Breast Cancer Awareness
Breast Cancer is a result of a malignant tumour formed in the breast. This tumour consists of mutated cells that divide and multiply and eventually form a lump. However, the discernible growth of the tumour is generally preceded or followed by other symptoms that one must be mindful of. Considering the statistic that 1 in 8 women are diagnosed with cancer during their lifetimes, one can never be too careful and should get any changes in the breast checked up medically. However, for you to be able to identify changes that are out of the ordinary, you need to first know and understand your breasts in entirety, such as the changes they go through over the menstrual cycle, the changes that may come up with age, etc.
Knowing your Breasts
Breasts mostly comprise fibrous, glandular, and fatty tissues. These tissues are supported by ligaments and chest muscles which extend over almost the complete set of ribs. The milk-producing glands are the lobules, situated within the lobes of the glandular tissues. Breast milk is carried through the milk ducts connected to the nipple, and the darker area around the nipples is the areole. This areole in turn comprises little bumps called the Montgomery Glands which are responsible for moisturising the nipple. So now that you know and understand the technical aspects of a breast and its anatomy, below you’ll find a detailed explanation of all the changes that your breasts normally go through. These changes go on all the way from Puberty to Meno-pause, and as such it is important to understand them so that the aberrant changes may stand out.
Before a Period:
Two of the most crucial hormones involved during periods are Oestrogen and Progesterone. As a result of these hormones, the breasts may start feeling heavier, tender, or lumpier. However, this is only a very temporary change and the breasts would soon resume their prior shape. In fact, some women also experience breast pains during this period. This is also perfectly normal.
A Breast Change may constitute an early sign of pregnancy.The breast, especially the nipple, may feel sore. Alternatively, there might even be a tingling sensation in the breasts. This happens as a result of increased progesterone, which in turn leads to bigger milk ducts. The areola grows in size and turns a darker shade, and remains as such throughout the pregnancy.
During the period of breastfeeding a baby, the breasts are constantly producing more milk. As a result, the breast may change in shape and size several times in re-sponse to the feeding patterns of the baby. They may even crack, though only temporarily. After breastfeeding, the breasts would go back to their regular shape and size, though maybe not as firm.
The breasts start changing in shape considerably past the 30s. The glan-dular tissues are gradually replaced with fat, and oestrogen levels start dropping. As a result, the breasts start sagging and lose their firmness. The breasts may even develop benign lumps which are basically just sacs filled with fluid.
Signs of Breast Cancer
Now that you know of the ordinary changes that your breast goes through during a lifetime, you are better equipped to identify aberrant changes. So here’s a couple of symptoms that you ought to be vigilant against.
Lumps in the breast:
If you can either see or feel a lump in your breast, armpits, or upper chest, you should get it checked immediately. These might even manifest in the form of a tigh-tening of the breast tissue.
Lumps in the armpit:
You might be able to feel or see a bunch of small lumps around the armpit area, this could be a sign of breast cancer having spread to the axillary lymph nodes.
Change in Shape or Size:
Your breast might change in shape or size for no apparent reason. Furthermore, the changes might occur in only one of the breasts.
Bright Red and Hot:
If your breast turns bright red and feels hot, that might be an indication of inflammatory breast cancer.
Before a tumour is externally visible, you might notice that the skin on your breast develops a dimpled or puckered texture. This is because the tumour pulls your skin from the inside.
Your nipple might develop a scaly texture, or it might develop what seems like an itchy rash. This could be indicative of a type of breast cancer called Paget’s disease.
Nipple discharge and bleeding:
Discharge from the nipple without squeezing may be a sign of cancer, especially if the discharge is accompanied with blood.
The nipple in one of your breasts may turn inwards. The rationale for this is the same as dimpling. It means there could be a lump behind the nipple.
Despite being aware of the natural changes your breast goes through, it’s highly recommended that if you see any new changes or symptoms that you can’t explain with certainty, you should get it checked immediately. It’s most likely nothing serious, though you should get it checked regardless.