Breast Cancer Awareness Education
Breast Cancer Awareness Month is one of the best known, most publicised and most supported health awareness campaigns. For most, October is a month of special significance as many of us have someone in our lives who has suffered from breast cancer.
Every year there are over 1 million new cases of breast cancer diagnosed world wide. That means that 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer at some point in their lives. In developed countries one person is diagnosed every ten minutes!
The numbers are staggering. At 3B Scientific, we want to be a part of the solution and take an active role in the fight against breast cancer. Almost 90% of women survive breast cancer, most thanks to early detection. Our anatomically correct breast and self-examination models are an invaluable early detection tool for health students, practitioners and patients.
The real causes behind breast cancer are not yet clear but there are some factors that can put a patient at risk:
- Sex: male breast cancer exists and we have previously shared information on the topic. However, it is quite rare compared to the number of women who are diagnosed: 99% of breast cancer patients are women.
- Age: people over 40 are at a higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer. Most women are diagnosed after 50, and men after 60.
- Family history: between 5 and 10% of diagnosed patients have a relative who suffered from some form of cancer.
- Being a woman over 50 with a family history of cancer does not mean you will develop breast cancer. In fact, the risk factors are so wide, that pinpointing potential patients is extremely hard.
- Early detection is the best tool we currently have against breast cancer. It is important for health practitioners to be up to date with the latest research, be able to detect the early signs of breast cancer and teach patients under their care how to self-examine.
There are several possible early symptoms of breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society the following can be early signs:
- Skin changes: such as dryness, irritation, rashes or redness.
- Swelling of the breast, under the arm or around the collar bone.
- Pain, either localised or spreading.
- Changes in the nipples: colour changes, shape changes, different location and inverted nipples are all possibilities.
- Discharge from the nipples, if not pregnant or breastfeeding.
However, the most common early sign is the appearance of a lump or a hard mass. Lumps can form quickly and they may not necessarily develop over time but not all lumps are breast cancer. Something as simple as a bad sleeping position can develop a temporary lump on the breast.
If you haven’t experienced a mammogram yourself yet, it’s a straight-forward procedure that creates an image of the breast. It offers an excellent way of detecting breast cancer during the early stages, sometimes even before a lump even appears. However, mammograms are not guaranteed methods of detection.
Cancer Research UK has confirmed that 1 out of 25 screened women received a call back for further checks, but 80% of those results turn out to be clear. They are also only performed on average every 5 years in developed countries. That frequency becomes even greater in developing countries and low-income areas of developed countries.
One of the best tools there is for detecting breast cancer is self-examination. It’s affordable, easy to perform when trained and can be done regularly.
- Mirror: check breasts for any changes in colour or shape.
- Palpation: in circles around the nipple, up and down the breast and from the nipple outwards.
- Squeezing: women who are not breastfeeding should squeeze their nipples to check for discharge.
Palpation is the step that needs some training for women to be able to perform properly. Doctors offices should have accurate medical models that help women learn and identify different kinds of lumps that could be present during a self-examination.
What to do when breast cancer is suspected or diagnosed
The most important thing is not to panic. Breast cancer can be beaten and many patients fully recover after a short treatment.
All countries have support charities that can help and guide patients, family members and friends. If you are affected by breast cancer, their help could be essential.
Health scientists believe that over 95% of women will recover from breast cancer by the year 2050. This is why we should all do what we can to help spread awareness and spread the lessons of self-examination education not just during breast cancer awareness month, but throughout the year.