October: Pink Ribbon Month
By Kye Makyeli
I was having a few drinks after work with a good friend of mine who happens to be a doctor, and we got to talking about the problems that REALLY affect women. We wound up talking about breast cancer, and how little women actually know about it and its severity.
Since October is breast cancer awareness month, I’m going to pull out my pink ribbon and also dedicate a few hundred words to the cause.
Certainly, we’ve all read or heard the stories; a relative, a friend, a friend of a friend, a celebrity- SOMEONE who has been a victim of this monster.
Some survived it.
Breast cancer occurs when a malignant tumor forms from cells within the breast. According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women and one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. Some of the conspicuous symptoms of breast cancer include ;
- nipple pain or scaly nipples,
- persistent breast pain or tenderness that is unrelated to one’s menstrual cycle,
- swelling of the lymph nodes in the armpits and
- a significant lump, swelling or mass on the breast.
Some women detect breast abnormalities through ‘breast self exams’ at home or through a clinical breast exam by their doctor. Most breast abnormalities, however, are found through mammography. Usually, only 10% of symptoms are initially found through physical exams and the remaining 90% are detected through a mammogram, proving how vital it is to have a regular mammogram.
Some factors are said to heighten one’s risk of getting breast cancer. These include;
- Genetics: Hereditary breast cancer occurs when a mutated gene has been passed down from a parent. The most common genetic mutation is that of the BRCA gene pair, referred to as BRCA1 And BRCA2. These are responsible for regulating cell growth and repairing damaged DNA, but don’t properly function if mutated.
- Alcohol consumption: Women who drink alcohol increase their breast cancer risk, which increases with the amount of alcohol consumed. Although one drink a day slightly elevates a woman’s risk, Women who drink 2-5 drinks a day increase their risk by 1.5% as compared to women who do not drink alcohol.
- Family and Personal History of Breast Cancer: Having a female relative who has or had breast cancer doubles your risk of the disease.
Whether you’ve been affected by it, or not, you could avoid another tragic case of breast cancer by going for a mammogram and early screening today and don’t forget to take your mother, sister or best friend with you.
Together, we can fight breast cancer!
Special thanks to Dr. Anna-Maria Jukete for the invaluable information on breast cancer relayed in this blog post.