Let's talk about the Big C:
Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Breast Cancer is the most prevalent cancer in the world. According to the World Health Organisation in 2020, there were 2.3 million women diagnosed with breast cancer and 685 000 deaths globally. Which is a HUGE number. But what is it and who does it affect? Maybe you heard about it before and want to find out more information. Don't worry, we got you.
Breast Cancer: A crash course
What is Cancer?
Cancer starts when cells in the body change (mutate) and grow out of control. Your body is made up of tiny building blocks called cells.
Normal cells grow when your body needs them and die when you don't need them anymore. Cancer is made up of abnormal cells that grow even though your body doesn't need them. In most types of cancer, the abnormal cells grow to form a lump or mass called a tumour.
Understanding the breast.
The breast is made up of lobules and ducts. The lobules are the glands that can make milk. The ducts are thin tubes that carry the milk from the lobules to the nipple. The breast is also made of fat, connective tissue, lymph nodes, and blood vessels.
Breast Cancer is cancer that starts in cells in the breast. The ducts and the lobules are the 2 parts of the breast where cancer is most likely to start. Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in women in the world. Once breast cancer forms, cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body (metastasise), making it life-threatening. The good news is that breast cancer is often found early on when it's small and before it has spread.
Signs and symptoms
Breast cancer most commonly presents as a painless lump or thickening in the breast.
Generally, symptoms of breast cancer include:
- a breast lump or thickening;
- alteration in size, shape or appearance of a breast;
- dimpling, redness, pitting, or other alteration in the skin;
- change in nipple appearance or alteration in the skin surrounding the nipple (areola); and/or abnormal nipple discharge.
It is essential to consider many reasons for lumps to develop in the breast, most of which are not cancer. As many as 90% of breast masses are not cancerous. Non-cancerous breast abnormalities include benign masses like fibroadenomas and cysts as well as infections.
However, it is better to be safe rather than sorry.
It is vital that individuals that find an abnormal lump in the breast consult a doctor as soon as possible. There is no time to waste, even when there is no pain associated. The earlier you seek medical attention, the earlier you can start treatment, which increases the chances of successful treatment.
Spotlight: Breast Cancer in Men
Did you know that breast cancer affects men? Because before doing this blog, I didn't.
When we think about breast cancer, most individuals will immediately think about women, but men can get it.
Many people do not realise that men have breast tissue and that they can develop breast cancer. Cells in nearly any part of the body can become cancer and can spread to other areas.
As I mentioned before, breast cancer can start from different parts of the breast. Most breast cancers begin in the ducts that carry milk to the nipple (ductal cancers). Some start in the glands that make breast milk (lobular cancers). Men have these ducts and glands, too, even though they aren't usually functional.
There is minimal research and no routine screening specifically for men. So most male breast cancers are found by self-checking their chest or just noticing changes. Breast cancer usually affects men aged 50 and over, but it can be found in men of any age.
To find out more about male breast cancer check out these resources:
- Mayo Clinic Male Breast Cancer
- What is Breast Cancer in Men? American Cancer Society
Also, click here to check out this podcast:
About Female and Male Breast Cancer
You, Me and the Big C: Putting the can in cancer
Coping with Breast Cancer
Despite progress in breast cancer research, being diagnosed with it is frightening. And even though our communities have rallied around breast cancer patients with emotional support and funding, dealing with breast cancer can be a lonely overwhelming road.
Fortunately, there are many strong voices to help you in your fight. If you or anyone you know has been diagnosed with Breast Cancer, or maybe you just want to find out more, check out these podcasts.
The vital information and inspiring stories they provide. Check out the following podcasts:
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