• Though a lot commoner in women, men also suffer from breast cancer
• Though a lot commoner in over 50 years, younger people also suffer from it
• Breast cancer is the commonest invasive cancer in woman and a very common cause of death
• Early diagnosis of this condition is so important as the earlier it is diagnosed the easier it can be treated. There is higher possibility of cure if it’s detected in its early stages.
• Though lump in the breast or armpit or upper chest is the commonest symptom of breast cancer, there are other symptoms as well
• Breast cancer may also not have symptom
• Most breast lumps are not cancerous. They are benign.
• Other common symptoms of breast cancer apart from breast lump are as follows:
a) One breast looking larger than the other
b) Nipple discharge eg bloody discharge
c) Nipple drawing inwards or inverted or changing shape or form
d) An unusual rash around the nipple/areola including eczema
e) Dimpling of skin around the nipple/breast
f) Occasionally pain in the breast may be a symptom. However this is not a usual symptom of breast cancer as there are many other causes of breast pain (mastodynia)
g) Note that breast lump is usually painless and may be found anywhere in the breast, armpit, upper chest wall
h) If breast tissues become harder than normal
i) Change in shape of one or both breasts
Who is at risk of breast Cancer: Anyone can suffer from breast cancer but some people are more at risk.
Common risk factors are as follows:
• Female sex
• Over 50 years
• History of breast cancer in a close family member
• Previous history of breast cancer
• Previous history of benign breast lump
• Being overweight and obese
• Too much alcohol consumption
• Medications like oral contraceptive pills containing oestrogens (combined pills) hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
• Exposure to radiation like X-ray, CT scan etc.
• Having very dense breast tissue
• Being taller than average height makes the person more at risk that someone shorter than average height
The essence of screening is to detect breast cancer early especially when the person is not showing any symptom. Mammogram is a type of x-ray available for this and it is readily available. Women who are at risk or those over 40-50 years (depending on the country you live) should go for it.
Younger women who have higher than risk should go for breast ultrasound or MRI scan or genetic testing if you have a positive family history.
Please if you have symptoms do not wait for screening; please see your doctor immediately.
By Dr. Chin Akano