Take Care of Yourself: Fight against Breast Cancer

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This post was written by Merina, one of our interns and a 2011 LEADer.

Now, more than ever before, women tend to be so into their work and the causes they’re passionate about, society, and taking care of their families that they sometimes forget about themselves. They forget to have meals on time, they forget to have regular health check ups, and they forget to prioritize their own needs. But it’s a well-known fact that health is the greatest wealth a human can have and that it is really hard for people to give 100% if they’re not prioritizing their health. This is even more important in countries like Nepal where the majority of people delay going to doctors/hospitals until they collapse or they reach the later stage of diseases like breast cancer, cervical cancer and uterine prolapse. While 80% of women worldwide go for mammograms at the early stage of breast cancer, Nepali women get check ups at the 3rd or 4th stages.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer for women worldwide, contributing to nearly one quarter of the total number of new cases diagnosed in 2008. Last year, an almost 23,000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer and over 5,000 died from it. 1 in 9 women is expected to develop breast cancer during her lifetime and 1 in 29 will die of it. Though experts said that there is no factual data regarding breast cancer sufferers in Nepal, organizers have estimated that roughly 50,000 women are suffering from breast cancer.

Is breast cancer a threat to teenage girls?

Younger women generally do not consider themselves to be at risk for breast cancer, as just 7% of all breast cancer cases occur in women under 40 years old. However, because of this trend, many younger women who have breast cancer ignore the warning signs – such as a breast lump or unusual nipple discharge – because they believe they are too young to get breast cancer, delaying the diagnosis and treatment.

Although breast cancer in teens is extremely rare, it’s a good idea for girls to learn how to perform a breast self-examination (BSE) so they can get used to how their bodies feel normally. After learning what is normal for them, teens can then recognize changes in their breasts. A monthly BSE is recommended by a doctor. Some lumps that teenage girls may feel are normal, but a doctor should check any out just to be sure.

So how can we reduce the risk of breast cancer?

Breast cancer may not be prevented completely, but there are steps we can take to help reduce your risk. Early detection is still the best method of preventing serious breast cancer complications.

1. Know the symptoms. (Please note that these symptoms may be caused by factors unrelated to cancer, and most breast cancer is detected on mammograms before any symptoms appear.)

• swelling or lump (mass) in the breast
• swelling in the armpit (lymph nodes)
• clear or bloody nipple discharge
• pain in the nipple

2. Conduct regular breast self-exams. Doctors recommend monthly breast self-examinations.

3. Lifestyle changes have been shown in studies to decrease breast cancer risk even in high-risk women. Here are some steps you can take to lower your risk:

• Limit alcohol. The more alcohol we drink, the greater the risk of developing breast cancer. Drink only occasionally.
• Control your weight. Being overweight or obese increases the risk of breast cancer. We should follow a healthy diet and exercise program.
• Don’t smoke. Teenage girls who smoke may dramatically increase their risk of later suffering breast cancer. Researchers estimate that girls who smoke cigarettes within five years of starting their periods are 70% more likely to develop breast cancer later in life.

These are some really simple ways of taking care of ourselves that just take seconds. Just spending some minutes checking on our body, noticing it and taking care of ourselves can protect us from a lethal disease. So why not do it? Let’s not
wait, let’s not be late! Let’s be strong and healthy so we can contribute 100% to our society!

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