THE PINK OCTOBER
Cancer is a disease that has been around for centuries, but it has never had such an impact on public health as it has now. Cancer is one of the second largest fatal illnesses across the world. Around four lakhs of people in India are known to be affected by this disease every year. More so, around half of them are not able to survive as they are usually detected in the last stages of cancer. Hence it is even more important to educate the people about this disease and its symptoms so that it can be detected early and the lives of the people suffering from it can be saved.
Cancer can affect any body part. The part that is affected gives it the name, for instance, lung cancer which affects the lungs, skin cancer in which the skin is affected and so on. However, we can broadly divide cancer into four types. The first one is Sarcoma which is known to affect the blood vessels, bones, muscles cartilages and connective tissues. The second type of cancer is Carcinoma which affects the internal organs of the body or the skin. The third type is the Lymphoma. This cancer affects the lymph glands and the lymph nodes. The last type in which cancer can be categorised is Leukaemia which largely affects the parts forming blood such as the bone marrow.
⦁ Breasts Cancer Awareness Month:
Breast Cancer Awareness Month has been celebrated every October since the nineties. It is called ‘Pink October’ as people around the world adopt the pink colour and display a pink ribbon to raise awareness about breast health and the importance of screening for the early diagnosis of breast cancer, now the most commonly diagnosed cancer globally.
⦁ What is Breasts Cancer?
Cancer is a broad term for a class of diseases characterized by abnormal cells that grow in an unregulated fashion and destroy healthy cells in the body. Breast cancer starts in the cells of the breast as a group of cancer cells that can then destroy surrounding tissues or spread to other areas of the body. Cancer begins in the cells which are the basic building blocks that make up tissue. Sometimes, the process of cell growth goes wrong or unregulated and new cells continue to form even when the body does not need them and old or damaged cells do not die as they should and they continue to exist in the body. When this occurs, a build-up of cells often forms a mass of tissue called a lump or tumour. Breast cancer occurs when fatal tumours develop in the breast. These cells can spread by breaking away from the original tumour and entering blood vessels or lymph vessels, which branch into tissues throughout the body. When cancer cells travel to other parts of the body and begin damaging other tissues and organs, the process is called metastasis.
⦁ Causes of Breasts Cancer:
No one knows the exact causes of breast cancer. Researchers and Doctors rarely finds the reason about why one woman develops breast cancer and another does not, and most women who have breast cancer will never be able to pinpoint an exact cause. From many researchers the one reason we know is that breast cancer is always caused by damage to a cell’s DNA. Women with certain risk factors are more likely than others to develop breast cancer. Some risk factors (such as drinking alcohol) can be avoided. But most risk factors (such as having a family history of breast cancer) cannot be avoided. Having a risk factor does not mean that a woman will get breast cancer. Many women who have risk factors never develop breast cancer.
⦁ Signs & Symptoms of Breasts Cancer:
Every human should know the signs and symptoms of diseases. As, most of the diseases are often ignored because of the lack of knowledge regarding the symptoms of that diseases. Any time, if the persons notice any abnormality in their health, then definitely it should be investigated by the healthcare professionals on an early basis. Following are the Symptoms of the Breasts Cancer that one should never avoid:
⦁ Nipple tenderness or a lump or thickening in or near the breast or underarm area.
⦁ A change in the skin texture or an enlargement of pores in the skin of the breast.
⦁ A lump in the breast.
⦁ Any unexplained change in the size or shape of the breast.
⦁ Dimpling anywhere on the breast.
⦁ Unexplained swelling of the breast.
⦁ Unexplained shrinkage of the breast.
Most often, symptoms are not due to cancer, but any breast cancer symptom you notice should be investigated as soon as it is discovered.
⦁ Types of Breasts Cancer:
⦁ Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS; also known as intraductal carcinoma) is a non-invasive or pre-invasive breast cancer.
⦁ Invasive (or infiltrating) breast cancer has spread into surrounding breast tissue. Most common types are invasive ductal carcinoma and invasive lobular carcinoma. Invasive ductal carcinoma makes up about 70-80% of all cancers.
