“One important thing to know if you’re still the same person during it. You’re stripped down near zero. But it seems that most people come out at the other end feeling more like themselves than ever before. I’m more eager than ever to do what I did. I want to do everything.” – Kylie Minogue
Breast cancer can affect both genders but it’s mostly seen in women. According to WHO, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women worldwide that claims the lives of hundreds of thousands of women each year.
“Men get it. I think us men need you, women, to help us survive” – Peter Criss
One of the most important and horrifying experiences a woman would have to deal with is the onset of breast cancer and its subsequent consequences. Even though it doesn’t happen to every single person, it’s rarity brings severe emotional, physical and mental trauma. Breast cancer not only affects oneself but even others around. Any member with this cancer goes through a number of problems and the thoughts of family and other financial concerns can mentally cause a lot of despair and anxiety in a person.
A person who is diagnosed with breast cancer goes through a number of emotions including depression, fear, anxiety, withdrawal symptoms and so on. At such times, the patient believes that his/her life goes through hell and they’re probably a burden to the family. But the most important treatment for patients is emotional support from loved ones.
What is Breast Cancer?
The term “breast cancer” refers to a malignant tumour that has developed from cells in the breast. These cells begin to divide and grow in an abnormal way, caused by a variety of different factors which are beyond control. These cells contain an altered gene which can be altered or inherited.
- Inherited altered genes are passed down from one of our parents.
- Acquired altered genes develop due to a combination of things such as getting older and environmental and lifestyle factors.
Types of Breast Cancer:
Breast cancer is not one single disease. There are several types of breast cancer and can be diagnosed at different stages and grow at different rates. Some common ones are:
- A non-invasive type is Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS).
- Invasive Ductal carcinoma, the most common form of cancer that starts in a duct of the breast and grows into the surrounding tissue.
- The invasive lobular carcinoma is a type of breast cancer that starts in the glands of the breast that produce milk.
Less common ones include- Mucinous carcinoma, Medullary carcinoma, Inflammatory breast cancer, triple-negative breast cancer, Adenoid cystic carcinoma, etc.
- A change in the size or shape of the breast.
- Swelling of the breast (partially or whole), breast pain.
- Irritation of the skin, nipple pain or turns inward sometimes.
- Lump in the underarm area or in the breast.
- Discharge from the nipple other than breast milk, a rash around or on one of the nipples.
- Redness, scaliness or thickening of the nipple or breast skin.
- Age, family history, personal history, atypical hyperplasia in women, early menstruation and delayed menopause.
- Dense breast tissue, exposure to previous chest radiation.
- Being overweight or obese increases the risk in pre and post-menopausal women.
- Consumption of alcohol.
- Inherited altered genes.
- Use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and oral birth control pills.
- Cosmetic breast implants; this could mask cancer during screening or bring about changes in the breast tissue.
Do men get breast cancer?
Both men and women have breast tissues but men have much smaller amounts than women. Men too can get breast cancer but it’s very rare. The symptoms and treatment of breast cancer are similar to women with the most common symptom being a lump or change in the skin of the breast or nipple discharge. Its occurrence can be varied although it usually occurs in men over 60 years of age.
Treatment does give a new sense of hope and opportunity to the patient. Some of which are:
- Surgery– surgery includes lumpectomy (removal of tumor and a small amount of surrounding tissue) mastectomy (removal of the breast tissue) prophylactic ovary removal (a preventive surgery that lowers the amount of estrogen in the body) and also cryosurgery (an experimental treatment to use extreme cold to freeze and kill cancer cells).
- Breast reconstruction– it refers to an artificial implant of a breast shape created by a plastic surgeon.
- Radiation Therapy– a highly effective way to destroy cancer cells in the breast that might stick around after surgery.
- Chemotherapy– in chemotherapy, medicine is used to weaken and destroy cancer cells at the original cancer site and the spread of it too. It affects the whole body by going through the bloodstream.
- Hormone-blocking therapy– a therapy used to prevent recurrence in hormone-sensitive breast cancers. Used after surgery but can be used before to shrink the tumor.
- Biological treatment– this treatment includes targeted drugs for different types and purposes like Herceptin, Tykerb, Avastin, etc.
There is no way to be rest assured that one wouldn’t contract breast cancer. Prevention is not really possible but changing certain lifestyle decisions can certainly reduce the risk of breast cancer.
- Breast screening (mammogram) helps in early detection which can prevent it.
- Breastfeeding for one and a half to two years can slightly lower the risk.
- Avoid excess alcohol consumption.
- Follow a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
- Good exercise regime.
- Maintenance of a healthy body mass index (BMI).
Family and loved ones can play a big role by simply being there and showing their genuine concern, love and affection. It may not cure the disease but it increases the will to survive and the belief that everything is going to be alright. Educating the masses and supporting one another are the most important forms of women empowerment.
Developing breast cancer is never your fault and blaming oneself for it is not productive. Ultimately, a strong willpower helps sustain one’s mindset throughout the journey and increases immense faith in oneself, in humanity and in spirituality.
“The only person who can save you is you; that was going to be the thing that informed the rest of my life.” – Sheryl Crow