Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Basics Explained

October is celebrated as the ‘Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In the year 2020 alone, nearly 23 lakh women were diagnosed with breast cancer and nearly 6.85 lakh died globally, as per the World Health Organisation.

In India, data presented in the National Cancer Registry Programme report, shows that the number of cases of breast cancer are likely to increase to over 2.32 lakh in 2025.

One of the most common myths about breast cancer is that all lumps found in the breast are cancerous. However, according to WHO, over 90 percent of lumps formed in the breast are not cancerous. Some of them are fibroadenomas, cysts, and some are infections. some of the symptoms of breast cancer:

Cracked nipple region; Inverted nipple; Discharge from the nipple; Change in the contour or shape of the breasts; Thickened skin indicating an advanced stage of cancer.

But according to WHO, approximately 0.5 to 1 percent of breast cancers occur in men. One percent of men can get breast cancer, especially those who have a first-degree blood relative diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer in their younger age, i.e. below the age of 40.

                   Cancer is a class of diseases characterized by out-of-control cell growth. There are over 100 different types of cancer, and each is classified by the type of cell that is initially affected.

               Cancer harms the body when altered cells divide uncontrollably to form lumps or masses of tissue called tumors (except in the case of leukemia where cancer prohibits normal blood function by abnormal cell division in the blood stream). Tumors can grow and interfere with the digestive, nervous, and circulatory systems and they can release hormones that alter body function. Tumors that stay in one spot and demonstrate limited growth are generally considered to be benign.

More dangerous, or malignant, tumors form when two things occur:

                    A cancerous cell manages to move throughout the body using the blood or lymphatic systems, destroying healthy tissue in a process called invasion-that cell manages to divide and grow, making new blood vessels to feed itself in a process called angiogenesis.
                  When a tumor successfully spreads to other parts of the body and grows, invading and destroying other healthy tissues, it is said to have metastasized. This process itself is called metastasis, and the result is a serious condition that is very difficult to treat.
                    Normal cells in the body follow an orderly path of growth, division, and death. Programmed cell death is called apoptosis, and when this process breaks down, cancer begins to form. Unlike regular cells, cancer cells do not experience programmatic death and instead continue to grow and divide. This leads to a mass of abnormal cells that grows out of control.
                   Carcinogens are a class of substances that are directly responsible for damaging DNA, promoting or aiding cancer. Tobacco, asbestos, arsenic, radiation such as gamma and x-rays, the sun, and compounds in car exhaust fumes are all examples of carcinogens. When our bodies are exposed to carcinogens, free radicals are formed that try to steal electrons from other molecules in the body. Theses free radicals damage cells and affect their ability to function normally.


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