October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Of all of the cancers, this is the one that REALLY needs to be high up there in the consciousness of women.
Why is that? First of all, it is the most common cancer among women. Breast cancer happens to a lot of women. Roughly one-fourth (1/4) of all cancers in humans are breast cancer. For that alone, this should be top of mind.
Secondly, breast cancer is relatively easy to detect. It is recommended that women over 50 years get a mammogram every 2-3 years as screening. Breast masses can be palpated/felt with the fingers. A woman who knows her body should be able to feel that there is something different about it and should therefore seek a doctor’s advice. A doctor can suggest a number of tests that will aid in the detection and diagnosis of this mass. The patient may be made to undergo a mammogram, an ultrasound or an MRI. Then, there will be some form of biopsy where a part or the whole of the breast mass will be surgically removed and examined by a pathologist. This biopsy tells us what kind of mass this is, because, truth be told, there are many kinds of masses in the breast, both benign and malignant (cancer).
Thirdly, if breast cancer is caught early, it is very treatable. The treatment for breast cancer is not easy, but it is manageable. Breast cancer is one of those tumors where surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy all have to be done at some point. Some early cancers can be treated with just surgery. Others will need surgery and radiotherapy. Still others will need all 3 treatment modalities.
The good news about breast cancer is that it is possible for patients to live 5, 10 and 15 years after a diagnosis. It is possible to get cured of breast cancer if it is treated early enough. Additionally, doctors have so many more options in treating breast cancer. If the tumor is small, it is possible to preserve the breast and not remove it then just give chemo- and radiotherapy after. It is also possible to have breast reconstruction. Remember Angelina Jolie? She did not have breast cancer but her chances of developing it were so high (family history) that she pre-empted it, had both breasts removed and had them reconstructed.
The decision to have one or two breasts removed is never easy. Aesthetically, it is best to keep both breasts. But if it were a choice between being pretty and being healthy, isn’t the choice easy?
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