Breast Cancer and Beyond
Updated: Oct 23, 2020
“You don’t know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have. ”
This year has been an ideal reminder that we’re all in this together. When it comes down to life, working together can protect the most vulnerable among us. Every October, we extend our heartiest support to those affected by breast cancer. As one of the most common cancers, awareness about it is essential, now more than ever. Most breast cancers are found in people who are 50 years or older (sometimes younger), while 1 in 100 is diagnosed in men.
With no exact causes in radar, early detection remains the key to breast cancer control. Here’s an easy navigation manual for you-
Being older (50 or above)
Experiencing early menstruation or late menopause
Changes in your BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes
Symptoms of breast cancer can vary, but knowing for yourself is the best way to find out. Any of the following can be considered red flags. The earlier the detection and diagnosis, the better are the chances of successful treatment.
Changes in breast shape and size
Change in the color of the breast or nipple
Rashes around the nipple
Pain in the area
Lumps in the breast or underarm, which is the most common symptom.
The most reliable way to diagnose cancer as soon as you can, and beat it even sooner, is mammography. Once mammograms, imaging tests, or physical exams hint towards cancer, a biopsy is the next step. This tells you whether the lump is harmless or cancerous. Even if it is, there’s no need to panic, as early detection is a lifesaver.
At the basic level, know your breasts. Checking them regularly takes just a few minutes, and needs no special technique. The TLC way to go includes:
Touch- do you feel anything different like a lump?
Look- does anything look different in color or shape?
Check- consulting a doctor as soon as you notice something unusual
Breast Cancer Screening- Risk assessment is extremely important, and everyone aged 30-40 must get this done through:
Mammograms- an X-ray that can help detect any abnormality in the breasts
Breast ultrasounds- A breast exam helps determine the presence of lymph and other change in the shape of the breast or nipple which can be a sign
To cut down on the risk associated with the disease, one needs to adapt to smart lifestyle decisions.
To lower the risk:
Maintain a healthy weight
Stay physically active
Limit your alcohol intake
While certain causes like age, gender, and family genetics cannot be controlled, avoid these mistakes:
Obesity- a common cause of breast cancer, as is more harmful than you think it is. Choose to stay healthy with a good exercise routine and a regular diet.
Excessive alcohol- Binge drinking can increase the risk of cancer and liver diseases. If you are already at high risk due to unavoidable causes, stay away from alcohol. Survivors must definitely ditch drinking to avoid a relapse.
Not getting tested- Early detection can save a life: this cannot be iterated enough. If you have a family history, get tested frequently. Self-examination at home is also a good option.
Avoiding breastfeeding- The hormonal imbalance caused as a result of avoiding breastfeeding leads to an increased risk of breast cancer.
Unsupervised use of contraception- Birth control and injections should not be taken without medical advice, as they increase the chances of cancer.
As a part of Breast Cancer Awareness month, encourage those around them to get checked, make healthier choices, and take care of their breasts. A step in the right direction ensures saving a life and support when needed.
Dealing with breast cancer in times of covid-19 can get even more challenging, but hang in there. Regular screening is still just as important. While the pandemic has put a damper on schedules and events, here are some virtual events that you can be a part of and contribute:
A virtual fundraiser by the American Cancer Society
Denver MORE THAN PINK Walk fundraiser with survivors
Volunteer opportunities at Breast Cancer Charities
Even a few hours of our time can make a world of difference to all those affected.
Most importantly, all breasts are beautiful. Having no breasts is beautiful. Breast cancer changes you, and these changes can be as beautiful as you. Cancer is a word, don’t let it turn into a sentence for you. Because it cannot cripple love, shatter hope, or quench your spirit.
Being ‘tough through it all’ doesn’t always mean you put on a brave face and roar. Sometimes, it’s the little voice in your head that says ‘I’ll try again tomorrow.’
You are strong, and we are stronger together.
Supporting the fighters. Admiring the survivors. Honoring the Taken. And never, ever giving up hope.
Written by Nibha Patil
Cover by Khyati Patil