What Women Should Know
From relative obscurity, breast cancer has become
one of the leading causes of deaths among women in the world. In
2001, there were about 200,000 cases of breast cancer reported in
the United States, making it the second leading cause of cancer
death in the US. It is the most common cancer affecting women in
North America and Europe today.
But what is breast cancer and how do people get it?
Breast cancer occurs when malignant tumors grow in the breast and
start to affect other tissues in the body. There is still no clear
indications what creates of tumors, but cancerous cells usually
develop in ducts or glands.
Although women's health organizations advise women to massage the
breast daily and to feel for any lumps, it may a long time before a
cancerous cell gets big enough for us to feel it. By that time, it
may already be too late. Doctors make use of mammograms for early
Breast at risk
All women are actually at risk. The risk increases with the presence
of some factors that are already part of the natural life cycle, for
example, aging. Family history of breast cancer can also
significantly affect the prognosis as heredity plays a role. Women
who got their periods before they were 12 years old and those who
never had or had children after 30 years old are also more likely to
develop breast cancer.
There are also risk factors that medical science can help alter such
as hormonal problems through replacement therapies. Doctors advise
women to decrease their consumption of alcoholic drinks, exercise
every day and decrease the use of birth control pills. Breastfeeding
decreases the risk of breast cancer development.
Although there are some factors women can avoid to prevent breast
cancer from developing, cause and effect relationships between these
factors and breast cancer is still debatable. For women who are
already at high risk, doctors often recommend a drug called
Tamoxifen, which is known to decrease the risk by as much 50 percent
when taken in five years. Still, like all medications, Tamoxifen has
side effects such as hot flushes, vaginal discharges and sometimes
even blood clots. Taking the drug can also lead to pulmonary
emobolus, stroke and uterine cancer, although these are rare.
Another avenue women can try is taking Vitamin A supplements. Some
studies find Vitamin A effective in decreasing the risk. Still,
research is in the initial stages and proof is elusive. Other things
beneficial to the breast cancer fight are phytoestrogens, which are
present in soy, Vitamin E, and Vitamin C.
However, until research finds something concrete, the only way that
women can lessen the impact of breast cancer is early detection.
Daily self-examinations as well as annual check ups and mammogram
tests are all methods to accomplish this. It is also important women
know the early symptoms of breast cancer. Here are some of the signs
that they should watch out for:
Lumps in the breast and in the underarms Scaling of the skin of the
breast and of the nipple Redness in the skin of the breast and of
the nipple Changes in the size of their breasts Discharges from the
If you find any of these, it is best to consult a specialist to rule
out breast cancer.
Breast Cancer Ribbon
These days almost every worthy cause finds itself a proper ribbon,
without getting into the debate about the use of ribbons and how
people use them, there are not many ribbons that I know of that are
more important than the breast cancer ribbon.
Breast cancer is a dangerous enemy. While it is true, awareness of
its risks and the understanding of prevention measures increased
over the years. A few people are still not aware of breast cancer,
and others prefer to live in some sort of denial.
So why is it important to use the pink ribbon and join the fight
against breast cancer? First of all, it shows the most important
thing a person can show, it shows that you care. It is a tangible
sign you are giving a little of your time or energy to try and
educate more people. This very small action can contribute to saving
a life. This is not a joke, sometimes awareness is all that
separates the ill from the healthy and the dead from the living.
Every October is international breast cancer awareness month. This
is the time to try and do the most to increase the public awareness
of this disease. The many different organizations and foundations
that work all year round for a breast cancer cure dedicate the month
to raising money for victims of breast cancer. Some of these
patients have no money and no funds to treat the cancer, and these
organizations help them get the support that they need.
So, wear one of these pink ribbons on your shirt or jacket, and show
the solidarity you have with the breast cancer patients, the victims
and the family and friends of those affected by this terrible
disease. Remember, you can wear the ribbon all year not just the
month of October. If only one person asks you about this ribbon -
once a year, it will make a huge difference. Imagine hundreds, if
not thousands of people like you doing the same thing every day.
This viral education about breast cancer may save many lives.
Let's hope in the future the fight against breast cancer will
achieve its goals. Modern medicine and science will find a cure;
this disease will claim less victims; and more and more people
around the world will live healthier and happier lives.
More on Breast cancer
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Derek Barrington Essex