Breast cancer is one of the most prevalent terminal diseases, affecting men and women alike. However, the occurrence among females is approximately ten times higher than in men. Also, it is the leading type of cancer affecting women, and the second most vicious killer worldwide after cardiovascular diseases (Howell et al., 2014). This report addresses the issue of the awareness both in developed and developing countries and the methods of diagnosis, and how these two factors affect the treatment of the disease.
The objective of the report is to investigate breast cancer as a pertinent issue in terms of causes, diagnosis and awareness.
As a globally known calamity, a lot of effort is being put towards fighting the spread of breast cancer. The concept of awareness is the widest used strategy for combating the disease, attracting contributions from government and private sectors. With projections indicating a bleak future of increased infection, more intervention is necessary to combat the disease (Howell et al. 2014).
According to Lukong (2017), the first documented case of breast cancer was recorded 3,500 years ago and was registered as excessive black bile production in the body. Giants in the field of medicine such as Hippocrates have attempted to establish the exact cause of the disease to no avail. The etiology of breast cancer remains unknown, much to the detriment of its sufferers.
This report was compiled on the bases of analysis of relevant literature on the research subject. All seven articles consulted in the search of pertinent information were found in medical research journals. Three of the journals are focused on cancer-related research, and one is dedicated to breast cancer only. All seven articles are peer-reviewed, therefore, the credibility of research facts outlined in this report is based on a strong background of rigorous research conducted by professionals in the corresponding field of medicine.
All articles listed are less than ten years old, which means that the research conducted is still relevant today. Efforts were made to ensure the use of most recent material where possible, with four out of the seven articles used being less than three years old. Geographical representation was also moderate with keen attention, using both location-specific articles and general ones. The United States of America, Iran, Turkey, and India are some of the specific areas from which research information on breast cancer was generated.
The main keyword used in the online search was breast cancer. Others included awareness, women, etiology, and treatment.
The etiology of breast cancer, just as of many cancers diagnosed today, is rather unclear. The disease occurs when cells in the breast are made to reproduce at an abnormal rate and mode, affecting the normal bodily functions. Factors that influence prevalence have been classified into biological and lifestyle causes, which do not independently cause infection but contribute to the chances of contracting the disease. The biological triggers are identified as young ages of first menstruation, delayed pregnancies, lower rates of pregnancy and giving birth, little or no lactation history, and delayed menopause (Howell et al., 2014, p. 1).
Lukong (2014, p. 65) supports the above definition by stating that breast cancer is a condition of abnormality that is portrayed by the growth of malignant tissue in the human mammal glands. The presence of harmful cells in the body affects normal functioning of organs and in more advanced stages may spread to other organs. The fatality of breast cancer is perhaps overestimated because of the high incidence rate, but according to Lukong (2014), it is not the biggest killer disease. Other complications are brought about by the existence of subtypes that further complicate the treatment process. According to Polyak (2007, p. 3155), the subtypes of breast cancer include the basal-like, luminal A and B, HER2, and normal breast-like strains. The type of cancer contacted by victims affects the ease of detection in the early stages, the severity of condition, and treatment methods that can be used to eradicate the cancerous growth.
Lifestyle causes of breast cancer include obesity, excessive consumption of alcoholic drinks, and hormone replacement therapies (HRT) (Howell et al., 2014, p. 1). Recent research has also discovered that the cells can be genetically passed from ancestors - not necessarily parents - but still require the triggers of biological conditioning and lifestyle for the infection to occur (Lukong, 2017).
While breast cancer is a curable disease during the early stages, later stages are impossible to treat, are considered terminal, and will most often lead to death. The interventional measures for cancer treatment are therefore concentrated on prevention, early diagnosis, and timely treatment. The lack of information on onset symptoms which can allow for treatment to prevent aggravation into the terminal stages is the leading cause of breast cancer mortality, (Tazhibi & Feizi, 2014). The government is thus making numerous efforts through healthcare facilities, civic organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), and individuals like the Hollywood celebrity Angelina Jolie, to raise awareness and prevent morbidity (Lukong, 2017).
