Here are ten of the important facts and statistics about breast cancer that we all must be aware of to protect ourselves and our closed ones.
1. One of the first cancers to be described by ancient physicians was breast cancer. There is a record of its description found in ancient Egypt almost 3,500 years old, as “bulging” tumours in the breast with no cure. The Greeks also knew about breast cancer. In 400 B.C., Hippocrates describes breast cancer as a humeral disease caused by black bile or melancholia. He called cancer as “Karakinos” which means “crab”, because the tumours seem to have tentacles which appeared as the legs of a crab. In A.D. 548, the first recorded mastectomy for breast cancer took place on Theodora, Empress of Byzantine. Earlier physicians used to believe that breast cancer was caused by several factors like lack of sex which caused reproductive organs, such as breast, to atrophy and rot. Others were of the view that vigorous sex blocked the lymphatic system. Some even thought that depression restricted blood vessels and trapped coagulated blood, and that a sedentary lifestyle slowed bodily fluids.
2. The French physician Jean Astruc (1684-1766) cooked a slice of breast cancer tissue and a slice of beef and chewed them both to disprove the notion that breast cancer happens due to an imbalance of the four body humours, namely an excess of bile. He did that because both taste exactly the same. Breast cancer tumour does not contain bile or acid.
3. In 1882, the father of American surgery, William Steward Halstead (1852-1922), first introduced the radical mastectomy through which the breast tissue underlying chest muscle and the lymph nodes are removed. This was practiced until the mid-1970s whereby 90% of women with breast cancer were treated. In 1969, the mammography was used the time with specialized X-ray units for breast imagining. The first operation to use anesthesia was a breast cancer surgery.
4. The youngest known survivor of breast cancer is Aleisha Hunter from Ontario, Canada. She had gone through a complete mastectomy to treat her juvenile strain of breast cancer at the age of three in 2010.
5. The most common type of cancer amongst American women is breast cancer after skin cancer. It is the second leading cause of death due to cancer after lung cancer. The United States has the most number of cases of breast cancer in the world, where an average of 112 women dies of breast cancer every day, which means one every 15 minutes. There are almost 2.5 million breast cancer survivors living in the US. A woman has a 12.1% (or one in eight) chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer in the US today. The risk is high because of longer life expectancy, changes in reproductive patterns, longer-term menopausal hormone use, increased obesity and increased screening. Even though white women have a higher risk of breast cancer than African American women, but African American women are more likely to die from breast cancer their white counterparts. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, there is a higher risk of breast cancer in women who take multivitamins. In the US, breast cancer is rare in men with an approximately 1% cases of all. Nearly 400 men die due to breast cancer yearly. Again African American men are more likely to die from breast cancer than their white counterparts.
6. Breast cancer incidences are highest in more developed countries as compared to less developed countries. One in eight women or about 12.6% of all women will get breast cancer in a lifetime. Nearly 10.4% of all cancers in women are breast cancer. Women who are age 40 or above should have screening mammograms every 1 to 2 years. Approximately 1.2 million breast cancer cases are diagnosed globally every year with about 75% of them in women over the age of 50.
7. When the cells divide and develop without a normal control, then they grow into a lump called a tumour. Tumours are either benign or malignant, and the latter cause cancer. Breast cancer happens due to malignant tumours in the breast tissue. Not all lumps found in the breast are cancerous as they can be fibrocystic breast condition, which is benign. Tumours are more likely to be malignant when they are firm and of irregular shapes, while benign tumours are more likely to feel round and soft. However, in either case a medical check-up should be done. But once malignant, it can take up to eight years to become a lump of a size of 1 centimeter (cm), but once the lump has grown that much, it takes only a year and a half for it become the size of 3.5 cm. In fact, it can take up to 10 years for a lump to develop to a size that can be actually felt. This means that it is a fast moving cancer that should be caught in time to save lives. The left breast is statistically more vulnerable to grown cancer than the right one, the reason of which is still uncertain. When breast cancer spreads beyond the breast, it is called “metastatic” and the most common places it spreads to are the bones, liver, and lungs. One of the earliest signs of breast cancer mostly shows up on a woman’s mammogram before it can be felt or indicate other warnings.
8. Breast cancer was initially known as the “nun’s disease” because a lot of the nuns suffered from it. Breast feeding reduces the risk of breast cancer with the greater the duration, the lesser is the risk. Although not fully understood, research suggests that pre-eclampsia is associated with a decrease in breast cancer risk in the offspring and the mother. Risks for breast cancer includes a family history, atypical hyperplasia, delaying pregnancy beyond age 30 or never becoming pregnant, early menstruation (usually prior to age 12), having late menopause (after age 55), daily consumption of alcohol and current use or use within ten years of oral contraceptives.
9. It is not true that a person’s risk of breast cancer increases only when someone in the family from mother’s side is affected. Because father’s side is equally important when evaluating breast cancer risk. There are other such misconceptions about what can cause breast cancer including using deodorants or antiperspirants, wearing underwire bras, having miscarriage or induced abortion, or bumping and bruising the breast tissue.
10. There is a definite link between increased weight and breast cancer, especially those who gained weight in adolescence or after menopause. Having body fat composition in the upper body also increases the risk. According to researchers’ speculation, left-handed women are more prone to developing breast cancer as they are exposed to higher levels of certain steroid hormones in the womb. Through research it has been found that pomegranates could help to prevent breast cancer. Chemicals called ellagitannins block the production of estrogen, which can increase certain types of breast cancers.