Every year, October is marked as Breast Cancer Awareness Month in countries across the world. The annual health campaign aims to increase awareness of breast cancer - a cancer that forms in the cells of the breasts. Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women, according to cancerindia.org. A report by Breast Cancer Statistics showed that more than 50 per cent of Indian women suffer from stage 3 and 4 of breast cancer.
Breast cancer can affect both men and women - although it’s most common in women who are 50 years old or older. It is a medical condition that can be hard on both your mind and body. But, there are a number of treatment options available for the disease in its early stage and some patients choose to even undergo the procedure of mastectomy on knowing they are at high risk of having cancer. According to the CDC, mammograms are the best way to find breast cancer early - when it is easier to treat and before it progresses to feel or cause symptoms.
What are the signs and symptoms of breast cancer?
The signs and symptoms of breast cancer can vary from person to person - and some people have no symptoms at all. Common symptoms can include -
-A lump in the breast or underarm that doesn’t go away
-Any change in the size or the shape of the breast
-Pain and tenderness in any area of the breast
-Nipple discharge other than breast milk
See your doctor right away if you have any signs that worry you.
What is a mastectomy?
The procedure of mastectomy refers to the removal of complete breast tissue in order to treat or prevent breast cancer. It is an effective option for women who are diagnosed in the early stages of the disease but one can also opt for breast-conserving surgery (lumpectomy) in which the surgeon removes only the tumour.
A woman’s body goes through a plethora of changes over the years and all these changes affect them physically as much as emotionally. A girl when she attains puberty is overwhelmed with the differences in her body with the development of breast tissue and later when they become mothers it’s a whole new journey of feeding a new life.
Preparing for life after breast cancer treatment
Perhaps, the whole concept of having the breasts removed is an emotional decision irrespective of medical reasoning. The surgery is a major procedure that requires one to go under general anesthesia but post-operative care requires a lot of emotional support. Counselling is recommended for all patients, even prior to the surgery. Surgeons are well aware of the mental implications of such procedures and, hence, many hospitals have a protocol of psychological consultations before and after the surgery.
Living with cancer is exhausting in itself, the constant fatigue can take a toll on the quality of life. Life after a mastectomy can be difficult for patients in so many ways realising that a part of their body has changed forever. Almost 50 percent of breast cancer patients are in the age group of 25-50 years, as per a report by Breast Cancer Statistics. The younger women find it particularly challenging to make the decision of a mastectomy. In a few cases, due to the genetic factors, a woman is at high risk of having breast cancer and a mastectomy at an early age might completely erase the risk. But due to the social stigma and the young age, patients are faced with a great deal of dilemma.
Life after a mastectomy
On the occasion of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Dr Nanda Rajaneesh, Surgical Oncologist, Laparoscopic Surgeon at Apollo Spectra Hospital in Koramangala, Bangalore, suggests a few ways to live a fulfilling life after a mastectomy:
1. Embrace your body: The first step is to embrace and accept your body with the changes it has gone through. Know that you fought a life-threatening condition and the procedure was a part of making your quality of life better.
2. Know your options: Breast reconstructive surgery is an option where the shape of your breasts is restored by a plastic surgeon. While it is an effective way of having the same shape and feel of breasts, it’s a major surgery that requires you to spend days in the hospital for recovery. One can also choose to use an external breast form known as breast prosthesis which can be attached to the body. One can also choose to not use any of these to live a full life as medically your body does not require either of it.
3. Maintain a nutritious diet: Fighting cancer and coming out is hard on your body and after a major surgery like mastectomy it’s imperative to maintain a diet that is healthy and nutritious. Include a lot of greens in your diet along with foods that are high in antioxidants - such as broccoli, tomatoes, blueberries and walnuts. These are also cancer-fighting foods and would help you in maintaining the ideal body weight.
4. Get moving: According to a number of research articles, there is proof that physical activity and regular workout can reduce the chances of recurrence of breast cancer. At the same time, a Zumba session can play a vital role in making you feel energised and boost your mood.
5. Have patience with your body: Remember that even after complete recovery your body can feel worn out and fatigued. Do not push yourself and respect the process of bouncing back naturally. It’s normal to feel anxious to get back to work and follow your usual routine but it may take you a little while to get there.
Source: Times Now