What is Breast Cancer and 4 Ways to Prevent It
Breast cancer is a process in which the breast cells begin to grow abnormally, changing into protuberances or tumors. When a tumor is malign, it has the capacity of invading and destroying other tissues around it as well as other body parts.
Breast cancer can start in any part of the breast. For example, the milk ducts, small tubes that conduct the milk into a reservoir that lies just beneath the nipple; or it can also start at the lobes, where the milk is produced.
Breast cancer today
Breast cancer is a public health problem. It is the most common cancer in women and approximately 1 out of every 8 women has it during her life.
In Spain more than 22.000 cases are registered yearly, being the 28,5% of all tumors among women. It’s diagnosed in women within the ages of 35 to 80. Breast cancer survival rates have increased in the last 15 years with a 1,4% yearly increment. The survival is currently of 82,8%, which is better than the European average.
Prevention comes first
There is no way to prevent breast cancer completely, however there are four things that help early diagnose and allow people to get treatment with time.
It is the exploration of the breast through low-power x-rays to locate areas with abnormally grown tissue.
Mammography is done for the first time at age 35 and you should do it every year after age 40.
If you have a family history of breast cancer, start this test 10 years before the age of presentation of your family member's disease.
Medical breast exam
It is the evaluation carried out by the specialist, an essential practice in any consultation of primary or gynecological care. It contributes to the early diagnosis of breast cancer and is included accompanied by the mammographic examination. In general, it begins to be made after the age of 30.
It is the observation and palpation in different directions of the breasts to identify abnormalities or bumps. It should be done from the age of 20, at least once a month, two to three days after menstruation, when the breasts are least tense.
- Visual observation standing in front of a mirror.
- With arms down. Check that the size of the breasts and their symmetry is normal, that the skin is not rough, does not have reddened areas, lumps or dimples, that your nipples are not retracted or sunk.
- With arms raised. Check that the bottom contour of your breasts is circular, regular, and symmetrical in both breasts. Look straight ahead and turn sideways.
- Palpation in standing position. Lift the left arm and with the three middle fingers of the right hand examine the left breast. Without stopping, gently and firmly palpate your breast in circles, in vertical and horizontal lines. Make sure you don't notice any strange lumps. Switch side.
- Palpation lying on the back. Put a pillow under your left shoulder to examine your left breast. Lift your left arm, left hand on the back of your neck, and palpate your breast just like in the previous step. Switch side.
- Nipple. Compress the nipples with your fingers to check if any fluid comes out.
If the skin of your breasts is irregular, a breast is larger than usual, you have noticed lumps or your nipples secrete fluid - contact your doctor for a gynecological examination. Remember that self-examination does not replace mammography or periodic clinical examination.
- Change habits
Lifestyle changes improve overall health and help minimize the risk of breast cancer.
- It is important that you exercise
- Avoid excess body weight. Being overweight increases the risk of developing breast cancer by changes in fatty tissue on androgens to estrogens that act on the breast.
- Avoid high alcohol consumption, this is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.
- If you are a mother or you plan to be a mother, breastfeeding is preferable.
- And evaluate your breasts regularly with the right methods - it's the best strategy to prevent breast cancer.
Taking care of your breasts is in your hands.