⦁ Inflammatory breast cancer is an aggressive type of invasive breast cancer in which cancer cells block lymph vessels in the skin, causing the breast to look “inflamed.” It is rare and accounts for about 1% to 5% of all breast cancers.
⦁ Paget disease of the breast is rare, accounting for only about 1-3% of all cases of breast cancer. It starts in the breast ducts and spreads to the skin of the nipple and then to the areola.
⦁ Sarcomas of the breast are rare making up less than 1% of all breast cancers. Angiosarcoma starts in cells that line blood vessels or lymph vessels.
⦁ Stages of Breasts Cancer:
The stage of cancer indicates the size of the tumour of abnormal cells The process used to find out whether the cancer has spread within the breast or to other parts of the body is called staging. The information gathered from the staging process determines the stage of the disease. It is important to know the stage in order to plan treatment. The results of some of the tests used to diagnose breast cancer are also used to stage the disease.
Stage 0 Breast cancer are called “carcinoma in situ.” Carcinoma means cancer and “in situ” means “in the original place.” Stage 0 breast cancer is a non-invasive cancer where abnormal cells have been found in the lining of the breast milk duct. In Stage 0 breast cancer, the atypical cells have not spread outside of the ducts. It is highly treatable. Stage 1 Breast cancer, cancer is evident, but it is contained to only the area where the first abnormal cells began to develop. It is highly treatable. Stage 2 Breast cancer means the cancer is growing, but it is still contained in the breast or growth has only extended to the nearby lymph nodes. In this stage, chemotherapy is usually done first, followed by surgery and radiation therapy. Stage 3 Breast cancer means the breast cancer has extended to beyond the immediate region of the tumour and may have invaded nearby lymph nodes and muscles, but has not spread to distant organs. In this stage, mastectomy and radiation for local treatment and hormone therapy for systematic treatment. Stage 4 Breast cancer means that the cancer has spread to other areas of the body, such as the brain, bones, lung, and liver. It is not curable, but it is usually treatable and current advances in research and medical technology is helping more and more people.
In general, there are four treatment options are available for every patient based on the staging of their cancers.
⦁ Chemotherapy is a treatment method that uses a combination of drugs to either destroy cancer cells or slow down the growth of cancer cells. But this therapy can reduce RBC’s, WBC’s and may also affect the cells that produce hair.
⦁ Radiotherapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. It affects cells only in the part of the body that is treated with the radiation. It can cause Breast heaviness, Discolouration, Fatigue.
⦁ Targeted therapy uses drugs that block the growth of breast cancer cells in specific ways. For example, targeted therapy may block the action of an abnormal protein (such as HER2) that stimulates the growth of breast cancer cells. Side effects can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, tiredness, mouth sores, and rashes.
⦁ Surgery is the most common form of treatment for breast cancer is surgery. This involves removing the tumour and nearby margins. Surgical options may include a lumpectomy, partial mastectomy, radical mastectomy, and reconstruction.
⦁ Myths Bursters:
There are always a numerous myths present or attached with a disease that often cause panic and confusion among the patients and their family members. Same with the breast’s cancer. Myths always should be ignored and avoided. Only awareness and knowledge can restrict these myths and following are the myths that are often spread without any valid proof.
⦁ Finding a lump in your breast means you have breast cancer.
⦁ Men do not get breast cancer; it affects women only.
⦁ A mammogram can cause breast cancer or spread it.
⦁ Breast cancer is contagious.
⦁ Antiperspirants and deodorants cause breast cancer.
Treatment needs to be linked to an early detection programme so that cases are detected at an early stage, when treatment is more effective and there is a greater chance of cure. It also needs to be integrated with a palliative care programme, so that patients with advanced cancers, who can no longer benefit from treatment, will get adequate relief from their physical, psychosocial, and spiritual suffering. Furthermore, programmes should include an awareness-raising component, to educate patients, family and community members about the cancer risk factors and the need for taking preventive measures to avoid developing cancer.