The cost of cancer treatment to governments and individuals is very high; cancer is one of the most expensive diseases to manage (Howell et al., 2014). Liability exists not just regarding the financial burden of treatment, but also regarding the loss of life, which affects families, societies, countries, and the global populace. To ensure that these costs are reduced and that women can lead more healthy lifestyles, efforts are focused on preventative measures.
Awareness is a major activity promoted by anti-cancer organizations worldwide, as it aims to make the susceptible members of society better informed about the topic. Under awareness, education is carried out by both governmental and non-governmental institutions. Creating an informed populace is viewed as one way to overcome effects of late diagnosis in which the disease is considered to have reached the stage of terminal illness.
Awareness transforms members of the society into participants in the quest to reduce the prevalence of the disease. In the process of making the potential patients knowledgeable, all details of the disease are disclosed in a systematic and ordered way, with methods of keeping safe being taught. The one proven way to which prevention of cancer has been found to be most effective is by prudent management of information dissemination.
Higher mortality observed in most developing countries is as a result of lower levels of consciousness among women (Tazhibi & Feizi, 2014). In their study of the Iranian women population, Tazhibi and Feizi (2014) discovered a small number of enlightened ladies on the screening of cancer, risk factors, both biological and lifestyle related, the warning symptoms, and medication. This report addresses these four factors of cancer awareness in the context of other studies, with the intention that increased synthesis of information will improve the level of knowledge, and thus reduce the levels of infection.
An individual can do the screening of cancer by themselves or with the guidance of a health professional. Karayurt, Ozmen, and Cetinkaya (2008) propose a method of self-examination where women are taught to check their breasts for lumps and other malformations on a regular basis. With self-examination, chances of detection of malignant growths before they develop into full-blown cancerous growths and affect other parts of the body are increased. Any other abnormalities such as pain or discharge can be reported to clinicians for professional insight. Education plays a huge part in the effectiveness of self-examination as a means of prevention. Smith, Tsangaris, Williams and Yankeelov (2009) cite breast awareness as one of the biggest factors contributing to reduced rates of infection in the United States. Breast checks are the easiest method of detection and safety practices. Self-examination is highly prevalent in areas of high information flows and is extremely low where information is not actively disseminated.
Another important factor in screening at-risk individuals is the family medical history. This factor is widely used by physicians worldwide (Smith et al., 2009). Findings indicate that genetic coding contributes to the presence of disease-causing cells, which raises the alarm for people with relatives diagnosed with breast cancer, and requires that tests be done to reduce the chances of the disease developing.
Even with the monthly self-examination that is recommended by Karayurt et al. (2008), an annual visit to a specialist is advised by Smith et al. (2009). The experts can detect signs that the non-professional hand might miss, as well as are able to conduct further tests in case of anomalies. Screening mammography can only be carried out by nurses and doctors using specialized X-ray equipment. The aim of this examination is to detect early-stage cancer that do not manifest in lumps.
Screening MRIs are conducted on women with a high risk of contracting the disease either from familial factors, such as having relatives who were diagnosed positive for breast cancer, or disease-causing antigens (Smith et al., 2009). Barring situations where a family doctor can conduct MRIs on all relatives of a cancer-positive patient to ascertain their status, oblivious people continue living with disease-causing genes in their cells until the moment when prevention or early treatment are no longer applicable.
Countries with low literacy level experience higher rates of cancer patients and infections, which is worsened by the fact that no interventional measures are put in place to reverse the situation of poor literacy (Gupta, Shridhar & Dhillon, 2015).
The main approach to breast cancer treatment is brought about by one key factor of cancer: if the signs can be seen outwardly, then it is probably too late. Only in the early stages is it possible for medics to treat cancer as any other disease; in later stages, regrowth and spreading makes it impossible to treat, with procedures being aimed at increasing the lifespan of the patient for the longest possible time. Therefore, the knowledge of screening methods and warning signs can help prevent the disease or eliminate the harmful side-effects for those already affected.
