26 Oct, 2021
"Your health is important, so make it your priority.", this is how Dr. Faisal Al-Terkait, Oncology Consultant and Head of the Breast Cancer Unit at the Kuwait Cancer Control Center, concluded this informative chat with The Avenues Insider, where he explained the main causes of breast cancer, addressed the disease's most common misconceptions and stressed the need for women of all ages to have regular checkups.
To what extent did women's awareness of early detection of breast cancer raise the success rates of treatment?
While the breast cancer treatment rates in Kuwait have improved due to the increased awareness, it is unfortunately still not high enough compared to international rates.
Back then, the rate of early breast cancer detection was 13%, and due to the increased awareness of the importance of self-examination and early detection, this percentage is now 40%, but we aim to reach 70%.
We always stress that regular self-examination and early detection of breast cancer in women help with the success of the treatment. In the early stages, the patient may not even need to receive severe treatments such as chemotherapy or undergo surgery, and may only resort to the excision of the tumor without the total removal of the breasts.
Are genetics and bad habits key factors in the injury?
Actually, only 5% of breast cancer cases are thought to be hereditary but it is not the main cause. But an unhealthy lifestyle and bad habits are some of the main causes of breast cancer and diabetes, which means that a diabetic patient is more likely to develop tumors.
Therefore, we always advise following a healthy lifestyle to avoid developing cancerous tumors: Avoid or heavily reduce red meat, fats, and sugar, avoid eating fast and processed foods, and exercise daily.
Can a woman with breast cancer work and have a social life during treatment?
Thankfully, cancer treatments today are completely different from the past, now women with breast cancer can live their lives somewhat normally. We always encourage our patients to continue living their lives as they usually would, including going to work even if they're undergoing chemotherapy.
Is mental health a factor in the treatment and recovery of breast cancer?
The patient’s mental state is an essential factor during the treatment journey, and I always advise breast cancer patients to be strong, prepared for treatment, and ready to confront and fight the disease, because treatment will not work if the patient is psychologically and mentally weak, and may even worsen her health condition. This is actually scientifically proven because that’s when the body's immunity will drop and will be unable to fight the disease.
I’ve noticed that one of the causes of cancerous tumors is patients going through a period of sadness or depression, which is when the body’s immunity is too weak to fight tumors and cancerous cells.
A woman does not need a periodic examination of the breast area before the age of 40.
I have had cases of breast cancer patients between the ages of 24 and 30, so we invite women before the age of 40 to consult a doctor first if they feel any of the following changes in their breasts: discovering a bean-sized lump, a change in skin color, discharge from the breast, or the presence of glands under the armpit area.
For women under 40, I would not recommend mammograms, since breasts at that age are too dense and mammograms would not provide a clear picture. However, they could get their checkups through other types of x-rays.
Breast cancer is fatal
Thankfully, 90% of breast cancer cases are not fatal, and this percentage can reach 99% when detected early.
The chances of developing breast cancer are higher for married women than for single women.
Actually, the longer a woman is exposed to estrogen during early puberty and late menopause, the higher the chances she develops breast cancer. On the other hand, when she’s pregnant and breastfeeding, lactation stops for two years (because women who fully breastfeed their children don’t menstruate), thus stopping her exposure to estrogen.
Mammograms are very painful
The exam is definitely uncomfortable since the technician presses on the breast to obtain a clear picture, but it is not very painful. The benefits of mammograms are great, think of it like wearing the seatbelt in your car or a COVID-19 swab, it’s uncomfortable but necessary.
Mammograms cause cancer
There is no scientific evidence to support that claim, especially for women above 40 who get their exams done every year or two.
Let me put it this way, a CT scan is equivalent
to 300-400 chest x-rays, and a mammogram is a little more than a chest x-ray.
A woman may have a chest x-ray three to four times a year but will only have a mammogram
once every year or two.
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