Continuous awareness and education about breast cancer are key in empowering more individuals to address and overcome it.
Breast cancer is by far the most prevalent type of cancer worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there are 1.38 million new cases of breast cancer each year and 458,000 will die from the disease. It is believed that one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.
In particular, the majority of breast cancer cases are found in low- and middle-income countries due to the increase in their population’s life expectancy, rapid urbanization and the adoption of Western lifestyles. As such, it is crucial to increase awareness about the disease and for women to undertake early detection in order to battle this pervasive health condition.
Contrary to popular belief, wearing underwire bras, using certain underarm products and exposure to radiation do not cause breast cancer. Rather, genetic factors are the primary determinant of the disease. Breast cancer occurs roughly 100 times more often in women than in men. A family history of breast or ovarian cancer is also a high-risk factor, especially if the kin received their diagnosis before the age of 50.
Meanwhile, among other known lifestyle risk factors are lack of physical activity, overconsumption of alcohol, unhealthy diet and obesity. Nevertheless, about 60 to 70 percent of breast cancer patients have no known risk factors at all, and on the other hand, others who have these determinants do not always develop cancer. This data only points to the importance of early detection of the disease as the primary approach to breast cancer control.
About 64 percent of breast cancer cases are diagnosed at a localized stage, in which the cancer is still within the area where it originated and with no sign that it has spread. Otherwise, if detection is late, cancer cells may have already reached metastasis—branching out into tissues throughout the body and damaging other organs. At this stage, patients will no longer be able to receive curative treatment and can only relieve pain through palliative care. With early detection of breast cancer, patients can recover through proper diagnosis and treatment.
Early detection methods consist of monthly breast self-exams, regular clinical breast exams and mammograms. Women over the age of 40, having risk factors or not, should have mammograms every one or two years. Although mammograms can detect lumps or tumors that self-exams cannot, it does not reduce the value of the latter. Forty percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who palpate a lump in their breast.
No clear end may be in sight yet in terms of eradicating breast cancer, or any cancer for that matter, but continuous awareness and education about the disease are key in empowering more individuals to address and overcome it.
WHO report on cancer: setting priorities, investing wisely and providing care for all [Internet]. World Health Organization. 2020 [cited 21 Apr 2021]. Available from: https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/who-report-on-cancer-setting-priorities-investing-wisely-and-providing-care-for-all
Early Detection Category [Internet]. National Breast Cancer Foundation. 2019 [cited 21 Apr 2021]. Available from: https://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/early-detection-of-breast-cancer/