THE last two articles on breast cancer have elicited various reactions, feedbacks as well as anxious questions about the mortality( death rates) of malignancy of the breast.
There were some women- thank you dear readers- who shared the journey of a loved one who had survived the cancer and a few who , in a narrative detail talked about the worry and eventual sadness of the loss of a beloved wife, sister and daughter.
As mentioned in the previous articles, women who have more risks for breast cancer are more likely to develop it. However, there are certain facts that must be established. For one, usually for breast pain without a lump is not a sign of breast cancer; because it might just be a case of mastitis- infection/inflammation if the breast possibly due to trauma.
However, and again, this is the fearful truth, about 10 percent of women who had breast cancer have had pain even without a lump or mass in their breast.
A lump is suspect if it feels distinctly different from the surrounding breast tissue- which a woman examining her own breast would know. Remember the battle cry of the late Senator/Secretary of Health Juan Flavier: SSS- suriin ang sariling suso, because in 80 percent of breast cancer cases, it was the woman/lady herself who discovered/felt the lump herself.
In the early stages, the lump may move freely beneath the skin when it is gently pushed with the fingers. In advanced stages, the lump may now be adherent to the chest wall or to the skin over it leading to some swollen bumps and even festering sores on the surface. Otherwise, there may be dimpling of the skin and the peau de orange- leathery skin of an orange. The nipple should get extra attention because changes in its color or turning inward are not good findings, more so if there are discharges, worse if the discharge is bloody.
Like in all diseases, finding/discovering the disease early increases the likelihood of successful treatment and hopefully, cure of any ailment. The importance of routine self-examination cannot be overemphasized. Mammography which utilizes low dose X-rays help detect abnormal masses in the beast- still considered qas one of the best ways for early detection. Experience has shown that mammograms at intervals of 1-2 years can reduce breast cancer deaths by 25-35 percent in women aged 50 and above.
Ultrasound uses high frequency sound waves, is useful after a lump is detected by mammogram, to distinguish a fluid-filled sac (cyst) from a solid lump. From a clinical point of view, if the cyst is not causing the woman signs and symptoms, watchful observation is all that is needed but a solid mass definitely requires excision and biopsy.
Advances in medicine especially in the field of surgery include more sophisticated gadgets and instruments to detect early all forms of cancer, like thermography - temperature rises in some forms of cancer- which we, doctors and patients hope and pray would lead to a significant reduction in the morbidity(illness) and mortality(death) of malignant growth of cells called cancer.
Published in the SunStar Baguio newspaper on November 11, 2017.
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