• Monday, Dec 06, 2021
  • Last Update : 01:15 am

OP-ED: Early detection saves lives

  • Published at 12:41 am October 27th, 2021
breast cancer

The plain truth about breast cancer

“Seeing my mother suffering from breast cancer was a rough phase in my life both, emotionally and physically. During this period, my mother was also in a state of depression, but refused to seek help, as she was worried people she knew would see her in the waiting room,” says Ivy Huq Russel, Maya’s CEO.

The importance of access to information struck Ivy even more deeply during this tough phase. This led her to establish Maya to connect women all across Bangladesh with health care professionals and provide them with a platform to seek out help and advice anonymously, with no stigmas attached. This October, we join hands with everyone around the world, to raise awareness regarding breast cancer, because early detection and proper treatment can save lives!

According to a recent report, breast cancer incidence rate in Bangladesh is 22.5 per 100,000 women. Regardless of the statistics, women in Bangladesh still shy away from discussing breast cancer and getting clinical breast exams done. It is still considered a taboo topic and the social stigma surrounding it has made it worse. 

It’s crucial to understand that raising awareness about the issue and discussing it more openly will help reduce the number of people afflicted with breast cancer each year. According to statistics, women who have an early diagnosis of breast cancer have a 93% or higher survival rate in the first five years.  

Moreover, fighting cancer requires an enormous amount of emotional strength, apart from the physical strength. Mental health is badly affected and there are high chances of people suffering from depression, anxiety, and feelings of loneliness during this phase. The prevalence of depression among breast cancer patients is over 30%. This number emphasizes the importance of seeking professional help to cope with deteriorating mental health while suffering from breast cancer. 

Breast cancer is the abnormal growth of cells lining the breast ducts. These cells gradually grow and spread to other parts of the body. Breast cancer mainly affects women, but there are rare cases in men too (about 1% of all the cases). The common symptoms of breast cancer include lumps or thickening of the breast, sore nipples, nipple discharge, changes in the size or shape of breast or nipples, dimpling of the breast skin, and red swollen breasts.

The most common causes and risk factors of breast cancer include increasing age, family history, radiation exposure, and obesity. Another important factor lies within our genes. It is estimated that between 5-10% of breast cancer cases are hereditary. So if you have any family history related to the disease, it’s important you take necessary steps to monitor your health.

This leads us to a very important question that needs to be addressed: “How to reduce chances of getting afflicted by breast cancer?” Well, there certainly are several measures you can take to ensure minimal risk of acquiring the disease, but there are a few measures you can take yourself.  

Conduct breast self-exam to notice any changes in the breast or formation of any lumps. It’s a way for you to check your breasts for changes, such as thickening or lumps. You have to look at and feel your breasts to notice any changes.

If you see something unusual, such as a lump, skin change or discharge from the breast or nipples, consult a doctor immediately and discuss breast cancer screening options

Maintain a healthy weight and intake a healthy diet. 

If you are at high risk due to family history or other reasons, you may consider preventative medications (chemoprevention) and preventative surgery, but it’s important to consult a doctor before making any decision.

As previously stated, breast self-exam should be frequently done, especially starting around the age of 30 years, and if any changes in the breast are noticed, please consult a doctor immediately. However, if you are diagnosed with breast cancer, don’t panic, because there are multiple ways to treat breast cancer. 

It’s important to be aware of the treatments involved and decide upon the best course of action alongside the doctor. Although the treatment depends on the stage of cancer and how far it has spread, there are some commonly used methods to cure cancer. It includes surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, targeted cancer drugs, and hormone therapy. Hence, it can be rightly said that breast cancer can be prevented to some extent and cured as long as you take notice of changes in your breasts and ensure pro-active actions, as discussed above for early diagnosis and treatment.

As emphasized throughout the article, early detection increases chances of survival. According to a meta-analysis of 38 studies, a delay of three to six months in diagnosis can lead to worse case survival scenarios. Therefore, pro-active measures and increased awareness leads to women being more aware of their family history, getting mammograms done with doctor’s recommendations, and undergoing genetic testing and hence ensuring early diagnosis and treatment. 

Maya, a Bangladesh-based telehealth company, has developed a huge platform with professional doctors, therapists, and counsellors in multiple domains of health care. You can get connected to Maya experts online and get all your queries answered through text or video call in just a few clicks. Maya is here to support you through thick and thin, please download the Maya app and reach out for any concerns and questions regarding breast cancer. 

Maya’s professional physical and mental health experts are here to hear you out and address all your medical queries. We can beat breast cancer together!

“I could never share my problem with a doctor till date. As this is an anonymous platform, I want to share my problem here” -- this is one Maya user’s testimonial while asking a query regarding breast cancer. Maya understands how it is hard for women to reach out to doctors physically and discuss breast related issues, therefore they introduced the anonymity feature. 

Maya has helped around 34,000 women with breast related queries to date and continues doing so. In 2021, the average user rating for breast related queries is 3.7 out of 5, which speaks for itself!

Ivy’s story is one story, there are many women and families out there suffering from breast cancer. So let’s all make a pledge to check and spread awareness on how important breast health is! 

Abiha Anjum is a content writer working at Maya, and has vast experience in the digital healthcare industry. She is dedicated to improving people's lives through her words. Abiha contributes to identifying health issues in emerging markets, and raise awareness to educate people through combining research, marketing and content writing.

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