Breast cancer is one of the most prevalent cancers, with 2.3 million people diagnosed with breast cancer in 2020 and is the number one reason for cancer deaths in women.
Every year October is dedicated to Breast Cancer Awareness Month and is held to raise awareness on the effects of breast cancer.
As mentioned by Dr Mehdi Afrit, Medical Oncologist Specialist at Burjeel Speciality Hospital, breast cancer is a malignant tumour of the mammary gland. When the malignant breast cells begin to grow abnormally, the cells multiply in a disorderly and anarchic way to accumulate and form a lump and mass. The abnormal cells can then spread through the breast to the lymphe nodes or the other organs.
The thought of cancer can be scary but when detected early, through self-examinations and regular screening, breast cancer is treatable.
Although cases of breast cancer are more prevalent in women, men are also susceptible to breast cancer.
According to Dr Virginia Midrigan, Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at Mediclinic Middle East, signs and symptoms for the breast tumour can vary from person to person.
Symptoms for breast cancer can be:
- A swelling or lump found on the breast or near the arm
- Thickening of breast tissue
- Nipples going inward
- Breast pain and tenderness
- Change in the size and the shape of the breast
- If there is any discharge or blood coming from the nipple
- Breast skin forming dimples or puckering
- Breast skin or nipples are scaly or red
If these symptoms are noticed, it is important to book an appointment with a doctor to check.
Dr Dana Haddad, Consultant Breast Radiologist at Healthbay Polyclinic mentioned that 1 in 8 women develop breast cancer in their lifetime of which 75% of women do not have a family history of breast cancer or have any known risk factors.
In 5% to 10% of cases, breast cancer can be hereditary, due to inherited genes.
The most commonly known genes are BRCA1 and BRCA2 which are known to increase the risk of ovarian and breast cancer by over 80%.
Individuals with a family history of cancer should visit a genetic counsellor and get a review of their family history in order to discuss the benefits, risks and limitations of genetic testing.
Individuals most susceptible to breast cancer, as mentioned by Dr Nazia Salam, Consultant in Family Medicine at Allied Medical Center are,
- People with a positive family history
- Individuals with greater birth weight
- Genetic risk factors
- Early menarche or late menopause
- Hormonal therapy
- Oral contraceptive users
- Dense breasts
- Consumption of alcohol
- Postmenopausal weight gain
- Radiation exposure
- Benign breast diseases
Dr Rita Daaboul, Consultant General Surgery at Medcare Women and Children Hospital said that individuals need to maintain a healthy diet, exercise regularly, have good vitamin D levels, breastfeed babies and conceive earlier as well as get regular screenings in order to avoid the risks of breast cancer.