Breast cancer is the leading killer of women worldwide and is the most common cancer among women in the Philippines. Statistics reveal that one of every four women diagnosed with breast cancer die within the first five years. Breast cancer awareness and early detection give women a higher chance of beating the disease.
Who are at risk
Although there are cases of men diagnosed with breast cancer, most women are at risk of having the disease. Here are some of the risk factors that increase the chance of having breast cancer:
- women who have close relatives with breast cancer (mother, sister, daughter)
- women with no children or having her first child after 30
- women who are obese or overweight
- women who had their first menstrual cycle before 12 years old
- women with dense breast tissue and those with atypical hyperplasia, an accumulation of abnormal cells in the breasts
- women who has been taking oral contraceptives for more than ten years
- women who are menopausal and are using hormone replacement therapy
What are the symptoms
The most common sign is a palpable lump or mass in the breast. You can perform self breast examination by lying down and firmly touch your breast using the pads of your fingers. If you feel a lump, you should seek the opinion of a doctor. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a cancer. The doctor will request you to undergo screening.
Other symptoms are breast pain, changes in the shape of the breast, swelling, nipple discharge and breast dimpling.
A breast ultrasound can determine whether the breast lump or mass is filled with fluid (a cyst) or solid. Cysts and fribroadenoma or noncancerous lump are monitored for size changes. Cysts usually increase in size during hormonal changes. The recommended schedule for a breast ultrasound is 7-10 days after the first day of the menstruation. Solid lump and irregularly shaped lump are further investigated. The cost of breast ultrasound ranges from P800 (Hi-Precision) to P2,100 (Cardinal Santos Medical Center).
Digital mammogram is another screening tool used to detect early signs of breast cancer. Women who reach the age of 40 are recommended to undergo mammography every year because the risk of having breast cancer increases as you get older. Mammogram has a greater accuracy detecting breast abnormalities and provides clear images. The cost of digital mammography in Hi-Precision is P1,500 while 3D digital mammography in Cardinal Santos Medical Center costs P3,200.
Beat Breast Cancer
Early detection of breast cancer gives woman a higher chance of getting cure. There are advanced medical treatments available in the country but being diagnosed at a later stage is more difficult to cure and manage. There are still many women who prefer not knowing if there is something wrong with them and will only seek the help of the doctor when it is too late to save their lives. Survival rate for those with stage 2 cancer can go as high as 93%.
If you can set a budget for leisure and travel, make sure you also give your health a priority. Breast cancer is curable. Love yourself. Visit a doctor today.
Note: The author is considered a high risk breast cancer candidate. Her mother and auntie both battled breast cancer. She has been undergoing breast cancer screening since 2007 after cysts removal from both breasts.