Sunday 13 December 2009, 23:08

Breast cancer awareness

How to protect oneself from breast cancer

Breast cancer awareness

Breast cancer affects 8-10% of women in their lifetime. Although most cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in women over 40, younger women are occasionally diagnosed with it as well.


After lung cancer, breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women: it is therefore important that women be aware of risk factors for breast cancer and know how to get it diagnosed at an early stage, in order to maximize the chances for cure.


There are two classes of risks factors: 1) risk factors that cannot be changed or managed, such as age over 40, family history of breast or ovarian cancer, early puberty or late menopause; 2) risk factors that can be changed or managed, such as overweight, alcohol use, hormone replacement therapy, birth control pills use, not having children or having them late in life (after 35 years of age).


Mammogram (or breast X-ray) is the best way to detect breast cancer in its earliest stages. Since early diagnosis can improve the chances for successful treatment and survive, women over 40 should have a screening mammogram every year.


Simple measures for lowering the risk of breast cancer include: 1) eating a balanced healthy diet in order to avoid obesity or overweight; 2) getting regular moderate exercise (at least 30 minutes a day, 5 or more days a week); 3) drinking only moderate amounts of alcohol (no more than 1 drink per day).


Most importantly, any changes in one’s breast (such as a lump or dimpling of the skin) should be brought to the attention of a physician. Although the existing research on breast self-exam doesn’t support it conclusively, it is important for every woman to be aware of her own body.


Breast self-exam (BSE) is useful for recognizing any changes in the appearance or consistency of one’s breast. Any of the warning signs of breast cancer (such as lump, hard knot, swelling redness, darkening, persistent pain in one spot, dimpling or puckering of the skin, change in size or shape of the breast) should always be reported to the health care provider, in order to rule out or confirm the diagnosis through mammograms and clinical breast exams.


By Chiara De Carli

Category: Cancer

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