— PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE —
Breast cancer is the most common among women, and most women have a lifetime risk of getting breast cancer; for men, the risk is one in one thousand. Breasts are made of fatty tissue, and breast cancer occurs when healthy breast cells become abnormal, grow out of control and form tumours, and cancer cells can spread from the breast to other body parts such as the bones and liver. Some breast cancers grow slowly over the years, while others grow much faster. If breast cancer is found earlier, there is a higher survival chance.
- Age –The chances of getting breast cancer rise as women get older
- Genes –Having a genetic risk
- Personal factors- Beginning periods before age 12 or going through menopause after the age of 55
- Having breast cancer before,
- Family history with breast cancer,
- Being overweight,
- Using hormone replacement therapy,
- Taking birth control pills,
- Drinking alcohol,
- Not having children or having your first child after the age of 35, or having dense breasts,
To diagnose breast cancer, you need to get a health check done by professionals, although symptoms are evident to the patient, including headaches or pain. Below are a few common signs and symptoms which women usually detect,
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
- A new lump or thickened breast tissue,
- Change in shape or size,
- Fluid discharge from either nipple,
- Puckering, dimpling, rash, redness surrounding the breast,
- Bumps in armpits
- Warm to touch
- Radiation therapy
- Hormone therapy
- Targeted therapy
Self-check at home is important
FOLLOW UP CARE
Many women, after surgery, stop worrying or don’t check often, but some women with advanced breast cancer will not cure completely; they need to keep it under control, do regular checkups and avoid risk factors. Follow-up schedules depend on the cancer stage and how to advance it.
- Doctor visits
- Pelvic exams
- Bone density tests
- CT/PET scans
The pink ribbon is a prominent symbol of breast cancer. Nowadays, many advocacy and awareness programs are available for more knowledge and support, such as consulting professionals’ health teams, free counseling, cancer rehab, online cancer communities etc.
Support available in New Zealand
- Breast cancer support –freephone 0800 273 222 provides phone counseling and Support groups.
- Cancer Society of NZ freephone 0800 226 237.
- National screening unit, Breast screen Aotearoa – freephone 0800 270 200
By Oshala Fernando – Christchurch