“Anything is possible. You can be told that you have a 90 percent chance or a 50 percent chance or a 1 percent chance, but you have to believe, and you have to fight.”— Lance Armstrong
When we hear the word “Cancer” it strikes fear in most of us. Cancer is a broad term given to a collection of related diseases characterised by the abnormal growth of tumours on the organs of the body. There is a misconception among some people that cancer is the end of the world. The fact is, with early detection cancer is both preventable and treatable. It can be life-threatening only if not treated at an early stage.
There are many types of cancers, like Lung Cancer, Breast Cancer, Bladder Cancer, Cervical Cancer, Colon Cancer, Ovarian Cancer, etc. One of the most commonly diagnosed cancers worldwide is female breast cancer. Breast cancer is cancer that develops due to uncontrollable changes in the function or growth of the cells forming the breast tissue. These changes transform cells into cancerous cells that have the ability to spread. There are many types of breast cancers but the most common type, which accounts for about 90% of breast cancer cases, is Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), which starts inside the milk ducts.
Risk Factors for Breast Cancer
Just like any cancer, breast cancer results from DNA mutations. They instruct cells to grow out of control. In this case, the cancer targets cells in the breast tissue. And there’s no single thing that causes these DNA mutations. There is a wide set of risk factors. Having more of these risk factors can increase the chances of developing breast cancer. More than anything, the risk is increased by being female. But, that doesn’t mean men don’t get it. Men account for about 1% of all cases. Another risk factor is Age. The older one gets, the more likely a breast cancer diagnosis becomes. A history of breast cancer increases the risk of developing breast cancer, too. That includes your personal history, if you have had it before and your family history. If breast cancer is common in a person’s family tree, he/she is prone to developing it. Several genes have been identified by scientists that if inherited increase the risk of breast cancer. There are many but the most common and well-studied are BRCA1 and BRCA2. While it doesn’t make breast cancer a certainty, the chances of developing breast cancer are much higher with these particular mutations.
Beyond that, radiation exposure, starting menopause at an older age and taking post-menopausal hormones also increase the risk of breast cancer.
Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer
• A new lump or thickening in the breast or armpit a change in size, shape or feel of your breast.
• Skin changes in the breast such as puckering, dimpling, a rash or redness of the skin.
• Fluid leaking from the nipple in a woman who isn’t pregnant or breastfeeding.
• Changes in the position of the nipple.
Remember these things may or may not be cancer, but consult the doctor if you notice any of these signs.
To decrease the risk of breast cancer, breast screening is important. Components of Breast Screening include:
• Monthly Self Exams/ Clinical Breast Exam (CBE): Women should monthly examine their breasts themselves for breast lumps. It is important to know the normal texture of breasts. Most breast lumps we see are not cancer. A clinical breast exam is a physical exam done by a health care provider. It’s often done during a regular medical check-up. A CBE requires a well-trained health care provider who can perform this technique. This may be a physician, nurse practitioner or other medical staff. Not all health care providers have this training. In finding a breast cancer “earlier” is better than “later”.
• Annual Screening Mammograms: Screening mammograms have been shown as the best component of Breast Screening. It is important to get annual screening mammograms if you are 40 years old or older. Mammograms save lives by detecting small breast cancers that cannot yet be felt.
Other things which decrease the risk of breast cancer are:
• Stay physically active and maintain a healthy weight.
• Don’t take post-menopausal hormones, but sometimes it is necessary to take them and cannot be avoided. Be aware that they do seem to play a role in breast cancer risk.
• If you give birth, breastfeeding may reduce the chances of developing breast cancer in future.
Role of Nurses
Nurses play vital roles in all healthcare. The primary role of a nurse is to advocate and care for individuals and support them through health and illness. A nurse has to provide holistic care to the patient where all the needs of the patient will be met. As breast cancer is one of the leading causes of death for female patients, according to ACS (2013), followed by lung cancer, its consequences are both physical and psychological. The nurse is essential to coordinate the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of women with breast cancer. A patient suffering from cancer usually goes through a lot of emotional turmoil, so a nurse needs to provide the patient emotional support as well as teaching the patient in addition to other nursing interventions like medication and basic care.
Health education plays an important role in the prevention of the disease, which is to inform the public about the problem and discuss ways of dealing with it. The nurse can advise and participate in health education at the clinic, home visits, public places and schools.
Cancer can be life-threatening, but every individual can overcome this disease and live to the fullest. There are so many cancer survivors who overcame this disease, e.g., Lance Armstrong, who was diagnosed with stage three (advanced) nonseminomas testicular cancer that had metastasised to his lungs, brain and abdomen. Yet the man fought back very hard. He beat the disease back, and after recovery, he went on to win more Tour De France championship titles. Another example is Lisa Ray. She overcame breast cancer to launch back her highly successful career in films and entertainment.
In conclusion, I would like to send a message to all people that are battling breast cancer: this cancer can be prevented as well as treated effectively. It is important that you self-examine your breasts on a daily basis.
The writer is a Tutor at Govt Nursing College, Bagh-i-Dilawer Khan, Srinagar