October is a month dedicated solely to Breast Cancer Awareness. Breast cancer is deemed the second most prevalent cancer type. Just two years ago, there were two million additional cases of breast cancer, according to World Cancer Research Fund. The same year, this disease consumed the lives of nearly 630,000 women. In Pakistan, 1 in 9 women run the risk of developing breast cancer. More than 10 million individuals are at risk of this disease while 40,000 succumb to it each year in the country.
We cannot emphasize enough how important it is to consider breast cancer a threat. Taking it lightly is no longer an option. We shouldn’t have been so cavalier about breast cancer in the first place. It is a serious, lifelong ailment. Just like any contagious illness, cancer too, does not discriminate.
There is a dire need for all of us to get our routine checkups done. We are so fearful to pay hospitals a visit that we end up risking our own lives. Although breast cancer predominately affects women, men run the risk of getting breast cancer as well, though the percentage is very low. However, recognizing it as a health problem is crucial.
Furthermore, self-examine yourself. If you feel a lump or swelling anywhere on your body, don’t overlook it. Although these lumps can be benign, they can also turn out to be cancerous. So, to be on a safer side, go see a doctor and get the required tests done.
Know your family history; understand it to the core. If your maternal side of the family has a prolonged history of cancer, be it any kind, your chances increase substantially. The same goes for your father’s side of the family. According to BreastCancer.org, if your first two-degree relatives have been diagnosed, your chances of getting breast cancer are five times higher than an average person.
Age is an even bigger risk factor here. If you are 50 years or older, self-examine yourself often and have your checkups done at least once a month. With increased age, chances of breast cancer increase too. This holds true for every ageing woman. Women with BRCA1 or BRCA2 – which are both inherited genes – run a higher risk of breast cancer as well.
What you can do to overcome getting breast cancer is lead a healthy, positive lifestyle. Change your diet, opt for healthier options and exercise daily. Incorporating brisk walks is better than sitting idle and doing nothing. You don’t have to hit the gym when you have a backyard to walk around. Work with any equipment you have at home to make a difference in your life. Those who have the option of going to gyms, go for it! Those who don’t, improvise! Do household chores or get yourself involved in any other form of physical activity.
First-time moms should consider breastfeeding not because it is mandatory but because it is a matter of their physical well-being. Breastfeeding lowers the risk of breast cancer. It is also preferred to avoid smoking and drinking excess alcohol in an effort to minimize breast cancer risk. Moreover, don’t be afraid to discuss breast cancer openly in your social circle. The more you shy away from talking about a serious disease that affects an average population at large, the more stigma there will be. Keep the conversation going; you may end up saving someone’s life with an early diagnosis.
Going through cancer is as painful as anything. Both, men and women have to undergo excruciating physical, mental and emotional suffering. Rest assured, having checkups and tests done and living a healthy lifestyle can perhaps save your life too. This month, let’s band together and honor those going through cancer in a continuous fight.