IN PARTNERSHIP: As October marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’re encouraging you to face your fears head-on and not to let fear neglect your health. Emirates Woman spoke to Dr Rita Daaboul, a Consultant General Surgeon at Medcare Women and Children Hospital (MWCH), about how important it is to get your breasts checked and how early detection is key for curing breast cancer.
While breast cancer generally occurs in older-aged women, in about half the number of breast cancer cases occur in those under 50 years of age, and as such, tends to be more aggressive. This is why it is even more important to spread the message of breast awareness and early detection, as well as remind all women to check their breasts.
It may seem daunting to get your breasts checked, but with new technology, mammograms are now less uncomfortable. It’s a seamless process and with the all-female staff at MWCH’s breast care clinic, which includes the radiologists, they ensure everyone who is there feels comfortable during their check-ups. It vital really to check your breasts regularly, 15 minutes of your time could be responsible for adding another 15 years to your life.
Dr Daaboul’s key advice for breast cancer awareness
Talk us through how to exactly check your breasts properly
Undress from the waist up and stand in front of the mirror. Look in the mirror with your arms by your side. Notice the shape. Look for dimpling (a ‘dent’ in the smooth contour of the breasts) and nipple changes (such as a rash or ‘pulled in’ appearance). Look for differences between the two breasts.
Look at your breasts in the mirror with your hands on your hips and your chest muscles tightened. Again, look for changes in the breast shape, the nipple appearance or differences between the breasts.
Look at your breasts with your arms raised high above your head. The breasts should move up slightly and equally when the arms are raised. Areas of dimpling may be more obvious in this position.
Next, feel your breasts for lumps. This can be done while standing or lying, but is better when lying down. Use your flattened fingers to feel each part of the breast. This can be done in circles, in strips up and down the breast, or by examining each quadrant (quarter) of the breast in turn. The most important thing is to make sure that you feel the whole breast, as well as underneath the nipple.
The common breast cancer symptoms?
The symptoms of breast cancer depend on where the tumour is in the breast, the size of the tumour and how quickly it is growing.
Breast changes that may indicate breast cancer include:
a new lump or lumpiness, especially if it’s only in one breast
a change in the size or shape of the breast
a change to the nipple, such as crusting, ulcer, redness or inversion
a nipple discharge that occurs without squeezing
a change in the skin of the breast such as redness or dimpling.
Are there different types of breast cancer?
Yes, there are different types of breast cancer, with some types being far more aggressive than others. The most important part of breast cancer, however, is the stage at which it presents. The earlier it is detected, the more likely it can easily be treated and cured. Breast cancer awareness, and breast cancer screening, can save lives. It is vital to detect it before it has had a chance to enlarge locally, or spread beyond the breast.
What are the misconceptions surrounding breast cancer?
The most common misconception is that somehow, performing a needle biopsy on a breast cancer to diagnose it, can actually spread the cancer more readily, or even make it more aggressive. Although this may be true for other specific types of cancer in some other organs, we can safely perform a needle biopsy on breast cancer, without this having any effect whatsoever on its behaviour.
What are the most common ages that are affected by the disease?
Breast cancer, in general, occurs more often in older-aged women. As women get older, each decade over 40 increases the risk of breast cancer significantly. However, breast cancers may occur in those under 50 years of age, and as such, tends to be more aggressive. This is why it is even more important to spread the message of breast awareness and early detection, as well as remind all women to check their breasts.
What is the treatment for breast cancer?
The treatment of breast cancer involves more than one speciality in medicine, and is termed “multidisciplinary”. It is most commonly a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and/or hormonal/biological therapies. Of course, this does depend on the stage of the cancer.
What are the side effects of breast cancer treatment?
The side effects can range from none, to a whole list of rare and unusual side effects. The surgery will usually leave some scars, but with the earlier stages, this can be extremely minor. Radiotherapy can leave sunburn type changes to the breast skin, at the end of the treatment, but this will settle within a few short weeks. Chemotherapy can have various side effects, but the one most women get concerned about, is the temporary hair loss. However, it is only temporary, and the hair will start to grow back 2-3 weeks after the last chemotherapy session is given. Other common side effects are nausea, although this is controlled by other medications, and of course, noticeable fatigue towards the end of the treatment (only in the last courses).
Any other essential information to add…
Face your fears head-on. Don’t let your fear make you neglect your check-ups. Early detection saves lives.
A consultation and ultrasound or mammogram at MWCH is priced at Dhs399. Located on Sheikh Zayed Road, the clinic is open from 9am to 9pm. For more information visit medcare.ae.
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