Busting The Myths Around Breast Cancer [Breast Cancer Week Special]

Posted on October 11, 2010 in Health & Life

By Shraddha Sankhe:

In August, New York Times’ Op-Ed page covered a story about the popular novelist Fanny Burney who underwent a gruesome mastectomy surgery in 1811 without anesthesia – lying on an old mattress. Her doctor had detected breast cancer where she emerged a hero. Today, it may seem very shocking to read this. Breast cancer has spread its malignant tumor all over the world. In India every 22nd woman is detected with breast cancer, and every 4th affected person has no clue about her being affected with it.

Breast cancer is a case of cancer emerging in the breast tissue. Among the first noticeable signs of breast cancer are lump in the breast tissue and skin dimpling and it may or may not affect women with a family history of breast cancer. Busting the popular myth-it can occur in men too. A regular self-examination (checking the size, shape, skin texture, looking for possible lumps, any other abnormality) in consultation with the family doctor could help detect it in the earliest stages. Here we try and bust a few popular myths about the disease:

Can breast cancer cause death?

Yes. But conditionally.

“Older women with hormone-receptor-positive early breast cancer who had surgery (and possibly radiation and chemotherapy) and then took tamoxifen for 5 years were more likely to die from something OTHER THAN breast cancer (heart disease, for example). The women were followed for about 4 years after they stopped taking tamoxifen” says breastcancer.org report.

Can Men suffer from Breast Cancer too?

According to the an award winning women health resource Imaginis.com, though far less common than in women, it is possible for men to develop breast cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates that about 2,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer are diagnosed in men each year and approximately 450 men die from breast cancer annually. Male breast cancers account for approximately 1% of all breast cancer cases.

I have a healthy schedule, I cannot have Breast Cancer.

Wrong. No matter how healthy your living style is, breast cancer can hit you. Here are a few symptoms — developing which you must visit the doctor immediately:

  • swelling of all or part of the breast
  • skin irritation or dimpling
  • breast pain
  • nipple pain or the nipple turning inward
  • redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
  • a nipple discharge other than breast milk
  • a lump in the underarm area

Is there any specific test to detect breast cancer?

Yes.

Mammography is used as a test to detect breast cancer. “Mammography is the process of taking a special x-ray of the breast. Mammograms can find many breast cancers before one can feel them. They can also give the doctor important information about a breast lump that was found during a self examination or during a doctor’s visit.”-says a website essortment.com. This test came under a controversial scanner when it falsely detected cancers in younger women leading to anxiety and additional tests. There is a fiery debate going on among the global doctors arguing the efficiency of the test. Nevertheless, this test is considered to be the ‘gold standard’ which apparently, gives millions of women sleepless nights out of sheer anxiety.

Should we really worry about breast cancer?

Yes.

Breast cancer is killing our women’s health and tarnishing their ray of hope. It means we must pull up our socks. Basic awareness could tackle this problem in the initial stages. An open-minded conversation at home, with friends and a monthly self-check could pull down the breast cancer risk to a feeble number. Hardly any campaigns are seen being launched to fight diseases like these- on the national scale. Our women are honestly not willing to get themselves checked out of the perceived cultural upbringing. Concrete awareness programs are a solution to this.

Is breast cancer as a disease -hyped?

Yes.

Breast cancer in India could be just another disease affecting every 22nd woman. What is worrisome is that there is hardly any action/measure taken to tackle other medical issues affecting women. Few initiatives are taken to tackle the problems of rural and urban health but are we aping the west? Yes, to an extent. One must understand that the United States of America as a developed nation has few cases of death during childbirth and almost zero cases of say, dowry deaths. We, almost blatantly forget that we’re still poor in matters of public sanitation and rural health sector.

As the International Breast Cancer Week that just happened with a million online campaigns-including the Breast Cancer Walk (across the United States’ 9 major cities) and many more international initiatives to create awareness and give hope-we need to respect all the survivors of the gruesome disease-irrespective of nationalities and cultures. ‘Gruesome’ because it sometimes leads to removal of breast, mental trauma, economic upheaval and worse-a string of deadly possibilities. Spread the hope – spread the word. Voice yourself in the comment box below or tweet us at @YouthKiAwaaz. You can also email us at [email protected].

The writer is the Mumbai Editor of Youth Ki Awaaz. You can catch her tweet @Shradzberry.

Image courtesy: http://www.beautips.info/health-tips/5-ways-to-prevent-breast-cancer/

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