In the Philippines, breast cancer ranks 1st amongst all other cancer types and is the 3rd leading cause of cancer deaths. Mortality rate is high not because of unavailability of treatment but because of lack of awareness of the disease and fear of knowing they have cancer. The cancer is already in an advanced stage or has already spread when consultation with a doctor is done.Breast Cancer is curable if detected early and treated properly. It has one of the highest survival rates among other cancers.
Symptoms of Breast Cancer
- Growing lump in the breast or underarm, not regular in shape and painless
- Change in the size, shape or sensitivity of the breast or nipple
- Thickening or swelling of part of the breast
- Irritation or dimpling or breast skin
- Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast
- Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area
- Nipple discharge other than breast milk
- Pain in the breast
- Gender – usually affects women. The lifetime risk for women developing breast cancer is 1 to 9; for men is about 1 in 1,000.
- Age – Older women are at more risk.
- Women with cancer on one breast that has been treated may replicate in the other breast. This is called recurrence.
- The presence of breast cancer in a family member like the mother, sister, aunt or grandmother may increase risk.
- Having first menstrual period before age 12 and starting menopause after age 55.
- Not having children or childbirth for women over 30 years old
- Estrogen increases risk of breast cancer. Use of Hormonal Replacement Therapy (HRT) after menopause.
- Cigarette smoking or excessive alcohol intake.
- Lack of physical activity or exercise which results in being obese or overweight.
Early Detection and Screening
Self-breast examination (SBE) and a regular visit to a doctor for Clinical Breast Exam (CBE) can save lives.
- SBE raises a woman’s awareness of her breasts with regular examination, having a greater chance of finding a lump early. It is performed monthly 5-7 days after a menstrual period and every end of the month for post-menopausal women. Begin SBE at age 25 years.
- CBE is an examination of both breasts performed by a trained health professional. CBE should be done annually.
- Mammography screening uses low-energy x-rays to identify abnormalities in the breast. Women are advised to consult their doctor on when to have a mammogram.