The first National Breast-Cancer Awareness Month took place in October 1985.
Though this life-ending disease has been around for thousands of years. In fact, the earliest description of what can be assumed to be breast-cancer was found in the ancient Egyptian medical text known as the Edwin Smith Papyrus; a text dating back to 1600 B.C. that describes the disease as “incurable.”
The word cancer is related to the Greek word for “crab” because the finger-like projections of a tumor can be likened to a crab and its legs. The word oncology is related to a Roman physician who once used the word “oncos,” which means swelling.
Every October, we remember those around the world who have suffered because of this unfortunate and all too common, disease. We also celebrate those who have beaten and survived it. In the United States alone, there are over 3.1 million breast-cancer survivors; including women who are still being treated and those who have completed treatment.
Unfortunately, the leading risk factor for breast cancer is simply being a woman.
While breast-cancer is also found in men, the disease is 100 times more common in women. If you have a male relative who’s had the disease, you are also more likely to get it yourself. This is especially true if it’s a close family member like a father, brother or son.
In addition, having an immediate female blood-relative, (i.e.; mother, sister, or daughter), with breast-cancer nearly doubles the likelihood that you will also have the disease. That being said, about eight out of ten women diagnosed with breast-cancer do not have a family history of the disease.
Approximately 1.7 million cases of breast-cancer are diagnosed around the world each year. About 75% are found in women over age 50. So, what can you do to maximize your chances of early detection? It’s important to know that breast-cancer doesn’t always come in the form of a lump. In fact, breast-cancer, in its earliest stages, doesn’t usually have any symptoms at all.
If symptoms appear, they may include:
- Swelling in or around your collarbone, armpit or breast
- Discharge from your nipple
- Skin thickening or redness of your breast
- A feeling of warm or itchy breasts
- Breast pain lasting for more than three to four weeks that cannot be linked to a normal hormonal cycle.
And although self-exams do help with detection, it’s more important to pay attention to what is normal for your body and seek medical attention if you have any questions or sense anything is abnormal.
While breast cancer can develop at any age, the risk does increase as you get older.
The youngest breast-cancer survivor on record is a three-year-old girl. According to the American Cancer Society, breast-cancer risk can be classified by each decade in life.
- For women at 20 years of age, the risk is 1 in 1,760 women
- At 30, it’s 1 in 229 women
- That number increases to 1 in 69 women at age 40
- 1 in 42 women at age 50
- 1 in 29 women at age 60
- And 1 in 27 women at age 70
- The overall lifetime risk for developing breast-cancer is 1 in 8 individuals
Other interesting research:
Women in developed countries have a higher incidence of breast-cancer than women in less developed countries.
Scientists are unsure of the reason, but statistics show that the left breast is more prone to developing cancer than the right.
Breastfeeding continues to show a reduction in the risk of breast \-cancer and the longer the duration, the greater the benefit.
Professionals who work night shifts or swing shifts, including nurses and flight attendants have a higher risk of breast-cancer with long-term employment. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, has made the official statement that shift work, especially at night, is carcinogenic to humans.
Take care of yourself and tune-in to what your body is trying to communicate.
Breast-cancer affects so many of our lives on a personal level and the most important thing is to remain supportive.
Technology and treatments have come a long way and research continues.
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