Wear it pink: Breast cancer awareness month

Pink is the colour of hope, the colour of love and compassion. We have a lot of plans in life: plans to enjoy time with our parents, to see our children grow up, and to be a part of their lives. A breast cancer diagnosis comes as an unexpected shock to someone whose life seems so perfect. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month in the UK where research in breast cancer is supported by various fundraising events.

Approximately 1 in 8 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. We always talk of breast cancer treatment but the focus should also be on awareness and prevention of breast cancer. In the UK, every woman registered with GP will receive the first invitation for breast cancer screening once they reach 50.

Like other cancers, breast cancer also has modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors. The risk factors such as gender, age, race and strong family history of breast cancer (genetics) , cannot be modified. However, lifestyle modification do play an important role in prevention of breast cancer.

A healthy lifestyle can prevent about 30% of breast cancer

  • Take plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Reduce intake of processed food, red meat and fat
  • Increase the daily intake of fibre-rich food, whole grains etc
  • Reduce alcohol intake
  • Quit smoking
  • Exercise daily
  • Sleep well
  • Breastfeed your child

Breast cancer can have various warning signs but most commonly it presents with a breast lump.  It can also present with redness, pitting or any other skin change. Sometimes, one can find abnormal discharge from the nipple with or without a change in the appearance of the nipple . Also, the presence of underarm swelling ( enlarged axillary lymph node) is not uncommon. Hence, one should be aware of these symptoms and should contact the GP at the earliest.

Breast lumps do not always indicate cancer, but further investigation is necessary to rule out any possibility of breast cancer. Luckily, less than 10% of breast lumps are cancerous, the rest are benign lesions.

Unfortunately, around 39% of women in the UK don’t regularly check their breasts for warning signs of breast cancer.

Therefore, awareness and prevention go hand in hand. Every woman should be aware of these signs and symptoms. Also, one should have a wholesome approach towards life. It’s impossible to change our genetic makeup or rather our past, but we can choose to change ourselves in the present to live a more joyful life in the future.

References

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/breast-cancer/

Harvie M, Howell A, Evans DG. Can diet and lifestyle prevent breast cancer: what is the evidence? Am Soc Clin Oncol Educ Book. 2015:e66-73.

https://www.thelondonclinic.co.uk/services/conditions/benign-breast-lumps

Hello,
My name is Rajni. I am an aspiring medical writer and a pathologist with an additional master’s degree in molecular pathology of cancer from Queen’s University, Belfast , UK. I have an interest as well as knowledge in the field of pathophysiology of diseases, oncology and recent advances in molecular technologies. My thesis on the analysis of next-generation sequencing gives insight into the future of molecular diagnostics. Topics that interest me include the diagnostic aspect of diseases, the role of genetic testing in cancer prevention and diagnosis, digital pathology and novel diagnostic technologies.

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