Breast cancer is the most prevalent among the types of cancer. It’s the second leading cause of death among women, and every woman in the world has 12 percent chance of acquiring this disease. Studies have shown that 70 to 80 percent cases of breast cancer occur in women who have no family history of the diseases. Experts say that it’s most likely due to the abnormalities that occur in genes as women age.
Nowadays, treatments for breast cancer are already available in many hospitals. But it’s still an inescapable death for some women (and even men) who are diagnosed with terminal breast cancer.
Early Signs and Symptoms
Often times, breast cancer is a silent killer. Symptoms are not apparent until the condition is advanced. The most common and classic symptoms of this disease is a lump in the breast area. If you are not familiar with your breasts shape, texture, color and size, it’s hard to assess if there are symptoms. These symptoms can either be felt or seen.
Below are the most common signs of breast cancer:
- A pea-sized lump in the breasts area
- A marble-liked mass near the armpit, or swelling near the lymph nodes
- Persistent breast pain and tenderness throughout the menstrual cycle
- Scaly and dry skin near and around the nipple
- Inverted and retracted nipple
- Nipple discharge
However, inflammatory breast cancer does not manifest itself in lumps. Instead, the cancer cells grow within the sheets of tissue. It causes severe breast pain, inflammation, rashes near the breasts area and sudden increase in size of the breasts.
Clinical Methods to Detect Breast Cancer
There are three test stages to detect and monitor breast cancer. The first stage is the screening test. This test is the usually an annual mammogram for people who have no breast problems. Its purpose is mainly to detect breast cancer before the condition gets worse. The earlier it’s detected, the easier it is to treat.
The second stage is the diagnostic test. These tests are usually performed on people who suspect they have breast cancer, and can be requested by either the doctor or the patient. If the patient tests positive for breast cancer, further diagnostic tests will still need to be performed to determine the severity of the disease. These tests are mainly designed to determine whether the cancer has already traveled outside the breasts area. Diagnostic tests include biopsy, blood cell count, blood chemistries, bone scans, breast magnetic resonance imaging, breast physical exam, chest X-ray, CT scan and positron emission tomography.
The third stage is the monitoring tests. A person diagnosed with breast cancer undergoes monitoring tests to determine the impact of the treatment and what further medication should be. It’s usually done once a month, or after a particular number of series of treatments. Some of the monitoring tests include oncotype DX test, molecular breast imaging, SPoT-Light HER2 CISH, ductal lavage and Fluorescence In Situ Hybridization.
Breast Self-Examination: How to
Experts don’t rely much on breast self-examination because of accuracy issues compared to other clinical tests, but it’s still crucial for women to be knowledgeable about ways to assess their own health. It helps prevent greater damage and puts them further away from greater risk of the disease.
There are two important points to observe during breast self-exam. The first point is that you should look at the shape of your breasts. Most breasts are not the same in size, so don’t worry if you observe that one of your breasts is larger than the other. You should be familiar with how your breasts look like. Abnormalities that you should be looking for include: lumps, dimples, irregular change in shape and bruising. The second important point that you should take note of is the condition and feeling of your breasts.
Follow this simple breast self-examination:
- 1. Before you put your bra, stand in front of the mirror where there’s good lighting. Relax your arms and put them on your side.
- 2. Examine your breasts and look to see if there’s change in shape. Look for lumps, dimples around your breasts, peeling on your nipple and the direction of your nipple.
- 3. Perform this in different arm positions. Put your arms out to the side, hold them out forward, put your arms over your head and rest your hands on your waist. You can also bend lower and forward at the waist so that you can see how your breasts look like when you are positioned forward.
- 4. When you are taking a shower, use some soap and gently massage your breast area. Since the soap makes the texture of your skin smoother, it’s easier to feel if there’s a lump.
- 5. Before you go to sleep, put some body lotion on your hand and massage your breasts. Since you are lying down, it offers a different position to determine the breast abnormalities.
- 6. Try to feel your breasts through your fingers. Move them clockwise until you've covered the whole area.
- 7. Perform the nipple test. Push both your nipples inward. They should move back to their original direction after you let go. Try to hold the tissue around the nipple and gently pull it. Observe if there’s discharge from the nipple.
Breast cancer doesn’t knock when it comes. It rarely gives a warning when will it attack, and by the time you notice it yourself it could already be too late. It's always better to be informed and prepared to face the battle against breast cancer head-on. Opportunity doesn't knock twice, and catching breast cancer early on could be the only opportunity you get to defeat this terrible disease.