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Breast Cancer - The Next Epidemic

/ October 16, 2017 /

We definitely know someone, even a relative or an acquaintance, who has been diagnosed with or has been treated for breast cancer. One of the most common cancers in women, breast cancer has gained worldwide attention due to the growing number of cases that pour in every day. With 70% of breast cancer cases occurring in developing countries, creating awareness about breast cancer, its symptoms, and diagnosis is a pressing requirement.

What is Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer is the development of abnormal, tissue-destroying cells in the breasts. It can be seen either in the lobules, which are the milk-producing glands, or the milk ducts. Cancer, in its first stage, would stay only in the breasts and not spread to other parts of the body. This is known as non-invasive breast cancer. If the cancer is left undiagnosed and untreated, it is bound to become invasive breast cancer, where cancer spreads to other organs in the body. It is important to get treatment in the first stage before it spreads.

It is important to be able to recognise various abnormal symptoms that manifest in the body. Having this information is always helpful and will make it easier to treat breast cancer at the earliest stage. Here are a few symptoms to keep in mind:

1. Abnormal lumps in the breasts are the first sign. Some lumps are normal and not cancerous but it is important to get all lumps checked.

2. Change in the size and shape of the breast or any rashes on the breast need to be checked by a healthcare professional immediately.

3. Rashes, discharge of blood, or change of shape of the nipple is a big red flag.

4. Persistent pain on and around the breast is another sign of breast cancer.

5.If the skin on the breast or nipple peels or starts flaking, it’s time to go for a checkup.

Why Have Cases Increased?

In the past ten years, the number of women who have been treated for breast cancer has tripled. This is not including those who don’t get treated, which is a massive number. Studies have shown that one-third of people with breast cancer are not getting treated. But why is this gap seen? These are reasons why:

  • Many patients come from low-income backgrounds, where even going for a check-up is unusual. In this way, when they are diagnosed, patients may be as old as 50 years, in the last stages of cancer where the cancerous cells would have spread to other parts of the body. It makes treatment difficult and the chances of recovery slim.
  • An underfunded field of medicine, breast cancer has not been given adequate importance in the industry. Due to this, the cost of treatment goes through the roof, making individuals less likely to go through with the procedures. The lack of support for the treatments—from the procedures to the medicine—makes patients opt out of getting medical therapy.
  • Unhealthy lifestyle is another main factor in causing breast cancer. As people get busier, they tend to shift towards eating junk food which is loaded with bad fat. This fast life also causes obesity, which increases the chances of breast cancer development. Consumption of alcohol can also increase the risk of breast cancer development.
  • Many patients, especially those in underdeveloped areas, are diagnosed at the latter stages, where treatment is futile. The lack of awareness about cancer in these areas is shocking and it needs to be addressed immediately. Moreover, even people in urban areas don’t have enough knowledge about the symptoms.
  • Sometimes, information that reaches the patient is untrue and exaggerated. In a full body check-up, many people don’t get a mammogram—a screening required to diagnose breast cancer—since wrong information has made them believe that this radiation can increase the risk of cancer.

Open and honest conversation is key in staying aware and understanding how to prevent the development of breast cancer. It is essential that the government and health organisations put more focus on raising awareness and providing financial support towards breast cancer and its treatment. While current endeavours to keep people informed are making progress in diagnosing the cancer early, organisations in developing countries need to minimise the damage done by this epidemic.

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