October - Breast cancer awareness month

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month dates back to October 1985. But why October?
October is considered the month of breast cancer awareness.
October is considered the month of breast cancer awareness. National Breast Cancer Awareness Month dates back to October 1985. But why October? This is when the first organized movement to bring attention to the dangers of breast cancer occurred in the United States. Following this month's trend, let's find out the essential details on the protection measures against breast cancer to decrease the risks and save our health.
What is it?
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines breast cancer as the disease in which cells in the breast grow out of control. Different types of breast cancer depend on the cells in the breast turning into cancer.
How common is it?
According to World Health Organization (WHO), breast cancer is the most common cancer type, accounting for 1 in 8 cancer diagnoses worldwide. Recent statistics show that there were 2.3 million women diagnosed with breast cancer in 2020 and 685000 deaths on a global scale. Furthermore, a new study from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) predicted the increase in breast cancer to over 3 million diagnoses and over 1 million deaths every year by 2040, an increase of 40% and 50%, respectively. Relying on data from Britannica, the month of October is dedicated to raising global awareness of breast cancer since the event was founded by the American Cancer Society (ACS) and Imperial Chemical Industries Pharmaceuticals and held in October 1985. Nowadays, various institutions, organizations, and campaigns promote awareness, educate people on how to prevent and detect the disease and raise money for research worldwide.
Risk factors:

According to the American Cancer Society, all women are at risk for breast cancer, and most cases don't involve the inherited mutations linked to breast cancer. That's why it is essential to know the methods of lowering risks. CDC lists these risk factors that we can change to reduce the chances of breast cancer:
  • Low physical activity;
  • Overweight and obesity after menopause;
  • Taking hormones.
  • *Reproductive history (**first pregnancy after age 30, not breastfeeding, never having a full-term pregnancy)
  • Drinking alcohol.
  • Other factors such as smoking, exposure to chemicals causing cancer, and night shift working (triggering hormone changes) may also increase the risk.

ACS names methods of lowering the risk of breast cancer for women with high risk (family history, mutation, etc.) separately, such as medicines and preventive surgery, so proper consultation with the doctor is needed.

Red flags:
CDC also lists the warning symptoms of breast cancer that must be taken into consideration:
  • A new lump in the breast or underarm (armpit);
  • Thickening or swelling of part of the breast;
  • Irritation or dimpling of breast skin;
  • Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast;
  • Pulling in or pain in the nipple area;
  • Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood;
  • Changes in the size or the shape of the breast;
  • Pain in any area of the breast.
Some people may not even have symptoms; therefore, talking to your doctor about regular screenings is essential. Screening tests don't prevent breast cancer, but early detection makes it easier to treat (CDC).
"The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that women who are 50 to 74 years old and are at average risk for breast cancer get a mammogram every two years. Women 40 to 49 years old should talk to their doctor or another healthcare provider about when to start and how often to get a mammogram. In addition, women should weigh the benefits and risks of screening tests when deciding whether to begin getting mammograms before age 50".
When people say cancer, they always think of several lab tests, doctor check-ups, and a thousand dollars for a diagnosis. However, in the case of breast cancer, you can determine or at least understand the risk by self-observation at home. This is important because the sooner you know the threat, the more time doctors will have to respond to the threat.
National Breast Cancer Foundation suggests the next steps for examining yourself periodically at home:

1) Conduct a visual inspection. To do this, stand with your hands on your hips and examine yourself in the mirror. Assess the size, color, and shape of the breasts for abnormalities. If you have any of the following symptoms, tell your doctor:
  • Noticeable breast swelling even though you are not currently on your period.
  • Irregularity, wrinkling, swelling of the skin
  • Inverted nipples
  • Displaced nipples
  • ·Redness, rash, or sensitivity.
2) Feel the chest. Lie on your back. Bring together the right hand's index, middle, and ring fingers. Feel the left breast with the pads of the three middle fingers in small circular motions. Their circumference should be 2 centimeters. Feel the chest moving from the collarbone to the stomach. And then, starting from the armpit, move from the side to the middle. Repeat the above with the other arm and opposite chest. Move-in vertical lines to ensure you've probed the entire area. Then stand or sit down and repeat these steps. Walk over the entire surface of the breasts. Many women choose to do this last step in the shower.
  • Check for lumps or other changes. Tell your doctor about any lumps you find.
  • Each circle should palpate the chest with light, medium, and intense pressure. In other words, feel for a small circle with light pressure and then re-traverse the same area with medium to hard pressure. Light pressure helps to detect tissue changes near the surface of the skin. Medium pressure allows you to feel the deeper tissues, and the strongest force helps to reach the deepest tissues near the ribs.
Self-diagnosis is not the main way to diagnose. It is just one of the measures to identify the problem early. If you find suspicious symptoms in yourself, tell your doctor about them. Only a doctor can say the final diagnosis.
Prevention is also one of the methods to be safe from breast cancer.

Following habits can be considered healthy to prevent breast cancer or reduce risk.
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Stay physically active
  • Eat fruits and vegetables
  • Do not smoke
  • Limit alcohol consumption

Stay healthy and be aware!
Considering the global prevalence of this disease, it is vital to raise awareness among people to decrease fatal outcomes. According to World Health Organization, we should be aware of two things: early detection affects survival rates, and breast cancer treatment can be highly effective. Therefore, women should know about the importance of screenings and reducing breast cancer risks.
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