Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer (besides non-melanoma skin cancers) and the second leading cause of death from cancer among Canadian women. The impact of breast cancer in Canadian households does not discriminate. That is why October’s wellness blog is dedicated to all the Canadian women and families who have felt the impact of breast cancer. Here is what you need to know about breast cancer, its statistics in Canada, preventative measures, and breast health.
Breast Cancer Statistics in Canada
Before we go over screening and other preventative measures, I just want to take a look at the statistics surrounding breast cancer in Canada. All of the following figures are approximations made by the Canadian Cancer Society for 2020.
- 27,400 Canadian women were diagnosed with breast cancer (25% of all new cancer cases in women).
- 5,100 deaths in Canadian women (13% of cancer deaths in women).
- 240 breast cancer diagnoses and 55 breast cancer deaths among Canadian men.
- On average, 75 Canadian women are diagnosed with breast cancer every single day.
The Importance of Regular Breast Cancer Screening
Screening for breast cancer (mammogram) regularly is an effective way to lower your risk of dying from breast cancer. What is a mammogram test? A mammogram is an x-ray picture of the breast that allows doctors to detect early signs and indicators of breast cancer. Early breast cancer detection is critical to improving the success rate of treatment and reducing treatment time, cost, and recovery. While there are variables that lead to mammograms not being 100% conducive, they are an important tool for Canadian women to properly understand their breast health.
When to be Concerned and Seek Medical Attention
It is important for all Canadian women to understand the symptoms of breast cancer and the signs that their breast health may require additional attention. The most common symptom of concern is the discovery of a new lump in the breast or armpit area. This lump will feel different from the rest of the surrounding breast and it may feel as though it is attached to the skin or surrounding breast tissue. Additional symptoms include:
- Sudden changes to the size or shape of the breast tissue.
- Changes to the nipple or discharge that comes out of the nipple.
- Irritation and/or redness of the breast’s skin.
- Pain, thickening, or swelling of any part of the breast tissue.
It is important to remember that breast cancer will often not have any noticeable symptoms and this circles back to the importance of completing regular breast health screening. I recommend that any noticeable changes in your breast tissue, nipple area, or breast health should be brought up to your health practitioner. It is always better to be safe than sorry.
How to Support Long-Term Breast Health
What preventative measures can Windsor-Essex women take to support their long-term breast health and mitigate their risk of breast cancer?
- Maintaining a Healthy Weight: Obesity and sudden weight gain are both linked to a higher risk of developing breast cancer (particularly increased body weight after menopause).
- Staying Physically Active: Pairing vigorous physical activity and healthy body weight is linked to a lowered risk of developing breast cancer.
- Choosing to Breastfeed: Prolonged breastfeeding (for at least a couple of months) is linked to a lowered risk of developing breast cancer.
- Limiting Alcohol Consumption: Prolonged consumption of alcohol is linked to a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
- Genetic Testing: You can complete a genetic test to help understand if you are at an increased risk of developing breast cancer.