As the world commemorates World Cancer Day, we are reminded of grim statistics where 10 million people die each year from cancer. This is more than HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. In fact, by 2030, experts project cancer deaths to rise to 13 million.
It is for this reason among others that World Cancer Day was set aside to face one of the greatest challenges globally.
Many types of cancers are affecting people globally such as prostate cancer, throat cancer, cervical cancer, skin cancer and breast cancer among many more. On this day we look at breast cancer and its challenges. In Kenya for example, breast cancer is the leading type of cancer with about 6,000 new cases every year?
What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer is a disease in which cells in the breast grow out of control creating a mass of tissue commonly known as a tumor. Breast cancer like other types of cancers can also spread to other parts of the body and form new tumors
Who is mainly affected by Breast cancer?
Women are the most affected by breast cancer and it affects women over the age of 50. It should be noted that men can also develop breast cancer
Globally, black women die from breast cancer at a higher rate than white women. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) breast cancer mortality is about 40% higher among black women than white women.
Mayo Clinic, a non-profit organization committed to clinical practice education and research globally lists the following factors as the ones associated with an increased risk of breast cancer
- Being female. Women are much more likely than men are to develop breast cancer.
- Increasing age. Your risk of breast cancer increases as you age.
- A personal history of breast cancer. If you’ve had breast cancer in one breast, you have an increased risk of developing cancer in the other breast.
- A family history of breast cancer. If your mother, sister or daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer, particularly at a young age, your risk of breast cancer is increased.
- Obesity. Being obese increases your risk of breast cancer
- Beginning your period at a younger age. Beginning your period before age 12 increases your risk of breast cancer.
- Beginning menopause at an older age. If you began menopause at an older age, you’re more likely to develop breast cancer.
- Having your first child at an older age. Women who give birth to their first child after age 30 may have an increased risk of breast cancer.
- Having never been pregnant. Women who have never been pregnant have a greater risk of breast cancer than do women who have had one or more pregnancies.
- Postmenopausal hormone therapy. Women who take hormone therapy medications that combine estrogen and progesterone to treat the signs and symptoms of menopause have an increased risk of breast cancer. The risk of breast cancer decreases when women stop taking these medications.
- Drinking alcohol. Drinking alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer.
Symptoms of breast cancer
According to Cleveland Clinic, whereas breast cancer can vary from one person to another, the following are the early signs of breast cancer
- A change in the size, shape or contour of your breast.
- A mass or lump, which may feel as small as a pea.
- A lump or thickening in or near your breast or in your underarm that persists through your menstrual cycle.
- A change in the look or feel of your skin on your breast or nipple (dimpled, puckered, scaly or inflamed).
- Redness of your skin on your breast or nipple.
- An area that’s distinctly different from any other area on either breast.
- A marble-like hardened area under your skin.
- A blood-stained or clear fluid discharge from your nipple.
How is breast cancer diagnosed?
The following methods can be used to diagnose breast cancer as outlined by CDC.
- Breast ultrasound. A machine that uses sound waves to take pictures, of areas inside the breast.
- Diagnostic mammogram. This is a more detailed X-Ray of your breast that is performed when one has a problem in their breast such as a lump.
- Breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MRI is a scan that uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to produce detailed images of the inside of the body. With a breast MRI, the scan will reveal detailed pictures of areas inside the breast.
- Biopsy. This is a test that removes tissue or fluid from the breast to be looked at under a microscope and do more testing.
Treatment of breast cancer
Breast cancer treatment depends on the following key factors
- The stage of cancer
- Sensitivity to hormones
- Person’s age and overall health
According to the Centre For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are various common ways that breast cancer is treated,
- Surgery. It involves cutting of the cancer tissue by a surgeon
- Chemotherapy. This involves using some special medicines to kill cancer cells.
- Hormonal therapy. Blocks cancer cells from getting the hormones they need to grow.
- Biological therapy. Works with your body’s immune system to help it fight cancer cells or to control side effects from other cancer treatments.
- Radiation therapy. Involves use of high-energy rays to kill cancer cells.