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More than 25% of the cancers that are diagnosed in women are breast cancers. We’ve all probably heard of breast cancer. But how much do we actually know? We have a fact sheet for you that can help you be more aware of breast cancer in this Breast Cancer Awareness month. Hopefully, through this we would be more mindful of what to look out for, and the preventive measures we can do at home.

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What is Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer arises from a malignant or cancerous tumour. It occurs when breast cells become abnormal and divide without control or order, unlike normal cells. When the orderly process is disrupted, it starts producing extra tissue to form a mass or lump called a tumour. Not all tumours are cancerous.

The breasts are made up mainly of fat cells and gland cells. There are milk-producing glands in the breasts and they are made up of individual cells that normally reproduce under the control of hormones. When this process gets out of control, an abnormal glandular structure develops and this is the beginning of cancer.

The majority of breast cancers starts in the milk ducts while a small number start in the milk sacs or lobules.

Who is at risk?

Typically, those at risk are women above the age of 40. However, referring to our Editor Kristen Juliet’s article, Breast Cancer Awareness: I’m 29 and I have Cancer, Cancer Doesn’t Age-Discriminate, cancer – any type of cancer – does not age-discriminate.

A woman who experiences menopause at age 55 has a higher risk of getting breast cancer compared to a woman who experiences menopause at age 45. This refers to the length of the fertile period of a woman. The age at which a woman completed her first pregnancy also plays a factor. If a woman has her first completed pregnancy at age 30, the risk of them getting breast cancer is higher as compared to a woman who completed her first pregnancy at a younger age.

That doesn’t mean that women who do not get pregnant are not at risk. In fact, women who have never been pregnant have a higher risk of getting breast cancer.

About five to 10% of all breast cancers are caused by genetic factors.The genes that have been found to have a high chance of being the cause of breast cancer are BRCA1 and BRCA2.

Symptoms and Signs of Breast Cancer

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a) A breast lump: The breast lump is something women usually discover themselves and it may or may not be painful.

b) Nipples: The nipple may be indrawn or bleeding. Some may even find a discharge from the nipple.

c) Swelling of the skin breast.

Prevention Tips

Although you may never know what illnesses you may get, it’s always good to be proactive and give yourself a shot to prevent them.

1. Exercise

Keeping fit and healthy has proven to reduce the chances of getting breast cancer

2. Get a screening regularly

This is not prevention tips per se, but going for regular checkups allow you to detect the cancer early, increasing the chance of successful treatment. Take note that a mammogram is recommended only for those who are above 40 years old. Women under 40 can go for other forms of screening.

3. Having a healthy diet

Research has shown that a healthy diet reduces the risk of breast cancer. So be sure to get enough fruits, vegetables and meat intake in your diet!

4. Breast feed

If you’re a new mum, or if you’re planning on getting more children, try your best to breast feed. Breast feeding also reduces the risk of breast cancer.

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