Sun | Oct 24, 2021

Protect your breasts

Published:Wednesday | October 6, 2021 | 12:07 AMKeisha Hill/Senior Gleaner Writer

October is being observed as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Did you know that breast cancer is one of the most common cancers found in women? It estimated that each year, one in eight women will develop invasive breast cancer in their lifetime.

Over 40,000 women worldwide are expected to lose their fight to disease. However, more women are surviving breast cancer due to improvements in treatment and early detection. Cancer deaths can be decreased by as much as one-third with early detection and treatment.

Early detection can start from home. Doctors suggest that women perform monthly breast self-examinations. In addition to yearly screenings and mammograms, self-examination can help women to monitor changes or abnormalities that may occur in their breasts. It is important to remember that breast self-examinations are never a substitute for clinical breast exams or mammograms.

The American Cancer Society recommends that women should begin receiving clinical breast exams in their 20s. Women below the age of 40 are advised to receive them every three years. Those over 40 should schedule yearly mammograms and clinical breast exams.

Mammograms are one of the most effective breast screening and diagnostic tools; however, other tools such as MRIs or ultrasounds may also be used to further evaluate abnormalities or help diagnose breast cancer.

EARLY DETECTION

Early and immediate treatment is one of the benefits women will gain from early detection of cancer. If you are age 40 and older, schedule an appointment for a mammogram as soon as possible.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in Jamaican women, and there is a high mortality rate compared to other countries in the world. While treatments have improved over the years, unfortunately, there are many locally advanced cases of breast cancer where women are presenting with large lumps which they can already feel or which their doctors have found upon examination. Breast self-examination should be performed at the same time each month, three to five days after your menstrual period ends. If you have stopped menstruating, perform the examination on the same day of each month.

If you think you have found a lump, chances are it may not be malignant, but you will not know if you do not visit your doctor to have it checked. If you require surgery, it is not the end of the world. Women who have had breast surgery can, and do, lead normal productive lives.

You should also consider having regular mammograms. They are quick, easy and safe.

SOURCE: Jamaica Cancer Society, American Cancer Society

keisha.hill@gleanerjm.com

WARNING SIGNS OF BREAST CANCER

• A painless lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm that persists throughout the menstrual cycle.

• A change in the size, shape or contour of the breast.

• A bloodstained or clear fluid discharge from the nipple.

• A change in the feel or appearance of the skin on the breast or nipple (dimpled, puckered, scaly or inflamed).

• Redness of the skin on the breast or nipple.

• An area which is distinctly different from any other area on either breast.

• A marble-like hardened area under the skin.

SOURCE: Jamaica Cancer Society, American Cancer Society

keisha.hill@gleanerjm.com