October is observed as Breast Cancer Awareness Month(BCAM) every year. It is an annual campaign to spread awareness about Breast Cancer among women and normalise talking about it. It has become one of the most common types of cancer among women leaving a substantial impact on their lives.
But the good news is early diagnosis and treatments have improved the survival rates over the years. This month helps reduce the stigma through encouragement on diagnosis, education on symptoms and treatment of ailment. In 1985, October month was marked as BCAM. An annual international health campaign started under the American Cancer Society and Imperial Chemical Industries partnership to educate women about breast cancer treatment. So, before getting into the details of BCAM, let's have a brief on Breast Cancer:
What is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is the type of cancer that forms in the breast cells and grows out of control. It can spread to different parts of the breast. Gradually, it can also blow out to other body parts through blood and lymph vessels. The breast has three main parts lobules that produce milk, ducts, the tubes that carry milk, and connective tissue that holds everything together.
Most breast tumours start in the ducts, which is why they are called ductal cancers. Tumour in lobules is known as lobules cancer. It's important to know that not all breast lumps are cancerous. Some are non-cancerous but with abnormal growth. But they do not spread outside the breast and are not life-threatening. That's why it's advisable to consult with a doctor once you notice signs of breast cancer.
However, it is not a transmissible or infectious health condition, unlike cancer causes such as human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and cervical cancer.
Symptoms of Breast Cancer
Throughout October, various science forums, healthcare providers, clinics, cancer institutes, etc. circulate information through different informational pamphlets and educational programs to give information about breast cancer symptoms. Though symptoms may vary from female to female, some most common warning signs are:
- Swelling, redness or pain in one or both breasts.
- Increase size or change in the shape of the breast.
- Changes in the colour of nipples.
- Inverted nipple.
- Fluid discharge from nipples.
- Lumps felt inside the breast.
To learn and get more and more information about symptoms. Visit a doctor for a complete examination and consult that whatever you notice is a cause of concern.
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Causes of Breast Cancer
Researchers have identified some factors that may cause breast cancer. But still, there are cases where women of these causes are diagnosed with cancer. So, here are some breast cancer causes:
- Females are more likely to develop breast cancer than men.
- Inherited mutated genes such as gene 1 (BRCA 1) and gene 2 (BRCA 2) increase the risk
- One breast is already affected, then it increased the risk of developing cancer in the other breast
- Radiation treatments also cause cancer
- Obesity also increases the chances of breast cancer
- Mensuration or menopause at a very early or older age can develop cancer
- Late pregnancy can also cause cancer amongst female
- Consumption of alcohol also put women at high risk of developing a tumor in the breast
- Women who take hormone replacement therapy are at higher risk.
Treatment of Breast Cancer
The more breast cancer has spread, the more treatment a woman will likely need. But the treatment options depend on the signs of breast cancer, the patient's physical condition, and breast cancer stages. Below are the treatment options that you can read.
- Mastectomy: It is part of breast care treatment. It is a surgery that surgeons recommend after analysing the stage of cancer. Under this, the whole affected breast is removed. So that it also lessens the chances of spreading cancer in another breast or the rest of the body.
- Breast-Conserving Surgery: Under this treatment, only the affected part of the breast is removed with surgery. This surgery aims to remove cancer and only surrounding normal tissue and conserve the rest of the breast.
- Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy recommends by oncologists after surgery. The need for radiation depends on whether cancer has spread only to the breast or other body parts. Patients can get either one or a combination of different types of radiation—the high-energy rays used in the treatment help to destroy cancer cells.
- Chemotherapy: In chemotherapy, anti-cancer drugs are injected into the body to destroy cancer cells after surgery. Not all women require chemotherapy. It can be done before and after the surgery as recommended by the oncologists. Before surgery, doctors try to shrink the tumour with the help of anti-cancer drugs. So that surgery will become less complicated. After surgery, it is used to kill the cancer cells that might be left behind after surgery.
- Hormone Therapy: It is a helpful systemic therapy for treating breast cancer that is affected by hormones in the blood. Breast cancer cells(ER-Positive and PR Positive) have receptors attached to estrogen, which grow cancer cells in the breast. In this treatment, the drug reaches cancer cells in the entire body. This is used after surgery to reduce the risk of cancer coming back.
