Writer: Nada El Nady
Every year, an average number of 9.8 million people give up their lives after a lengthy, exhausting, and an apparently unsuccessful battle with cancer; 2.09 million cases of them are victims of breast cancer. This type of cancer merely occurs when the cells of the breast lose their ability to divide like normal cells and hence, divide at an abnormally, uncontrollable rate to form a tumor. While breast cancer can occur in both men and women, the probability at which this disease occurs in men is solely one percent. That being said, one out of eight of all women worldwide are at risk of being infected with breast cancer; our mothers, sisters, friends, relatives and ourselves are all conceivable victims.
Breast cancer is usually caused by inherited gene DNA mutations based on a family history. If the cancer had not been diagnosed to be hereditary, several risk factors contribute to the female’s probability to develop the illness such as increasing age, number and time of pregnancies, obesity, radiation exposure, and drinking alcohol. A forming of a lump in a woman’s breast, an inversion in the structure of her nipples, or redness and pitting of the skin over her breast are all symptoms. If the illness is not diagnosed early, the benign tumor might turn malignant, in which it breaks off and spreads through the body through the bloodstream or lymphatic system, creating more tumors, and leaving no treatment options other than mastectomy (breast removal), chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
There are several precautions that shall be taken to at least reduce the risk of breast cancer development. These methods include daily exercise, alcohol drinking moderation, breast cancer screening, and breast self-exams. Breast cancer screening methods, such as mammograms, have proved to be effective enough to be able to detect a formation of a tumor in your breasts, especially if performed regularly. In addition to screening, a breast self-exam is a further effective way of telling whether a lump has formed or not. Self-exams help you familiarize yourself with the shape, size, and texture of your breasts as you observe them in front of a mirror. This is important because it can help you determine if what you are feeling is normal or abnormal. The best time to do a breast self-exam is a few days after your monthly menstrual cycle ends.
According to the National Breast cancer Organization, here is how to Self-Exam for breast cancer:
1) In the Shower
Using the pads of your fingers, move around your entire breast in a circular pattern moving from the outside to the center, checking the entire breast and armpit area. Check both breasts each month feeling for any lump, thickening, or hardened knot. Notice any changes and get lumps evaluated by your healthcare provider.
2) In Front of a Mirror
Visually inspect your breasts with your arms at your sides. Next, raise your arms high overhead.
Look for any changes in the contour, any swelling, or dimpling of the skin, or changes in the nipples. Next, rest your palms on your hips and press firmly to flex your chest muscles. Left and right breasts will not exactly match—few women’s breasts do, so look for any dimpling, puckering, or changes, particularly on one side.
3) Lying Down
When lying down, the breast tissue spreads out evenly along the chest wall. Place a pillow under your right shoulder and your right arm behind your head. Using your left hand, move the pads of your fingers around your right breast gently in small circular motions covering the entire breast area and armpit.
Use light, medium, and firm pressure. Squeeze the nipple; check for discharge and lumps. Repeat these steps for your left breast.
All of these methods work for women who have a relatively low risk of developing the illness. If the women are at a high risk though, prevention methods will be rather harsh, including preventive surgery, in which women may choose to have their healthy breasts surgically removed to prevent the risk of developing cancer in the future.
Even though it is an important weapon in the fight against breast cancer, a mastectomy can take a serious emotional toll on a woman by severely damaging her self-esteem and even affecting the way she looks at herself. With that being said, everyone is encouraged during breast cancer month to help our loved ones feel more beautiful about themselves and raise awareness to help reduce infection rates by raising money for breast cancer care, spreading word through social media, or asking our doctors to give a group presentation on breast cancer.
Even a simple action such as wearing the pink ribbon alone is considered to be a vital form of spreading awareness, in which we are helping to protect our mothers, sisters, and friends from living through the pain of losing their femininity and forever damaging their self-esteem, or the fatal destiny of losing them due to a disease.