What is breast cancer? – Part 1

October is the awareness month of breast cancer. Most of us have heard about this disease, the Baheya Foundation, or have even watched the famous and inspiring series of Hend Sabri and Yasmin Ghaith, “حلاوة الدنبا”. The name of the disease can be scary but thanks to science, many cases are today detected in their early stage which means higher success rate of the treatment. Did you know that in Egypt 32 women out of 100 women have breast cancer? Did you know that 80-90% of cases successfully recover?
In this article, we’ll understand what is cancer and how to know if someone has breast cancer.

1. What is cancer?
The American Cancer Society defines cancer as the abnormal growth of our cells in a specific part of our body. A group of cancer cells is called a tumor or a lump. Beware, not all tumors are cancerous: some tumors are made of cancer cells (that’s what we call a malignant tumor) other are made of non-cancerous cell (that’s what we call a benign tumor).
If cancer cells formed for example in the breast travel to other parts of the body (the lungs for instance) we call this phenomena metastasis. Not all cancers are metastatic.

2. What are the signs of breast cancer?
Signs of breast cancer differ from one woman to another. Here are 5 common signs of breast cancer we should all know: appearance of a new lump in the breast or armpit, change in the size or shape of the breast, redness/hotness in part of the breast, pulling in of the nipple with some pain or flaky skin in the breast/nipple area. Sometimes an abnormal discharge from the breast can occur.

3. What should I do if I have any of these signs?
You should consult as soon as possible your doctor. He/she will let you do some medical tests and exams to detect/analyze the presence of any tumor. You will certainly do a mammogram (which is an X-ray on the breast) to see where are the tumors located if any. In case a tumor is present, you might do a biopsy: the doctor takes a small sample of the tumor that you have in the breast, then he/she will analyze it in the laboratory to know if the tumor is benign or malignant.

4. What are the stages of breast cancer?
There are 5 stages for breast cancer: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4. Stage 0 is the least severe and stage 4 is the most severe. The earlier we detect breast cancer the easier and shorter is the treatment. That’s why the American Cancer Society recommends that women above the age of 40 years do a yearly mammogram.

Knowledge is power. We search for information to be less scared of the unknown. Share this article with your loved ones. Let’s support each other, even if it’s by a simple share of information.

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Dr. Reem Khalaf Bachelor of Pharmacy and Biotechnology (German University in Cairo) instagram account : babychef_eg
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