Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women worldwide, accounting for nearly a quarter of all new cancer cases each year. In Sri Lanka, breast cancer is the leading cancer among women, accounting for 29.6% of all new cancer cases in females. According to recent statistics from the National Cancer Control Programme of Sri Lanka, an estimated 4,000 new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed annually, and the incidence of breast cancer is increasing in the country.
It is crucial for women to be aware of breast cancer and take preventative measures to reduce their risk. By understanding the risk factors, symptoms, and screening methods, women can take control of their health and detect breast cancer at an early stage, which can improve treatment outcomes and increase the chances of survival.
What is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the breast tissue. Breast cancer can occur in both men and women, but it is much more common in women. It usually starts in the milk ducts or lobules of the breast, which are responsible for producing and transporting milk.
Types of Breast Cancer
There are several types of breast cancer, including ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC), and invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC). DCIS is a non-invasive breast cancer that develops in the milk ducts, while IDC and ILC are invasive breast cancers that have spread into the surrounding breast tissue.
Symptoms of Breast Cancer
The symptoms of breast cancer can vary, but some of the most common symptoms include:
- A lump or thickening in the breast or underarm area
- Changes in the size or shape of the breast
- Nipple discharge or inversion
- Skin dimpling or puckering
- Redness or scaling of the nipple or breast skin
It's important to note that not all breast lumps or changes are cancerous, but it's essential to get any changes checked by a healthcare professional.
Risk Factors for Breast Cancer
Several factors can increase a woman's risk of developing breast cancer, including:
- Age: The risk of breast cancer increases with age, especially after the age of 50.
- Family history: Women with a family history of breast cancer are at higher risk of developing the disease.
- Personal history: Women who have had breast cancer in one breast are at higher risk of developing cancer in the other breast.
- Hormonal factors: Women who started menstruating at an early age or went through menopause at a later age are at higher risk of breast cancer.
- Lifestyle factors: Factors such as a sedentary lifestyle, a diet high in fat and alcohol consumption can increase the risk of breast cancer.
Early Detection and Diagnosis of Breast Cancer
Early detection and diagnosis are critical in improving breast cancer treatment outcomes and increasing the chances of survival. Here are some of the ways breast cancer can be detected and diagnosed:
Breast Self-Examination (BSE)
BSE is a simple way for women to check their breasts regularly for any changes or abnormalities. Women should perform BSE once a month, preferably a few days after their menstrual cycle. BSE involves visually inspecting the breast and feeling for any lumps or changes.
Clinical Breast Examination (CBE)
CBE is a physical examination of the breasts by a healthcare professional. During the examination, the healthcare professional will feel for any lumps or abnormalities in the breast tissue.
Mammography is an imaging test that uses low-dose X-rays to detect any abnormalities in the breast tissue. It is the most effective method for detecting breast cancer at an early stage. Women over the age of 40 should have a mammogram every 1-2 years.
If a lump or abnormality is found during a BSE, CBE, or mammogram, further diagnostic tests may be needed. These tests may include ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or biopsy to determine if the lump is cancerous.
It's important for women to schedule regular check-ups with their healthcare providers and report any changes or abnormalities in their breasts immediately. Early detection and diagnosis can save lives and improve treatment outcomes.
Prevention Tips for Breast Cancer
While there is no guaranteed way to prevent breast cancer, certain lifestyle choices can reduce the risk of developing the disease. Here are some tips for breast cancer prevention:
Physical activity can help maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of breast cancer. Women should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
Eating a healthy diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can reduce the risk of breast cancer. It's also important to limit the intake of saturated and trans fats.
Avoid Smoking and Excessive Alcohol Consumption
Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can increase the risk of breast cancer. Women should avoid smoking altogether and limit their alcohol intake to one drink per day.
Breastfeeding can reduce the risk of breast cancer, especially if a woman breastfeeds for at least six months. Breastfeeding reduces the number of menstrual cycles a woman has, which can lower the levels of hormones that contribute to the development of breast cancer.
Consider Preventive Surgery
Women who are at high risk of developing breast cancer, such as those with a family history of the disease, may consider preventive surgery. Preventive surgery involves removing the breast tissue before cancer develops. This procedure can significantly reduce the risk of developing breast cancer.
In addition to these prevention tips, women should also schedule regular check-ups with their healthcare providers and report any changes or abnormalities in their breasts immediately. By taking these steps, women can reduce their risk of developing breast cancer and improve their overall health.
Breast cancer is a serious disease that affects millions of women worldwide. However, early detection and diagnosis can significantly improve treatment outcomes and increase the chances of survival. Women can take steps to reduce their risk of developing breast cancer by exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy diet, avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, and considering preventive surgery if they are at high risk.
Breastfeeding is also beneficial for reducing the risk of breast cancer. Women should perform regular breast self-examinations, schedule regular check-ups with their healthcare providers, and report any changes or abnormalities in their breasts immediately. By taking these steps, women can improve their overall health and reduce their risk of developing breast cancer.