What Is Breast Cancer?
Unless you live in a cave in the middle of nowhere, chances are that you or someone you know has been affected by breast cancer. Statistically, it is the second most common cancer in women following skin cancer.
1 in 8 women will develop an invasive form of the disease in her lifetime.
Although it is not as common, men are also diagnosed with breast cancer. 1 in 100 men will be informed that they have this illness. Even if you don’t know someone personally that has had their life altered by breast cancer, I am sure that someone you know IS affected by this horrible affliction. It could be a friend of a friend? Or it could be a sister’s, friend’s, mom’s cousin? Or, unfortunately, it could be you.
Breast cancer is a very scary ailment that can completely alter the course of your life.
Cancer starts as a group of cells that multiply rapidly. Those cells generally form a tumor, or growth. Breast cancer is defined as a malignant tumor that originates in the cells of the breast. A growth that can spread to other parts of the body is considered malignant. Some women choose to have a mastectomy when they are faced with the possibility of breast cancer. A mastectomy is the act of removing one or both breasts surgically. The procedure is very affective in controlling, or even eliminating the disease.
It all sounds very scary, doesn’t it? No need to fear. In most cases treatment is more successful if the disease is caught early. The best ways to catch it is by paying attention to the warning signs and symptoms. Education and prevention can be just as strong as medicine!
There is an easy way to determine if you have any warning signs or symptoms. Answer these simple questions:
6 Questions You Should Ask Yourself Once A Month
Education is the best medicine when it comes to prevention of any disease. Here are 6 questions that you should ask yourself once a month to help determine if you have any early warning signs and symptoms of breast cancer.
- Have you preformed a self-breast examination lately?
If the answer is no, you need to check yourself. Self-exams should be done at least once a month and should be preformed regularly be women of all ages, young and old. It is a fairly simple procedure that you can perform at home. It could save your life.
To perform a self-breast exam, raise your arm above your head. Place the pads of your fingers on the soft tissue around your breast. In a smooth circular motion gently feel for any lumps or abnormalities. If you happen to feel anything that you should find suspicious, go see your doctor. It is better to be safe than sorry!
Regular checks can save your life
- Do you notice any chest or breast pain? Any itching?
Any changes in the size and appearance of your breasts or nipples? If so, these are all common symptoms of breast cancer. They may seem small and insignificant independently, but if you have any of these symptoms it is time to go, once again, see the doctor.
- Do you have a lump, swelling or pain in your armpit?
You may have all these symptoms, or just one. Any of them are cause for concern. In some cases, the disease can spread to the lymph nodes in the armpit causing pain, swelling and sometimes a lump. If you have one or all of these symptoms, guess what the next step is? That’s right, go see the doctor!
- Are you suffering from back, shoulder and neck pain?
Does the pain not subside with simple stretching and movement? Once again, this is a cause for concern. Breast cancer can spread to the spine or ribs, causing a deep throbbing pain in your back, shoulders and neck. It is a good idea to get these symptoms checked out.
- Do you have any nipple discharge?
Bloody or clear discharge is a cause for concern. Sometimes a milky white discharge can be detected in women that are not breastfeeding. However, that symptom can easily be linked to several other ailments. Medical attention is necessary if you have any sort of nipple discharge.
- Have you had a mammogram lately?
Chances are that if you are younger than the age of 40, you have not. There is a big debate on the subject of when women should start routine mammograms. The recommendation used to be that women should begin receiving this yearly life-saving procedure at the age of 40.
In 2009, however, the recommendation was changed to 50 years old. The reason for the change is that it is believed that women under the age of 50 have a bigger chance of developing radiation induced breast cancer. It is not recommended that anyone younger should receive yearly preventative mammograms.
Webster’s dictionary defines a mammogram as:
‘A photo of a breast using X-rays’.
That makes this invasive procedure sound like a walk in the park, doesn’t it? A mammogram is the procedure of briefly compressing your breasts between two plates. One of the plates is a fixed X-ray and the other an adjustable plastic plate. The action of squeezing the breasts gives a better X-ray image. According to many women it is quite uncomfortable, but the benefits outweigh the pain.
The purpose of these questions is not to scare you, but to educate you. The first step to a healthy life is awareness. Now that you know what warning signs and symptoms you are looking for, you can be more enlightened. Once again, early detection is the key.
Keep these 6 simple questions in an easily accessible place. Be sure to take it out once a month and ask yourself all over again. It may seem rather repetitive having to go through the motions but remember, you are the key to your health. Being proactive now will prevent you from being reactive in the future.