It’s breast cancer awareness month, and during this time, the goal is to raise awareness and educate people across the globe on the most common cancer, both in developed and developing countries. (1)
With regular checks and self-examinations, early detection of breast cancer can save thousands of lives each year.
Here you’ll find out everything you need to know about breast cancer—what it is, what signs to look out for, how to treat it, and how to prevent it.
Breast cancer is cancer that forms in the cells of the breast. The cancer cells form a tumor that can usually be detected by an X-ray or felt as a lump. Breast cancer occurs most often in women, although men can develop breast cancer too.
Cancer that originated in the breast and has spread to another part of the body is still referred to as breast cancer.
Most breast cancers are ductal cancers—they begin in the ducts that carry milk to the nipple. Some breast cancers are lobular cancers—they start in the glands that make breast milk. A smaller number of breast cancers begin in the breast tissue, and they are called either sarcomas or lymphomas.
Through regular checkups and self-examinations, you may be able to catch breast cancer at an early stage. The sooner the cancer is detected, the better the prognosis.
It is important to note that while many types of breast cancer cause lumps, not at all do. Also, not all new lumps found in the breast are cancerous, although they should all be examined. While some lumps are benign, they may increase a woman’s chance of getting breast cancer.
These are the ways in which breast cancer can be detected:
Every woman should perform a breast self-examination once a month. Women who examine their breasts every month become aware of how the breasts feel and are more likely to notice small changes like masses, lumps, or nipple discharge—all early signs of breast cancer. The best time to do a BSE is a week after your period when your breasts are not swollen or tender.
Once a year, your doctor or general practitioner should examine both breasts and armpits. The doctor will feel the lymph nodes in your armpit and check for lumps or abnormalities.
A mammogram is an X-ray that examines breast tissue. It can detect breast cancer up to two years before a lump is felt. The age at which you start having mammograms is a decision made by your doctor based on your personal history. All women over the age of 40 should have a mammogram every one to two years, but your doctor may recommend starting earlier if you have a personal or family history of cancer.
If a lump is detected, a breast ultrasound can be used to determine whether it is a solid mass or a fluid-filled cyst.
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