The National Breast Cancer Awareness dates back to October 1985 which was originally a week-long event. This is when the first organized movement to bring attention to the dangers of breast cancer occurred in the United States. It eventually extended to a month-long event and in 1992 the iconic pink ribbon became a significant symbol.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM) is also known as a month of campaigning. The main goal is to increase awareness about the disease, as well as to generate funds for research, prevention, detection, treatment, and eventual cure. It’s an annual global health initiative organized by prominent breast cancer organizations, and it is held each October.
What is breast cancer and what are the symptoms?
According to the American Cancer Society breast cancer is a type of cancer that can begin in either a single breast or both and it occurs when cells grow out of control inside the body.
“It’s important to understand that most breast lumps are benign and not cancer (malignant). Non-cancer breast tumors are abnormal growths, but they do not spread outside of the breast. They are not life-threatening, but some types of benign breast lumps can increase a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer. Any breast lump or change needs to be checked by a healthcare professional to find out if it is benign or malignant (cancer) and if it might affect your future cancer risk,” is stated on the organization’s website.
According to studies, there are several symptoms that can help detect breast cancer:
Common early warning signs of breast cancer:
- An increase in the size or shape of the breast.
- Changes in the appearance of the nipples.
- General pain in any part of the breast.
- Lumps or nodes felt inside of the breast.
- Nipple discharge other than breast milk.
- Skin changes, like swelling, redness, or other visible differences in breasts.
Symptoms related to invasive breast cancer:
- A breast lump or thickening.
- Change in breast color.
- Changes in touch, which may feel hard, tender, or warm.
- Change in breast size or shape over a short period of time.
- Irritated or itchy breasts.
- Peeling or flaking of the nipple skin.
- Redness or pitting of the breast skin, resembling the skin of an orange.
Early detection and prevention of breast cancer
The National Cancer Institute recommends breast cancer screening. The organization has stated that “screening is looking for signs of disease before a person has symptoms. The goal of screening tests is to find cancer at an early stage when it can be treated and may be cured. Sometimes a screening test finds cancer that is very small or very slow-growing. These cancers are unlikely to cause death or illness during the person’s lifetime.”
Most of the screening test includes the following:
- Mammography: is the most common screening test for breast cancer.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): may be used to screen women who have a high risk of breast cancer.
- Breast Exam
- Tissue sampling
Coping with cancer
Receiving a breast cancer diagnosis is a life-altering event, and it’s important to remember that everyone diagnosed with the illness may react differently. It’s entirely natural to experience a wide spectrum of feelings, such as fear, shock, anger, disbelief, sadness, and numbness. These emotions can shift not only from day to day but even from hour to hour. It’s a journey marked by moments of profound despair followed by glimmers of optimism.
In the immediate aftermath of a diagnosis, the days and weeks that follow can be emotionally overwhelming. but, many individuals begin to experience a sense of calmness once there’s a treatment plan in place.
Cancer treatments may be overwhelming for families and some additional assistance may be needed. There are alternatives available that are able to help families in these situations and provide needed services like hospice care and palliative care where patients are fully taken care of during each phase of the cancer treatment
Recent research suggests that patients who enter hospice care earlier to manage their pain and symptoms may experience extended lifespans. This is why hospice providers advocate for individuals in need of hospice care to enroll sooner rather than delay until the last possible moment.
Why hospice care for cancer patients
According to the American Cancer Society, “studies show hospice care often is not started soon enough. Sometimes the patient or family member will resist hospice because they think it means “giving up” or that there’s no hope. It’s important to know that you can leave hospice and go into active cancer treatment any time you want. But the hope that hospice brings is a quality life, making the best of each day during the last stages of advanced illness.”
Hospice care can help in many ways:
Pain and Symptom Management: They focus on alleviating pain and managing distressing symptoms associated with cancer and its treatments. This includes medications, therapies, and other interventions to enhance comfort and quality of life.
Emotional and Psychological Support: Hospice teams include counselors, social workers, and therapists who provide emotional support, counseling, and assistance in dealing with the psychological aspects of cancer.
Caregiver Support: Cancer patients often rely on family members or friends for support. Hospice services extend support to caregivers as well, offering respite care, education, and emotional assistance to help them provide the best care possible.
Comfort and Dignity: Hospice care emphasizes providing comfort and maintaining a patient’s dignity throughout their journey. This includes strategies to reduce physical discomfort, promote relaxation, and create a peaceful environment.
Coordination of Care: Hospice teams coordinate care with other healthcare providers involved in cancer treatment, ensuring seamless transitions and continuity of care. This helps avoid unnecessary hospitalizations and provides a more patient-centered approach.
Supporting cancer patients and spreading awareness
October Breast Cancer Awareness Month provides an opportunity to encourage women to perform regular self-examinations and undergo mammograms as recommended by healthcare professionals.
It also serves as a platform to show support for those who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, including survivors. It helps reduce the stigma associated with the disease and creates a sense of community and solidarity among those affected.
Advocacy efforts may focus on improving access to screening and treatment, increasing funding for research, and promoting policies that benefit those with breast cancer. It also empowers individuals to take control of their health,