Breast cancer: beyond the pink ribbon

You probably know someone who has had breast cancer, since one in nine women will be affected in her lifetime. Early diagnosis is associated with a higher survival rate, learn about this disease is definitely good for your health!

THE BREAST IS A PART OF THE WOMAN’S BODY ASSOCIATED WITH BEAUTY, FEMININITY AND MOTHERHOOD

For the little child, the breast is intimately linked to comfort and well-being. But for many women, it can be a source of great concern when a diagnosis of breast cancer is made. Every year, this type of cancer is diagnosed in more than 5,000 Quebec women. The announcement of the diagnosis of breast cancer often causes a shock, followed by a fight, both in the person with the disease and in their loved ones. In October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we highlight each year the stakes of a hard reality that we can not turn our backs on.

BREAST CANCER: THE FACTS

A cancer develops when cells of the human body multiply in an abnormal and anarchic way. These cells are abnormal because they have undergone a mutation, that is, an unusual change, during their growth. Cancer can affect any part of the body, such as the stomach, skin, lungs or breast. When abnormal cells reproduce in a breast, they form a benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous) tumor.

In women, breast cancer is the most common cancer. He is also the deadliest after lung cancer. Men may also suffer from breast cancer, but more rarely.

The most important risk factor for breast cancer is age. In fact, this type of cancer most often attacks women over 50 years old. Family history of breast cancer (in the mother, father, sibling) is also a major risk factor, as abnormal cell mutations are transmitted from one generation to the next. Other risk factors include:

  • have ever had breast cancer
  • never have children;
  • live a pregnancy after the age of 35;
  • live through the menopause past the age of 55;
  • have had her first menstrual period before the age of 12;
  • have undergone radiation therapy at the torso, especially at a young age;
  • take hormones (at menopause) for more than five years.

SOME BAD HABITS CAN INCREASE THE RISK OF BREAST CANCER, FOR EXAMPLE:

  • smoking;
  • Alcohol consumption;
  • excess weight
  • lack of physical activity

EARLY DETECTION: YOUR BEST ALLY

In most cases, breast cancer develops for several years without any sign. To increase your chances of quickly detecting cancer, it is important to know your breast. Right under your nose, they deserve all your attention!

A few years ago, a specific method of breast self-examination was advocated. However, it is no longer necessary to use a particular technique. The most important thing is to know your breasts and all the area around (nipples, clavicles and armpits). In this way, you will be able to recognize what is normal and observe any unusual changes, including the appearance of masses or bumps. Most of the changes you will notice will not be cancerous; nevertheless, it is better to discuss it with a doctor. In addition, it is important to note that your breasts may change over time or have temporary changes. For example, it may be normal for your breasts to have small bumps or be more sensitive before your period.

In Quebec, there is a program that allows women aged 50 to 69 to have a mammogram every two years. Mammography is the technique of radiographic examination of the breast. A woman whose mother has had breast cancer will be able to receive a closer and regular follow-up. Your doctor will adapt the monitoring of the health of your breasts to the importance of your risk factors. However, it is important to consult with him annually or every two years so that he can perform a clinical examination of your breasts.

FINALLY, IF YOU HAVE ANY OF THE FOLLOWING SYMPTOMS, SEE YOUR DOCTOR IMMEDIATELY FOR FURTHER EXAMINATION:

  • changes in the size or shape of the breasts;
  • appearance of folds in the skin of a breast;
  • redness, swelling or warmth in a breast
  • inverted nipple, that is, turned inwards;
  • crust or desquamation (small strips of skin that come off) on a nipple.

THE CHOICE OF TREATMENT WILL DEPEND ON SEVERAL FACTORS, INCLUDING:

  • the severity of the cancer;
  • his location;
  • its extent.

In the vast majority of breast cancer cases, a surgical procedure called mastectomy is required. This procedure removes the tumor. The mastectomy can be partial (only part of the breast is removed) or total (all the breast is removed).

When the mastectomy is partial, radiotherapy is often required. This treatment involves exposing the breast to radiation (rays) to kill cancer cells that have not been removed during mastectomy. Thereafter, we can add chemotherapy or drugs to take by mouth according to the characteristics of cancer.

Today, a diagnosis of breast cancer is not as black as it was many years ago. Fortunately, the awareness campaigns and the development of medical knowledge have considerably reduced the mortality rates associated with this type of cancer: since 1986, these rates have decreased overall by nearly 42%. Nevertheless, breast cancer is an illness that must be taken seriously and screened as soon as possible. You have a decisive role to play in prevention and, above all, screening for this cancer; your foresight and concern for your health will help prevent this cancer from darkening your happiness as a woman, with all the benefits and all the beauties that entails!