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This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Here Is Everything You Need To Know About Breast Cancer

Posted: October 27, 2020

October is observed as Breast Cancer Awareness Month across the globe to raise awareness about it. Here is everything you need to know.

As a society, we talk about various issues but fail to talk about issues as important as Breast Cancer.

The month of October is celebrated as Breast Cancer Awareness Month to raise awareness about the disease. It is an annual campaign held to make women aware of its early detection, treatment options, and preventive methods.

While, we do know cancer exists, we still lack enough information about it.

What is cancer?

Cancer is a disease wherein genes that regulate cell multiplication undergo mutations. These mutations compel the cells to divide and multiply in an uncontrolled manner at a rapid rate.

Today we would be talking about breast cancer caused by mutations in the breast cells. It can be caused in the lobules (they are responsible for producing milk) or ducts of the breasts (pathways responsible for bringing milk from the glands to the nipples)

Researchers also say that cancer can happen in the fatty or fibrous connective tissues of the breasts too. If not detected at an early stage, uncontrolled cancer cells can travel to lymph nodes under the arms and invade healthier tissues of the body.

Breast cancer is commonly seen in women, however, it may also affect men.

Everything you need to know about breast cancer

There are two types of breast cancer – invasive (invasive ductal carcinoma, invasive lobular carcinoma) and non-invasive (Ductal-carcinoma in situ, Lobular carcinoma in situ)

What are the causes of Breast cancer?

While the exact cause of Breast-cancer isn’t known, researchers say, the following factors might come into play with regards to Breast cancer.

  • Genetics
  • Environmental factors
  • Lifestyle factors

What are the symptoms of Breast Cancer?

  • A breast lump
  • Swelling on your breast
  • Breast Pain or discomfort
  • Bloody discharge from the breast
  • Red skin over the breast
  • Discharge other than breastmilk
  • Dry, flaky skin on the breast or nipple
  • An inverted nipple
  • Change in the shape or size of your breast
  • Lump or swelling under your arm
  • An overall change in the skin of your breast

If you have any of these symptoms, it is best to see a doctor as a lump or pain in your breast could be due to a benign cyst as well.

Why we need breast cancer awareness

Breast cancer is highly prevalent in our country among women. It is estimated that about 25-32 percent Indian women suffer from breast cancer.

According to reports, in India every four minutes, a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer and every 13 minutes, a woman dies due to it. The high mortality rate is due to a lack of awareness about breast cancer and the delay in screening a diagnosis.

Risk factors of breast cancer

  • Family history of Breast cancer
  • Early menstruation (less than 12 years of age)
  • Pregnancy and breastfeeding
  • Gender (women are more susceptible than men)
  • Age (as you age the risk of breast cancer goes up)
  • Personal history of breast cancer (chances of reoccurrence)
  • Lack of exercise
  • Smoking
  • Dense breasts
  • Radiation to the breasts before the age of 30.
  • Delayed menopause (after 55 years of age)
  • Being overweight/obese
  • Unhealthy food choices
  • Race/ethnicity (white women are more susceptible to it)
  • Using hormone replace therapy
  • Drinking alcohol frequently.
  • Low levels of Vitamin D
  • High estrogen exposure (multiple pregnancies and continuous use of oral contraceptives)

Breast cancer diagnosis

Here are a few tests and examinations that a doctor might ask you to do if he suspects that you are suffering from Breast cancer.

  • A diagnostic mammogram
  • An ultrasound
  • MRI
  • A breast biopsy
  • Blood tests

What should you do if you’re diagnosed with it?

The diet would vary from person to person and on the severity of the treatment. So consult a dietitian for a diet that suits you and your current body. The diet advice given below is based on nutritional guidelines developed for breast cancer patients, but as we know one size does not fit all.

A healthy diet during the treatment of breast cancer can aid in better recovery, boost immunity, and help in overall health and well-being. Breast cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and hormone therapy may have side-effects that ultimately, impact your eating patterns and appetite.

Chemotherapy can decrease the white cell count predisposing you to infections. Hence, hygiene, storage, cooking, and preparing meals should take care of.

If your appetite has decreased due to chemotherapy, eat 5-6 small meals, stay active as much as possible. Your meals could be soups, smoothies, and fresh juices. If your appetite has increased due to chemotherapy, add fresh fruits and vegetables to the diet. Avoid sugary drinks, drink enough water, and keep your sugar intake to a minimum.

If you have nausea and a feel like vomiting often, sip on liquids such as herbal teas, home-made flavoured water. Eat little at a time and opt for cold foods as these are known to help. If you feel that your mouth is sore, add smoothies, soups, stews, home-made ice-lollies, and fruit cubes to the diet.

Try a variety of foods and experiment with herbs and spices as your taste may change during the treatment. If you suffer from constipation, add foods high in fibre such as fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, lentils, bulghur/buckwheat to the diet. Drink 8-10 glasses of water and stay active.

Hormone therapy drugs can elevate your cholesterol levels, so a high fibre, moderate protein, and low-fat diet work best.

Guidelines for healthy eating

  • Eat fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole-grains for fibre.
  • Avoid saturated/trans-fats and stick to omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acid foods.
  • Maintain an ideal weight.
  • Keep cured, pickled, smoked foods at bay.
  • Avoid alcohol consumption.

Picture credits: Photo by Anna Tarazevich from Pexels

A Nutritionist, Clinical Dietitian, Speaker, health/fitness blogger, online show host, menu planner, menstrual health,

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