“Breast cancer”: two words that make us feel terrified. It is becoming very common to hear that one of our neighbors has breast cancer. According to the American cancer Society, over 200,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. 40,000 of them die from breast cancer.
What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer is a malignant tumor that starts in the breast tissues. There are two types of breast cancer that can differ in stages from in situ cancer to malignant stage:
- Ductal carcinoma where the tumor starts in the ducts where the milk passes through to the nipple.
- Lobular carcinoma where the tumor starts in the lobules parts where milk is produced.
What are the factors and risks that cause breast cancer?
- Age: Your risk increases as you get older.
- Family History: if you had a family case of breast cancer you might have 20 to 30% risk of developing breast cancer.
- Alcohol use.
- Menstrual cycle: Women who have their period at a very early age or menopause after 55 have a high risk of developing breast cancer.
- Exposure to radiation.
- Women who had children after the age of 30 and women who did not breastfeed are at a higher risk of having breast cancer.
- Use of oral contraceptives for more than 10 years.
- Women diagnosed with benign tumor.
What are the signs of breast cancer?
- Nipples discharge and pain
- Mass or lump in the breast
- Redness or change in the skin like orange skin
How to diagnose breast cancer?
- Each woman should perform at least a yearly mammography when she reaches the age of 40.
- Self test exam should be performed monthly by each woman.
- When suspecting any mass, your doctor may prescribe extra tests to be done as breast biopsy, CT scan, MRI and blood tests.
How to treat breast cancer?
Breast cancer treatment depends on the tumor stage, type and size. In general, cancer treatment may include:
- Total or partial mastectomy
What is Breast self exam?
Every woman at the age of 20 and more should check her breasts at least 2 times yearly. Usually your doctor will check them during your bi-annual visit. He will show you the way of examining your breasts at home. In case of any suspicion, you should contact your doctor for more investigations.
The breast self exam method is as follow:
- The best time to perform a breast self exam is one week after your period starts.
- Stand in front of a mirror, hands on your hips and look at them carefully. They should look identical, no mass or nipples discharge.
- Keep your hands on your hips and examine your breasts from different angles.
- Elevate your right hand behind your head. With the left hand, top of your fingers, start to examine your breast. Move your fingers in a circular way with a medium pressure covering the area from your upper hand to your breast. You should feel the various layers of tissues. When you are done with the breast area, gently squeeze the nipple for any discharge.
- Repeat the same method for the other breast.
- If you notice any mass or lump, contact your doctor.
The goal of breast self exam is to detect cancer earlier. It is a very simple yet important test. We encourage all women to perform this test. Detecting cancer in his first stage would have a good prognostic on a woman’s life.