Apart from a familial background, attempts to identify women who have a greater chance of contracting breast cancer have been largely unsuccessful (Howell et al., 2014). The chemoprevention used as one way to prevent cancer, as well as lifestyle changes, can only reduce, and not totally eliminate the likelihood of infection. Testing and examination still play a significant part in preventing breast cancer.
From the discussion above, the treatment of breast cancer is a visionary rather than a reactionary process. It relies heavily on the awareness of cancer among women regarding tests that can identify disease-causing antigens before they are activated, or discover the disease at the earliest stages, when it can be treated with non-aggressive therapy.
Even with continued research, the exact causes of breast cancer remain unclear to this day (Lukong, 2017).. The risk factors that trigger the growth of malignant tissue, which is the main symptom, are used to prescribe treatment methods.
Risk factors associated with cancer include biological factors such as genetic coding (the highest risk factor), menstruation (early onset and late menopause), reproductive history (pregnancies and lactation).
Lifestyle causes include overweight problems, issues with substance abuse, especially alcohol, sedentary lifestyle, and procedures meant to reduce the aging effects after menopause, such as HRT.
Breast cancer, just like all other cancers, is very easily treated during the early stages. After maturing to full-blown status, however, the purpose of treatment is to extend the life of the patient, not to cure. Various stages of breast cancer mark its severity; late stages are considered terminal.
The treatment of breast cancer is highly expensive both in terms of finances and health of affected individuals. Prevention is thus used as the most effective form of treatment, with government and non-governmental organizations alike playing a part.
Regular testing is important for the detection of anomalies which might indicate malignant growth; early detection allows the medication to be given while there is still a chance of complete cure.
Awareness is found to depend on the levels of development: developed countries have higher rates of enlightenment, with the majority of women in developing countries being ignorant.
All activities aimed at preventing cancer morbidity are considered to be treatment as they prevent the advent of disease.
The illiteracy observed in developing countries should be countered using aggressive methods of creating awareness. It is especially critical to increase knowledge and reduce the cases of breast cancer occurrence due to the burden on less endowed economies that cancer treatment poses.
According to Karayurt et al. (2008), education should be given to girls in the early stages of learning such as high school and university. Future societies can then be assured of a highly educated populace and fewer cases of breast cancer.
Enlightening women who are not able to access professional examination on self-examination, which can also save many from the discovery of cancer in advanced stages. Training should be given on conducting tests, and medical response services made available for the suspected early stage symptoms
The etiology of breast cancer should be defined authoritatively to facilitate the development of more effective treatment. Specialized treatment should also be developed to improve the chances of survival for positively diagnosed cases.
Howell, A., Anderson, A., Clarke, R., Duffy, S., Evans, D., Garcia-Closas, M., Gescher, A., Key, T., Saxton, J. and Harvie, M. (2014). Risk determination and prevention of breast cancer. Breast Cancer Research, 16(5).
Smith, M., Tsangaris, T., Williams, W. and Yankeelov, T. (2009). Breast Cancer Screening and Diagnosis. Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, 7(10), pp. 1060-1096.
Tazhibi, M. and Feizi, A. (2014). Awareness Levels about Breast Cancer Risk Factors, Early Warning Signs, and Screening and Therapeutic Approaches among Iranian Adult Women: A large Population Based Study Using Latent Class Analysis. BioMed Research International, 2014, pp.1-9.
Karayurt, O., Ozmen, D. and Cetinkaya, A. (2008). Awareness of breast cancer risk factors and practice of breast self examination among high school students in Turkey. BMC Public Health, 8(1).
Polyak, K. (2007). Breast cancer: origins and evolution. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 117(11), pp.3155-3163.
Gupta, A., Shridhar, K. and Dhillon, P. (2015). A review of breast cancer awareness among women in India: Cancer literate or awareness deficit?. European Journal of Cancer, 51(14), pp.2058-2066.
Lukong, K. (2017). Understanding breast cancer The long and winding road. BBA Clinical, 7, pp.64-77.
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