Ciao! October is a month where a lot is happening. Autumn hits in full force, Halloween is around the corner, everyone is obsessed with fall fashion and some think it’s the perfect time to whip out their Christmas decorations, but there are bigger things than decorations, fashion and costumes. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it is claimed as an annual campaign to spread awareness of this horrible disease.
Today I am going to tell you more about breast cancer, the types, stages, causes, myths and how you can do a breast cancer exam by yourself before going to the doctor (which you should go once a year at least anyway 😊 ). The goal is to spread the word about the increasing number of cases every day, in women and men.
How to spot breastcancer?
Luckily, this disease shows its symptoms early on, mostly. Any skin changes in colour, texture, pore enlargement is a possible sign. Lumps are something everyone has heard about, most of the time, lumps occur during the ovulation cycle or hormonal changes and that is why they should be examined by professionals to make sure there is nothing to worry about. Changes in nipples such as inversion, dimples around them, noticeable recent asymmetry, unusual discharge, swollenness, change in texture and colour and peeling.
Every noticeable change is a reason to head to the doctor and do an ultrasound. Besides visible changes, regular self-exams are crucial (I do them once a week in the shower, for convenience purposes, but the recommended time is once a month).
How youcan do a Self-Exam RIGHT NOW?
Stand in front of a mirror, visually examine your breast for any changes I listed above. Then, with the tips of 3 fingers start to press all over your breast and armpit area and try to detect lumps. Use different kind of pressures starting from light, medium and firm pressure. Then lift your arm and do the same thing again. Check both breasts regularly and look for knots, lumps, and visible changes. If changes occur, call your doctor or gynaecologist. It is super easy and takes a few minutes and almost no effort.
Once it is detected and diagnosed (the diagnosis is made via MRIs, biopsies, ultrasounds, bloodwork and many more ways) it has stages. The stages go from 0 and 1, 2 and 2A, 3 A, B and C and stage 4. For more details about the stages of breast cancer visit the official National Breast Cancer Foundation Website.
Since breast cancer is so common, it has many types of it. The type is determined by your doctor once further test are made. The types are:
MetastaticBreast Cancer – occurs when the cancer has spread to other parts of the body (Stage 4).
DuctalCarcinomain situ – non-invasive, abnormal cells found in the milk production lining
InvasiveDuctal Carcinoma – the one above just spread to other parts of the breast, invasive
Triple-Negative Breast Cancer – 3 most common “fuels” for cancer were not found in the tissue (estrogen, progesterone, HER-2/neu gene). The only way to treat this kind is chemotherapy.
InflammatoryBreast cancer – most rapid and aggressive growing type
Once the stage and type of breast cancer is diagnosed, treatment options are put to the table. Most people, depending on the type, are recommended a combination of a lot of treatments so the cancer is combated successfully and aggressively. The most common combination is surgery, radiation, hormone therapy, chemotherapy and targeted therapy, but that is the worst-case scenario. Depending on the severity of the cancer, you may need just 2 or 3 things listed. Follow-up care and healthy habits are a must. Everyone is an individual and so is their cancer. Trust your doctor but my advice is to always ask for a second opinion.
A lot of myths have been spread about breast cancer that is just ridiculous and I am here to debunk them.
–Mencan’tgetit. – Less common, but still possible and definitely can get aggressive as any other cancer. (Menshould do a self-examtoo!!!)
–A lumpmeansyouhavecancer a 1/1. – No, lumps can come and go due to hormonal changes, the lumps that remain are the ones you should worry about.
–It’s contagious. – Come on guys, no cancer is contagious, it isn’t the flu.
How to preventit?
There is no secret recipe to prevent getting it, but taking steps to a healthier and better self can’t be bad. There are some steps you can avoid so there are smaller risks of getting it though. Smoking is heavily linked to an increased risk of getting breast cancer. Drinking alcohol and using recreational drugs are considered a cancer trigger as well.
Regular physical activity, a healthy diet consisting mostly of fruit and vegetables, staying hydrated is something you should practice throughout your lifetime and is surely a good start for preventing breast cancer. The key is doing regular self-exams, talking openly with you doctor, getting annual professional exams, research about your family history with the disease (some genes are passed on so that means some people are at higher risk of having cancer, but it is not an ultimatum).
This is a serious illness and you should take your health seriously because, at the end of the day, health is all you have.
Breast cancer is something I started to feel very passionate about 2 years ago when I felt a lump and got scared. I did an ultrasound and fortunately it wasn’t it. A few months later, my mom got diagnosed with it. Luckily, she found out early on and went to surgery a few weeks later. Today, I am so proud for saying she is a survivor and for being an amazing woman and mother.
This is my way of spreading awareness to men and women to take initiative. I hope I painted a good picture of what this illness is and we embrace Breast Cancer Awareness Month together.