Learn to prevent, detect, treat, and live with Breast Cancer!

Be aware that in Portugal, around 7,000 new cases of breast cancer are detected each year. Yes, it’s true that breast cancer is one of the diseases with a significant impact on society. On one hand, because it is very common, and on the other hand, because it affects an organ that holds great symbolism both in motherhood and femininity.

October is the month dedicated to breast cancer awareness and prevention. Dubbed ‘Pink October,’ this movement was born with a clear goal: to inspire change and mobilize society in the fight against breast cancer. Furthermore, it underscores the importance of early diagnosis and supports research in this field.

So, let’s join the ‘Pink October’ movement to strengthen the fight against breast cancer and inspire all women facing this disease. In this article, we aim to help you better understand what breast cancer is, possible causes, and important information about the disease, from diagnosis to treatment.

What is breast cancer?

Know that all the cells in our body have a specific role. Normal cells grow and divide in a balanced way, being replaced by new cells as they age or become damaged. When cells undergo changes in their DNA, they give rise to cancerous cells that proliferate rapidly and lead to cancers.

Breast cancer arises from an abnormal proliferation of cancerous breast cells, resulting in a tumor. These tumors can be invasive or non-invasive:

  • Non-invasive breast cancer: the tumor is confined to the breast, without having spread to surrounding tissue or another organ.
  • Invasive breast cancer: the tumor spreads to other organs from the breast lobules.

What are the causes of breast cancer?

The causes of breast cancer are not exact. However, there are some risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing breast cancer, and it’s important to be aware of them:

  • Age: 80% of breast cancers occur in women over the age of 50, during the postmenopausal period. Therefore, the greatest risk factor for breast cancer is age.
  • Recurrence: A woman who has already had cancer in one breast is more likely to develop it in the other.
  • Genetic changes: 5 to 10% of breast cancers have genetic changes as their origin, often inherited from parents.
  • Weight: Excess weight increases the risk of developing breast cancer.
  • Risk behaviors: Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption are also associated with the development of breast cancer.
  • Reproductive history: Early onset of menstruation (before age 12) and late onset of menopause (after age 55) are risk factors for breast cancer.

What are the symptoms of breast cancer?

The main symptoms of breast cancer are related to changes in the breast, including:

  • Presence of lumps,
  • Nipple discharge or bleeding,
  • Persistent pain in the armpit or breast,
  • Changes in the size, shape, and skin of the breast,
  • Nipple retraction,
  • Skin or nipple irritation,
  • Presence of dimples in the breast.

Additionally, there may be other symptoms that signal breast cancer. Such as unexplained weight loss and chronic fatigue, even with sufficient rest. If you detect abnormal bleeding or hemorrhage, you should also be alert.

Breast cancer detection

Early detection of breast cancer is crucial for treatment success For that, you should consult with your doctor to determine how often you should undergo screening exams. In fact, these exams allow the detection of cancer in asymptomatic stages, increasing the effectiveness of treatment.

These exams can be of three types:

  • Screening mammography,
  • Clinical breast examination,
  • Diagnostic mammography.

These exams allow for the identification of breast nodules before they can even be felt or palpated. That’s why they are the best way to detect cancer. However, all women should maintain a vigilant attitude towards their breasts and perform monthly self-examinations to identify potential nodules or changes in the breasts.

Is there treatment for breast cancer? What kind of treatment?

When diagnosed and treated early, breast cancer has a cure rate of over 90% This is a disease with several treatment options, and the most appropriate one depends on the stage of the disease. It may even be necessary to combine several treatments for effective results. The available treatments for breast cancer include:

  • Conservative surgery: In this surgery, only the cancer is removed.
  • Mastectomy: Surgery where the entire breast is removed.
  • Radiation therapy: Therapy that uses radiation to kill cancer cells. It is recommended after conservative surgery or even mastectomy to ensure that all cancer cells are eliminated.
  • Chemotherapy: Therapy that uses drugs to kill cancer cells. These drugs can be administered in the form of pills or intravenous injections.
  • Hormone therapy: This treatment prevents cancer cells from accessing the natural hormones they need to grow.
  • Targeted therapies: These are medications that target specific factors in cancer cells or normal substances that help them grow. So, they specifically target these factors, blocking the growth of malignant cells and thus halting their proliferation.

Most women want to know how treatment may affect their normal daily activities and appearance. However, the doctor is the right person to provide you with all the information related to treatment options, potential side effects, and expected outcomes of the treatment.

Screening and Prevention

Prevention and early diagnosis are crucial for increasing survival and maintaining the quality of life for women with breast cancer. For early detection, it is recommended that:

  • Between the ages of 40 and 50, women should start getting a mammogram annually or every two years. The recommended age for starting should be decided on a case-by-case basis, with the guidance of a doctor
  • Breast self-examination (observation and palpation) should be done once a month, during the week following menstruation. Keep in mind that breasts are not identical and changes can occur due to various factors. However, it is crucial to maintain a vigilant attitude and keep in touch with your doctor.

How to do Palpation?

All adult women are encouraged to perform breast self-examination. This care is essential to be able to alert a healthcare professional if you identify any changes. But how should you perform breast self-examination?

  • In the shower: Move the tips of your fingers in circles all over the breast, from the outside to the center, checking the entire breast area up to the armpits. Check both breasts for lumps, thickening, or any hardened knot.
  • In front of the mirror: observe both breasts with your arms by your sides, and then raise them above your head. Look for changes in the breast’s contour, such as swelling or skin dimpling, or changes in the nipples.
  • Lying down: place a pillow under your right shoulder and your right arm behind your head. Use your left hand to, in circular motions, cover the entire chest and armpit area while searching for any lumps Apply light, medium, and firm pressure. Squeeze the nipple and check for any discharge or lumps Repeat the process for the left breast.

Breast cancer in men.

Although it has a very low incidence, breast cancer also affects men. Male individuals represent 1% of all breast cancers.” However, men are rarely aware of this disease, so it is very rare to be diagnosed in asymptomatic stages. More than 40% of cases are diagnosed at advanced stages, worsening the prognosis.

Breast cancer in men has an average peak incidence at age 65. Much of the information presented about breast cancer is also applicable to men.

Causes and Risk Factors

Scientific research has revealed several factors that can increase the risk of developing breast cancer in men, including aging, a family history of breast cancer, hereditary genetic mutations, risky behaviors, and obesity.

Symptoms and Prevention

Similar to women, early detection of male breast cancer is ideal. To do so, one should maintain a vigilant attitude towards the breast, identifying possible symptoms:

  • Breast lumps,
  • Changes in the size, shape, or skin of the breast,
  • Changes in the appearance of the nipple,
  • Nipple discharge,
  • Breast ulcers,
  • Skin rash.

Living with breast cancer

Support for the fight against breast cancer should not be seasonal; on the contrary, it is an ongoing commitment. The journey of women who face this disease is filled with challenges but also brimming with courage, determination, and hope. The battle against breast cancer demands resilience, indeed, but it also presents an opportunity for discovery: of the strength within us, the incredible support network around us, and the ability to overcome adversities we never even imagined. And remember: breast cancer does not define who you are. It’s just a part of your story!

At Your Loja Ortopédica, we strive every day to help you face breast cancer with courage, strength, and hope! Always seek advice, of course, with help of a healthcare professional.

We are always available through our Customer Support or on our social media channels.

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