Warn­ing signs and symp­toms of breast can­cer

Sun.Star Baguio - - OPINION -

THE last two ar­ti­cles on breast can­cer have elicited var­i­ous re­ac­tions, feed­backs as well as anx­ious ques­tions about the mor­tal­ity( death rates) of ma­lig­nancy of the breast.

There were some women- thank you dear read­ers- who shared the jour­ney of a loved one who had sur­vived the can­cer and a few who , in a nar­ra­tive de­tail talked about the worry and even­tual sad­ness of the loss of a beloved wife, sis­ter and daugh­ter.

As men­tioned in the pre­vi­ous ar­ti­cles, women who have more risks for breast can­cer are more likely to de­velop it. How­ever, there are cer­tain facts that must be es­tab­lished. For one, usu­ally for breast pain with­out a lump is not a sign of breast can­cer; be­cause it might just be a case of mas­ti­tis- in­fec­tion/in­flam­ma­tion if the breast pos­si­bly due to trauma. How­ever, and again, this is the fear­ful truth, about 10 per­cent of women who had breast can­cer have had pain even with­out a lump or mass in their breast.

A lump is sus­pect if it feels dis­tinctly dif­fer­ent from the sur­round­ing breast tis­sue- which a woman ex­am­in­ing her own breast would know. Re­mem­ber the bat­tle cry of the late Se­na­tor/Sec­re­tary of Health Juan Flavier: SSS- suriin ang sar­il­ing suso, be­cause in 80 per­cent of breast can­cer cases, it was the woman/lady her­self who dis­cov­ered/felt the lump her­self.

In the early stages, the lump may move freely be- neath the skin when it is gen­tly pushed with the fingers. In ad­vanced stages, the lump may now be ad­her­ent to the chest wall or to the skin over it lead­ing to some swollen bumps and even fes­ter­ing sores on the sur­face. Oth­er­wise, there may be dim­pling of the skin and the peau de or­ange- leath­ery skin of an or­ange. The nip­ple should get ex­tra at­ten­tion be­cause changes in its color or turn­ing in­ward are not good find­ings, more so if there are dis­charges, worse if the dis­charge is bloody.

Like in all dis­eases, find­ing/dis­cov­er­ing the dis­ease early in­creases the like­li­hood of suc­cess- ful treat­ment and hope­fully, cure of any ail­ment. The im­por­tance of rou­tine self-ex­am­i­na­tion can­not be overem­pha­sized. Mam­mog­ra­phy which uti­lizes low dose X-rays help de­tect ab­nor­mal masses in the beast- still con­sid­ered qas one of the best ways for early de­tec­tion. Ex­pe­ri­ence has shown that mam­mo­grams at in­ter­vals of 1-2 years can re­duce breast can­cer deaths by 25-35 per­cent in women aged 50 and above.

Ul­tra­sound uses high fre­quency sound waves, is use­ful af­ter a lump is de­tected by mam­mo­gram, to dis­tin­guish a fluid-filled sac (cyst) from a solid lump. From a clin­i­cal point of view, if the cyst is not caus­ing the woman signs and symp­toms, watch­ful ob­ser­va­tion is all that is needed but a solid mass def­i­nitely re­quires ex­ci­sion and biopsy

Ad­vances in medicine espe­cially in the field of surgery in­clude more so­phis­ti­cated gad­gets and in­stru­ments to de­tect early all forms of can­cer, like ther­mog­ra­phy - tem­per­a­ture rises in some forms of can­cer- which we, doc­tors and pa­tients hope and pray would lead to a sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tion in the mor­bid­ity(ill­ness) and mor­tal­ity(death) of ma­lig­nant growth of cells called can­cer.

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