In Mozambique, the Associação da Luta Contra o Cancer (ALCC) has unveiled an ad campaign starring female comic characters busting bust cancer. Failed pun aside, you know you ought to be prepared for the very real threat of breast cancer, when even the women of steel themselves are checking for lumps in their breasts. Or do you?
How Breast Cancer Happens
The breast is made up of five main parts: the lobes, lobules, fat, milk ducts and stroma.
During pregnancy and breastfeeding, the lobules produce milk, which travels through the ducts to the nipple.
Most breast cancers originate inside the milk ducts, but it can start anywhere in the breast tissue. This happens when cells turn cancerous and start to grow unchecked. As with other cancers, these cells are abnormal and divide and grow rapidly, often resulting in the development of a lump.
Breast cancer can spread via the lymph vessels in the breast. Lymph vessels carry a colorless fluid that supports the immune system and removes waste from the cells. These vessels are connected to the lymph nodes-a type of gland located throughout the body. A lymph gland is often the first place cancer will spread to beyond the breast.
Breast Self Examination
Although regular Breast Self Examination (BSE) does not influence mortality from breast cancer, it assists women in detecting benign breast lumps and in creating more awareness about breast changes (Ibrahim & Odusanya, 2009). It is important to be familiar with your body so you are able to detect changes in your body quickly before the cancer spreads beyond reach.
Here’s a step-by-step guide from Breast Cancer Welfare Association Malaysia: Breast Self Examination
Signs and Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of breast cancer include:
- A lump anywhere in the breast tissue
- Spontaneous clear or bloody discharge from the nipple
- Retraction or indentation of the nipple
- A change in size or contours of the breast
- Any flattening or indentation of the skin covering the breast
- Redness or pitting of the skin over the breast.
While these signs and symptoms may be due to cancer, they do not necessarily point towards breast cancer. The only way you can be sure is to have your doctor or oncologist tell you if you do.
Remember that it is always better to be safe than to be sorry.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Malaysian women, but sadly, between 50 and 60 per cent aren’t diagnosed until the late stages. Ranjit Kaur, from the Breast Cancer Welfare Association of Malaysia, is a 14-year cancer survivor. She said that many women have a fear of screening facilities and/or pain. Some are in denial. Others are deterred by social stigmas or fear rejection.
If you think you, or someone you know, may be at risk, do not hesitate to seek professional advice, especially if any of the warning signs are present.
More information: Breast Cancer Welfare Association Malaysia