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It's October, We Wear Pink!

October is breast cancer awareness month. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) [4], breast cancer is now the world’s most commonly diagnosed cancer. Cancer is not usually preventable, but it is important to be informed, which is why every year, during October, we raise awareness of breast cancer. So, what does it really mean to be aware? Being aware means that you should learn about it, understand it, and help others by providing information about it. The importance of awareness comes from the fact that it creates that culture of knowledge surrounding breast cancer. In addition, being aware and learning helps because early detection from screenings is key in treating it, the same as with all types of cancer.

Contrary to what some believe, you do not have to be a woman to understand and learn about breast cancer; if there are women in your life, then this is also information that you should know. Although breast cancer occurs mostly in women, it is not exclusive to women; it can also occur in men [1] . You, too, can be of help by educating yourself and then others by spreading that knowledge.

Let’s learn a little more about cancer…

According to the National Cancer Institute [2], cancer is a disease where some of the cells, those which are abnormal or damaged, grow, multiply, and spread to other parts of the body when they shouldn’t. The cells then form tumors; these tumors can be cancerous or non-cancerous, also known as benign tumors [2]. These tumors can spread or invade nearby tissues; they can also travel and form new tumors. This process is called metastasis [2].

¨ How does cancer form?

Cancer is a disease that is caused by the changes to genes that are in charge of controlling the way our cells work [2]. These changes, as stated by National Cancer Institute [2], occur due to several reasons. One is when errors occur during cell division. Another reason it might occur is because of damaged DNA that harmful substances have caused in the environment, as would be the chemicals in tobacco or ultraviolet sun rays, and a third reason could be that it was inherited from our parents [2]. Typically, the body has the ability to eliminate the DNA cells that are damaged before they can turn into cancerous cells. This ability is reduced as we age, which is why there is a greater probability of developing cancer later in life [2].

¨ Breast cancer formation

Cancer develops in the cells, which are the building blocks that make up tissue that is found in the breast and other parts of the body [3]. New cells at times form when the body does not need them, these cells then remain in the body, and older cells might fail to die; when this occurs, the build-up of cells forms a lump or what is known as a tumor [3]. Breast cancer occurs when the formation of tumors occurs in the breast area and are malignant tumors.

¨ Importance of early detection

It is more likely that cancer will respond to treatment when it is detected at an early stage, increasing the probability of survival. Early detection can be done with mammograms. Clinical breast exams are also important; these are usually performed by your family physician or your gynecologist who has been trained to notice abnormalities or lumps. Monthly self-exams are also a beneficial form of early detection. But it is important to note that many symptoms of breast cancer are invisible or not noticeable, which is why a professional screening is also recommended.

¨ Mammograms

A mammogram is an x-ray that a qualified specialist performs, it is used to examine the breast tissue for any anomalies. Mammograms are helpful because they show lumps or tiny clusters before they can be felt [3]. Women 40 and older should get a mammogram every 1-2 years [3].

¨ What you can do from your end

You can start by educating yourself, learning the basics of early detection and things to look for. One important thing to do is to start with monthly breast self-exams. This link shows a step-by-step guide on how to perform a breast exam

Talk to your physician when you feel any lumps or discomforts in the breast area, keep your yearly checkups. Stay in good health by following a healthy diet and a healthy lifestyle in general.

As we have learned, it is imperative to be aware, informed, and proactive regarding breast cancer. According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation [3], 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime, and the earlier the detection, the greater the possibilities of treatments and options. So, get informed, perform your monthly self-checkups and for women 40 and older, get your yearly mammograms and talk to your physicians of any discomforts or lumps you feel.


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