell them if you have a family history of breast cancer.
Ask as many questions as you need to, so as you know what's going on, and what to expect if you're sent for further checks.
You may be referred for a mammogram; an ultrasound; Egypt, in some cases, for a biopsy. In the biopsy a fine needle will be used to take a few cells, or, a larger needle will be used to take a tissue sample; these will be sent to a lab to be studied.
If cancer is found, you may need to have some surgery done. But, and this can not be stressed too much, talk to your doctor to get all the information you need to about what's happening.
One final thing, did you know that 1% of diagnosed cases of breast cancer are in men? It's rare, but it does happen. If the man in your life has been getting symptoms that look mysteriously like those of breast cancer, do not discount that possibility.