Dec 20, 2011

Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer.
Article first published as How to Drastically Lower Your Breast Cancer Risk on Technorati.

In 1997, 41,200 women died of cancer, a woman every thirteen minutes. She could be a generous grandmother, a marvelous mom, a super sister or a gorgeous girlfriend. But the tragic thing is, some of these deaths could have been avoided, if only these women knew how to detect their cancer before it gets to the point of no return, when therapy and rescue are impossible. Ninety-seven percent of women whose breast cancer is detected early with no spreading beyond the breasts will survive. Women can lower their risk of dying of breast cancer by doing simple procedures to examine their breasts for early signs of cancer.

Breast cancer
Breast cancer happens when breast tissues grow at an abnormal and usually faster rate. The abnormal cell doesn't function normally and is called cancer cell. The abnormal growth can be benign, which means that it doesn't spread outside its original site. Or it can be malignant, in which case the cancer cells can travel to other body parts and wherever they stop, they cause abnormal, cancerous growth.
Doctors can detect breast cancer by a procedure called mammography, a kind of X-ray examination of the breasts. With mammography, a breast tumor can be detected up to two years before they can be felt. Usually, when a tumor is already palpable (that is, felt as a lump in the breast) it means that it has grown quite big, so action must immediately be taken. Doctors can recommend various kind of therapy, like chemotherapy (using drugs to kill the cancer cells), radiation and surgery to/or the breast.

Risk Factors
A risk factors is anything that increases your chance of getting a disease. However, having one or even several risk factors does not mean you will get the disease, it simply means that you have a greater chance of getting it. Some risk factors you can control, others you can’t.

The following are these you can’t control:
Gender: Women have more breast cells and these are more exposed to the influence of female hormones, so just by being born a female gives you a greater risk of getting breast cancer. Although breast cancer affects the males too, it is 100 times more common in women than in men.

Aging: Your risk increases as you get older. Seventy-seven percent of women with breast cancer are above fifty when they are diagnosed. If you are in your early to mid twenties, you have 1 in 110,000 chance of getting breast cancer. Women in mid to late twenties have 1 in 12.800 chance, and those in early thirties have 1 in 3,700 chance.

Genetic make-up: If your mom or sister developed breast cancer you're three times more likely to get it too. Your risk increases if you have close relatives (aunt, grandmother, cousin) who also have the disease.

Race: Caucasian (white) women are slightly more likely to develop breast cancer, but Afro-American (black) women are more likely to die from the disease because it is often detected late. Asian, Hispanic and Native American (Indian) women have a lower risk of developing the disease.

Menstrual period: Women who start menstruating early (before 12 years old) and stop late (after 50 years old) have a higher risk of developing breast cancer.

And here are factors that you can control. Notice that some factors can lower risk, while others increase it:
Breastfeeding. For every 12 months of breastfeeding, breast cancer risk drops 4.3%, and every childbirth lowers risk 7%. Pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding reduce the number of menstruations, which means that the breasts have less hormonal fluctuations.
Exercise. Women who exercise regularly have a lower risk of having breast cancer.
Not having children. Being childless or having a first child after thirty increases the risk of getting breast cancer.
Use of oral contraceptives (The Pill) and alcohol consumption. These increase your risk of getting breast cancer.
Obesity. Especially in women above 50, obesity can increase the risk of developing breast cancer. However, the link between obesity and breast cancer is not a simple one. The risk increases in women who become fat as an adult, but not in women who have been obese since childhood. Excess fat in the waist, stomach and breast areas increases the risk more than the same amount of fat in the hip and thigh areas (which means that having "thunder thighs" is relatively safer than having a "beer belly.")

Breast Self-Examination
Breast Self-Examination (BSE) should be done 5-7 days after menstruation (during menstruation the breasts might be tender or swollen, and this can affect the result) or if you are not regular, done on the same day every month. If you are using oral contraceptive (The Pill), do BSE before starting a new pack. Before doing your firs BSE, it's a good idea to consult a doctor so you'll know what normal, healthy breasts feel like. You need also to remember that breast come in many shapes and sizes and some people have different of breasts and some have asymmetrical ones. So know your own breasts well before you begin doing BSE.
Optional step : wear a pink ribbon on your lapel to show that you support and encourage women to be more aware of their risk of getting breast cancer.

OK, so the last one was not really a BSE procedure. But it's a good idea anyway. You'll never know whose life you might save by explaining to a curious looker what breast cancer and BSE is all about. Or you can start the people closest dearest to you. Your mom, perhaps, on whose breasts you warmth, security and comfort.Or your spunky and adorable sister.Your ultra cool friend. Or maybe, your self.

The following are steps you need to take to do:
1. Stand naked in front of a mirror with your hands on your tips and look at the shape and size of your breasts, pay attention to unusual swelling, hardness, redness, wrinkling and dimpling.
2. Hunch your shoulders forward and once again look at your breast.
3. Gently squeeze the nipples and watch for discharge.
4. Lie down with your left hand behind your head and place the pads of the three middle fingers (the parts with the fingerprints) of your right hand on the outer part of the left breast make a circular motion toward the nipples. You can also move your fingers up and down or in a straight line from your nipple outward. But always do the same kind of movement with all your BSE.
5. Do procedure No. 4 with the other breast. Watch for unusual lump, hardness or spots that are painful to touch. When you find any of these, consult a doctor immediately.
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