This year, as in the past, the pink ribbon is being donned as the symbol of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The aim of the annual health campaign is to raise awareness and save lives with early diagnosis of breast cancer. According to analysis of data from 2018 by the World Health Organization, the number of patients who have been diagnosed with breast cancer is more than 2 million, while breast cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in Turkey.
The founder and honorary president of MEMEDER (Breast Health Association) Prof. Dr. Vahit Özmen states that the rate of cancer diagnoses has increased two and a half times in the last 25 years. It is estimated that the number of new diagnoses in 2018 was 25,000. According to analyses carried out on 20,000 patients diagnosed with breast cancer, only 35% were identified at an early stage of the disease. The average age of the patients who were diagnosed with breast cancer is 51. Fifty percent of the patients were under 50, 17% were under the age of 40. The average age for patients diagnosed with breast cancer in developed countries is 61, with 25% being under the age of 50, and only 3% being under the age of 40.
The Gold Standard: The Mammogram
Breast cancer is treatable if caught early. In order to defeat this disease, it is necessary that awareness of every aspect of the disease be raised. Such aspects include awareness of diagnosis, the steps to be taken after a diagnosis, treatment methods, preventative healthcare, and the signs of the disease.
The president of Acıbadem University Research Institute of Senology, general surgery specialist Prof. Dr. Cihan Uras, states that one in every eight women is diagnosed with cancer. This is a very high rate. Moreover, this disease can occur in men; one in every one hundred cases of breast cancer appears in men. Even though breast cancer is rarer in men, its progress is more aggressive. It is for this reason that necessary precautions must be taken by both men and women. One of the most important measures in early diagnosis is monthly self-examination. In addition, a yearly examination by a physician is important. It is important that women over the age of 30 have an ultrasound examination and after the age of 40 a mammogram every year. A mammogram is the “golden standard” in the diagnosis of breast cancer. Further examination methods, like breast MRI, may also be necessary. When women are aware of breast cancer it is possible to make even earlier diagnoses. Early diagnosis increases the chances of successful treatment by 85%.
What are the Risk Factors for Breast Cancer?
Physicians categorize risk factors into “changeable” and “non-changeable” factors. Unchangeable factors include having a family history of cancer, having fibrocystic breasts, using hormones, not having given birth, not having breastfed, or being exposed to radiation.
However, there are factors that can be controlled such as eating healthily, avoiding smoking and drinking alcohol, maintaining an ideal weight, exercising, and avoiding stress. However, women who avoid all these factors can still develop breast cancer. It is for this reason that doctors recommend regular checks and screening tests.
It is necessary to begin having breast ultrasounds after the age of 30 and mammograms after 40 years of age. Women who have an immediate relative with a history of breast cancer should have the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene test carried out.
Awareness of breast cancer can help defeat this disease.
What are the signs of breast cancer?
The most common signs of breast cancer include dimpling or retraction of the skin over the breast, change in the color of the skin, nipple retraction, nipple discharge (not breast milk), swelling or lumps in the breast, or growth of the lymph gland under the arm.
How is breast cancer treated?
There are a number of options for treatment depending on the type of the tumor, the stage at which the cancer is caught, the growth rate, the age of the patient, and whether or not the patient is menopausal. These include surgery, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, smart drugs, and radiotherapy.
How can I prevent breast cancer?
To prevent the development of breast cancer you should regularly examine your breasts and have regular checkups. Avoid smoking and alcohol, use hormone therapies only under a doctor’s supervision, avoid stress, exercise regularly, control your weight, and eat a balanced diet.