Your mom, your aunt, your colleague, your best friend, your relatives — someone you know may have breast cancer, the deadly disease every woman should be aware of. Breast cancer awareness takes centre stage this October. Many women are interested to learn more about this life-threatening disease and ways how to prevent it.
Centre for Cancer Prevention and Research (CCPR) and Nokia have jointly launched mass awareness programme throughout 20 districts. But health policy makers have not yet set up any nationwide screening programme. There is no definite statistics or population based study that can figure out the patients suffering form breast cancer or how many women are affected each year in our country. Experts urged government to start the study and depict the actual picture of the country.
However, hospital based study on cancer by National Cancer Institution reveals that the incidence of breast cancer is increasing. It shows that breast cancer ranks the number one position (25.6%) although cervical cancer is generally considered the number one killer (25.2%).
Diagnosis in the early stages is crucial for breast cancer like other cancers. A woman should have a mammogram done within 40s. Onwards, they should get an annual screening for early detection, experts recommended. Any discomfort or pain in the breast should be investigated throughly and must not be neglected. Any unusual discharge should be checked out right away.
Mammograms are used as an ideal screening tool to detect early breast cancer in women experiencing no symptoms and to detect and diagnose breast disease in women experiencing symptoms such as a lump, pain or nipple discharge. But it is not widely available in Bangladesh and as such ultrasonogram is sometimes used instead.
“Still breast self-examination (BSE) is very useful in our poor settings to detect breast cancer early. Not every cancer can be found in this way, but it is a vital step you can and should take for yourself. No woman wants to do a BSE, and for many, the experience may be frustrating. However, the more you examine your breasts, the more you will learn about them and the easier it will be for you to tell if something unusual has occurred.
BSE is an essential part of taking care of yourself and reducing your risk of breast cancer”, said Dr Habibullah Talukder Raskin, an Associate Professor and Head of Cancer Epidemiology of National Institute of Cancer Research and Hospital and also the Secretary General of Bangladesh Cancer Foundation Hospital.
Studies show that regular breast self-exams, combined with an annual exam by a doctor improves the chances of detecting cancer early.
“Do not get scared if you think you feel a lump. Ninety percent of breast lumps removed are benign i.e. non-cancerous”, Dr Raskin added. Then you should observe the look and feel of your breasts. Does something stand out as different from the rest part (like a rock on a sandy beach)? Has anything changed? Bring to the attention of your doctor about any changes in your breasts that last over a month or seem to get worse or more obvious over time.
There are three factors which strongly increase a woman’s risk of developing this disease: advancing age (post menopausal), family history of the disease and a personal history of breast cancer. Healthy lifestyle and dietary changes can help reduce the risk of breast cancer significantly.
Consuming high-fat dairy products may increase breast cancer risk because of high levels of the bovine progesterone hormone, according to a study presented last December at the annual San Antonio Breast Caner Symposium. But eating a plant-based diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and other low-fat vegetarian foods could help women in the battle against breast cancer, while also reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases.
Dr Wahida Kamal, 50, a breast cancer survivor has shared her words of advice for women diagnosed with breast cancer. “You just do not expect to hear it. There is really nothing that prepares you for it,” Wahida said. “After the initial shock wore off, I knew I had to get on the path to get it taken care of.”
“It is important to remain positive. I just knew that my positive attitude would help me through. It’s strange, but once you are told you have cancer, patients seem to come out of the woodwork. You are introduced to other people in the hospital who have it, and hearing their experiences really provides support”, she added.
Md Rajib Hossain
Source: The Daily Star, October 25, 2008