- Immunotherapy: Oncologists use medicines to stimulate the patient's immune system to diagnose and destroy cancer cells. Under this treatment, antibodies are designed to attack the cancer cell. These days it has become a vital breast cancer treatment.
Prevention of Breast Cancer
One ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Doctors say that breast cancer prevention always starts with a healthy lifestyle. On the occasion of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, read the below points prevention tips and understand how you can lower breast cancer risk:
- Limit your alcohol consumption and don’t smoke.
- Control your weight gain with a healthy diet and exercise.
- Start breastfeeding, the longer you feed your child the greater the chances of being protective.
- Avoid exposure to radiation and pollution
- Prevent post-menopausal hormone therapy
- Breast cancer screening with mammography also saves lives
- Genetic counselling and check your family history.
- Close observation to look for early signs.
A study suggests that up to 5-10% of breast cancer cases could be hereditary, whereas 90-95% are due to lifestyle factors. Once you diagnose breast cancer symptoms early, it will get easier for you to cure it completely.
How is Breast Cancer Awareness Month Celebrated?
Every woman's life is essential, and this month inspires hope and becomes a force for good to access the best healthcare she needs. Read below how people celebrate it:
- Different public service announcements remind women about the importance of self-examination, mammograms, breast cancer causes, and breast cancer treatment.
- Several non-profit organisations, NGOs, business entities, corporates, hospitals, clinics, and government agencies organise awareness events, health fairs, chat shows, and fundraising programs.
- Health charities and individuals also organised chat shows, conferences, or webinars with health experts to teach them how to cope with anxiety and stress during the treatment. Also, encourage them to come forward to save their lives from breast cancer.
- Lots of awareness programs, TV commercials, and radio jingles get on AIR to educate people, not only women, about early detection and breast cancer treatment. Some organisations also include promotional material, broachers, educational material, clinical programs, and even free health checkups for females. The main motive behind Breast Cancer Awareness month is to encourage women to do self-checkup, know breast cancer causes, and prevent breast cancer.
Breast cancer prevention could be done by simply doing a self-breast examination. Touch around your breast and feel if there is something lumpy or unusual. Women should be doing this practice regularly as soon as they turn 30.
>> Also read 7 Myths and Facts about Breast Cancer
How has Coronavirus Impacted Women With Breast Cancer in India?
According to the National Cancer Registry Programme report, India-1 in 29 females has breast cancer in the country, and the survival rate is still 66%. Read below to learn about how coronavirus impacted women with breast cancer:
- Breast cancer treatments include chemotherapy, targeted therapies, and immunotherapy that weaken the patient's immune system. The novel coronavirus can easily catch people who have a weak immune system.
- Many hospitals slow down their other clinical services, including cancer treatment, to provide primary care to the infected people. Consequently, thousands of women are deprived of cancer screening or face delays in surgeries for breast cancer treatment.
- The shortage of cancer treatment medication due to a halt in imports is also creating trouble for cancer patients in India. The prices of medicines used to treat breast cancer are soaring these days.
- In a recent report, the WHO stated that it is the most common cancer in women in India and accounts for 14% of all concerns amongst women.
- India's incidence rates begin to rise in the early 30's and peak at ages 50-64 years. Below are the estimated past and future trends in total cases per year for breast cancer:
However, the survival rates of breast cancer in India are comparatively low due to ignorance and delayed detection. Spreading awareness and normalising talking about it could only lower this number. Once it gets detected in time, it can be treated and cured.
Ignorance is not always bliss!
These days there is an alarming increase in breast cancer cases. One has to be mentally strong to fight breast cancer. But at the same time, staying prepared financially is like half the battle won. Here Care Cancer Mediclaim can be your financial saviour. Our cancer mediclaim insurance offers lifelong cancer care at a very affordable premium. We cover all stages of cancer and provide cashless cancer treatment. Where life is unpredictable, buy cancer mediclaim today and protect yourself tomorrow.
Prevention is just a step away from a cure. Be vigilant, and be prepared!
Disclaimer: Underwriting of claims for breast cancer is subject to policy terms and conditions.
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