Keep abreast of cancer

October marks Breast Cancer Awareness month. It's a time we don the pink ribbons and dedicate our efforts toward education of the disease. But your strongest weapon against the ailment is early detection. So keep abreast with information. It may save your life.

In Malaysia, there is an estimated 35 breast cancer patients per every 100,000 people. For between half and one third of the women within that population, the disease will prove fatal, making it one of the leading causes of cancer deaths for Malaysian women. A Malaysian woman has a 1 in 19 chance of getting breast cancer some time during her life.

How and why
A specific cause of breast cancer has yet to be identified, but several suspected risk factors have been identified. These include being overweight, having a family history of breast cancer, using hormone replacement therapy after the age of 50, or taking certain contraceptive pills. The risk of developing breast cancer also increases with age, with 8 out of ten cases occuring in women over the age of 50.

Breast cancer occurs when cells in the lobules - the milk producing glands or ducts, become unusual and split uncontrollably.

What to look for

A breast lump is the first symptom in nine out of 10 breast cancers. However, a woman's breasts are rarely the same size and may feel different at different times of the menstrual cycle, sometimes becoming lumpy just before a period. If you do detect a lump during a self-examination, have it checked by your doctor. Other things to look for are: skin changes like dimpled or redness of the breast, an inverted nipple or bloodstained nipple discharge, an unusal change in size, or any pain. Lymph glands in the armpit may also be swollen if affected by the cancer cells.


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