Today Serbia is marking National Day Against Breast Cancer, a disease that is the most common malignant tumour among women in Serbia. Every eighth woman in our country gets breast cancer, and the number of newly discovered cases of this disease is over 4,000 per year. HRH Crown Princess Katherine reminds one of the great importance of prevention and appealed to all women to be responsible for their health and to get regular preventive examinations, so that breast cancer can be detected in time.
Wishing that as many women as possible in Serbia become familiar with the relevant facts and useful advice about breast cancer, HRH Crown Princess Katherine and her Foundation hereby share useful information and guidelines about this disease, gathered from the Institute of Oncology and Radiology of Serbia, the Institute of Public Health of Serbia “Milan Jovanović Batut” and other relevant institutions, in order to further raise awareness of breast cancer and contribute to saving as many lives as possible.
WHAT IS BREAST CANCER?
Breast cancer is the most common malignant disease among women. It occurs in the form of the cells’ growth, which occurs when even just one normal breast cell changes its properties and starts multiplying rapidly and uncontrollably, thus destroying the surrounding healthy tissue. Through the blood or lymph, malignantly changed cells can spread to distant parts of the body and create new growths in them – metastases.
THINK ABOUT YOUR HEALTH
- Find out what your breast cancer risk is
- Talk to your family to find out your family health history
- Talk to your doctor about your personal risk of breast cancer
WHO IS AT RISK OF GETTING ILL AND WHY?
Any woman can get breast cancer!
The risk increases significantly after the age of 40, but breast cancer can occur even earlier.
This disease can also occur among women without any known risk factors.
The risk of getting breast cancer is higher in women who:
- have a close relative with breast cancer in the family (mother, sister);
- have a benign breast disease (atypical hyperplasia);
- had an early first period (before the age of 12);
- gave birth for the first time after the age of 30;
- did not give birth or breastfeed;
- had a late menopause (after the age of 50);
- lead an unhealthy life (improper diet, obesity, excessive alcohol consumption, insufficient physical activity).
HOW CAN YOU REDUCE THE RISK OF BREAST CANCER?
You can take simple steps yourself to reduce your risk of developing this disease:
- Eat properly!
- Do not consume alcoholic beverages!
- Do not smoke!
- Maintain an appropriate body weight! Don’t forget that obesity is one of the risk factors for breast cancer.
- Be physically active! Regular physical activity contributes to maintaining hormonal balance. Be physically active for 30 minutes every day and choose what suits you best – walking, dancing, running, swimming, riding a bike…
- Perform regular preventive examinations! Breast self-examination and going to the doctor for regular check-ups allow early detection of breast changes. Also, it is important that you know the normal structure of your breasts well.
WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF PREVENTIVE EXAMINATIONS?
Do not forget that in the initial stage of the disease there are no symptoms.
Examinations make it possible to detect the disease in the initial stage when the treatment is simpler and there are excellent chances for a complete and permanent recovery.
Regular preventive examinations are the most important way to preserve health!
WHAT IS PREVENTIVE BREAST EXAMINATION?
Given that the disease’s incidence increases noticeably with age, the recommendations for preventive breast examinations also differ depending on age:
- Start breast self-examination from the age of 20, regularly, once a month.
- Perform a clinical examination every third year from the age of 29 to 39, and once a year from the age of 40 (with an ultrasound examination of the breasts as recommended by the doctor).
- Start mammograms between the ages of 40 and 50 and perform them every other year.
Self-examination includes looking at the breasts in front of a mirror and examining them with fingertips while standing or lying down. You should perform breast self-examination once a month, preferably around the 10th day of the cycle. You don’t have to have a special routine, you just need to pay attention to anything unusual about your breasts and the surrounding tissue.
It should be remembered that very small changes cannot be detected by self-examination, so regular examinations by a doctor are necessary.
WHAT SYMPTOMS SHOULD YOU PAY ATTENTION TO?
During self-examination, pay attention to the following symptoms:
- Growths, nodules or thickenings in the breast, surrounding tissue or armpit;
- Change in breast size or shape;
- Swelling, warmth, redness or darkening of the skin of the breast;
- Change in colour or sensitivity of the skin, areola or nipple;
- Appearance of pain or discomfort in the breasts;
- Dimples or wrinkling of the skin;
- Itching, redness or a sore on the nipple;
- Retraction of the nipple or other part of the breast skin;
- Sudden appearance of secretions from the nipple;
- New onset pain in one point that does not go away.
If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your chosen physician immediately. Most of these symptoms are not caused by a malignant disease, but it is necessary for a doctor to check what it is about.
WHERE CAN YOU HAVE A PREVENTIVE BREAST EXAMINATION?
You can have the examination done by your chosen gynaecologist at a health centre. As part of the clinical examination, an ultrasound examination of the breasts is performed. Preventive examination with mammography is performed in health institutions that are equipped with the appropriate device (mammography).
is an X-ray examination of the breast that detects tumours and other changes in the breast, which are still so small that they cannot be felt or detected by other types of examination.
Modern mammographs use very small doses of radiation that are not harmful.
YOU SHOULD KNOW…
Preventive examinations for the early detection of breast cancer are available to everyone, and the costs are covered by the mandatory health insurance in Serbia.
HOW MUCH TIME DOES PREVENTIVE EXAMINATION TAKE YOU?
Breast self-examination will only take a few minutes, and you need to do it once a month.
A clinical, ultrasound or mammographic examination takes about 15 minutes each. You can certainly take that much time for yourself and your health every year.
The only necessary investment in your health is a little of your time. Don’t skimp on it!