According to the World Health Organization, breast cancer is the top cancer to affect women in both the developed and developing world. Considering that October is Breast Cancer Awareness months, it is important to be aware of the risk factors, prevention and treatments for this devastating disease.
There are many risk factors, some of which we can control and some that we cannot. Of course, being a woman greatly increases your chances. The American Cancer Society estimates that 5%-10% of breast cancer cases are hereditary. Your risk of breast cancer doubles if a first degree relative (i.e. mother, sister, or daughter) has had cancer.
Factors that can be controlled would include our diet and exercise habits, as obesity increases the risk of cancer, while indulging in physical activity for 1.25 to 2.5 hours per week can reduce the risk by 18%.
Although many believe that it starts with a lump, that is not the only sign. Pain, irritation, redness, dimpling, scaliness or swelling or any other unusual changes are possible symptoms, and are not diagnosable unless reviewed by a doctor.
In fact, not all breast lumps are cancerous. Some lumps are benign, such as cysts, which are sacs of fluid that build up in the breast tissue. According to the Macmillan Cancer Support, a top cancer support charity in the United Kingdom, nearly 1 in 10 women will have cysts at some time during her life. Another type of lump is a fibroadenoma, a solid tumor that is made of glandular and fibrous tissue and most commonly found in women in their 20s and 30s. Cysts and fibroadenomas are easily treated, and therefore you should visit a doctor regardless of your fear of finding out if it may be cancer.
If it has unfortunately been found to be cancer, many women should still hold hope. Getting screened as earliest as possible is a must, as the National Cancer Data Base shows a survival rate of women treated whilst in the earliest stages between 81% to 93%, while being treated at much later stage shows a survival rate from 67% to as low as 15%.
Schedule a normal check-up or a mammogram with your doctor if you feel you’re at risk or if you’ve noticed any unusual changes.
To schedule a women’s health check-up, call Royal Bahrain Hospital on 1724 6800 or 8000 1090 and schedule your appointment.