October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and a yearly global health campaign organized by major breast cancer charities every October to increase awareness of the disease and to raise funds for research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure. The movement also offers information and support to those affected by breast cancer.
The pink ribbon is an international symbol of breast cancer awareness. It symbolizes hope for the future, and the charitable kindness of individuals and businesses who widely support the breast cancer movement. It aims to evoke unity of women who presently have breast cancer.
What to look out for
Screening tests can help find breast cancer in its early stages, before any symptoms appear, so go for you annual mammograms. Because mammograms do not find every breast cancer, it is important for you to be aware of changes in your breasts and to know the signs and symptoms of breast cancer.
The most general symptom of breast cancer is a new lump or mass. A painless, hard mass that has irregular edges is more likely to be cancer, but breast cancers can be tender, soft, or round. They can even be sore. It is very important to have any new breast mass, lump, or breast change checked by a health care professional.
Possible symptoms of breast cancer are:
- Swelling of all or part of a breast
- Skin irritation or dimpling (looks like an orange peel)
- Breast or nipple pain
- Nipple retraction
- Redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
- Nipple discharge (other than breast milk)
Swollen lymph nodes should also be checked by your doctor. Any of these symptoms can be caused by things other than breast cancer, so if you have them, get it checked out by your health care provider.
Men also get breast cancer
Male breast cancer, which is rare, is generally overlooked. The third week of October has been established as “Male Breast Cancer Awareness Week”.
Men do have a small amount of breast tissue, so they can get the same types of breast cancers that women do. The main danger is that breast cancer in men is frequently diagnosed later than breast cancer in women. This may be because men are less likely to be doubtful of something strange in the breast are. Also, their small amount of breast tissue is harder to feel, making it more difficult to catch these cancers early. It also means tumours can spread more quickly to surrounding tissues.
It’s rare for a man under age 35 to get breast cancer, but his chance of getting breast cancer goes up with age. Men aged 60 to 70 are more likely to get breast cancer.
Other things that raise the odds for male breast cancer include:
- Breast cancer in a close female relative
- History of radiation exposure of the chest
- Enlargement of breasts (called gynecomastia) from drug or hormone treatments, or even some infections and poisons
- Taking estrogen
- A rare genetic condition called Klinefelter’s syndrome
- Severe liver disease, called cirrhosis
- Diseases of the testicles such as mumps orchitis, a testicular injury, or an undescended testicle
Diagnosis and Treatment
The same techniques that are used to diagnose breast cancer in women are used in men: physical exams, mammography, and biopsies.
Surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, biological therapy, and hormone therapy are used to treat breast cancer in men and women. The one major difference is that men with breast cancer respond much better to hormone therapy than women do.
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