May 2013

Breast Cancer Among Women

According to breastcancer.org, in 2008 there were 1.38 million new cases of breast cancer around the globe, which amounts to 23% of all new cancer cases; 189,000 women died of it. It is the most common cancer form among women worldwide.

By: Joanna Filejski
Projects Abroad Volunteer
Lübeck –Alemania


12 Signs of Breast Cancer
Photo: http://yeow.com.ar/img/2012/02/12-sintomas-de-cancer-de-mama.jpg

As the WHO states in its April 2011 survey, 760 women -- 0.54% of all deaths -- died of breast cancer in Bolivia, meaning that on average 2.5 women died of it every day. It is the second deadliest cancer in the country, right after cervical cancer. The incidence rate lies at 16.6%, with a mortality rate at 9%. According from officials from the Viedma hospital, 5 out of 100,000 women die of it in Cochabamba. This number could be significantly reduced with the right campaigns and public awareness, as most cancers are found at an advanced stage and therefore inoperable.

Medicinenet.com explains that there are three options to diagnose breast cancer: mammography, clinical breast exam (CBS), and breast self-exam (BSE). Mammography screening is an x-ray of the breast and is usually performed on women over the age of 40, as breast cancer risk increases with age. CBS is the examination of the breasts by a professional, such as a doctor, and should be done every three years on women between the ages of 20 and 30. A study by Rebecca H. Johnson of Seattle Children`s Hospital shows that breast cancer cases involving younger women have slightly risen over the past 30 years. The last option, the BSE, can be performed by women as young as 20 years old. It is the touching of the breasts by oneself to see if there are any differences. The technique should be discussed with a professional to help detect potential changes.

Risks of breast cancer

There are some risks one cannot influence, such as gender, age, an early start of menstruation or a late menopause, race, and family history. As studies from cancer.org show, the probability of breast cancer for women is 100 times higher than for men. Also, only about 7% of breast cancer cases occur in women under the age of 40. The probability of getting breast cancer slightly increases if women begin menstruation before the age of 12 or go into menopause after the age of 55. Furthermore, race plays a significant part in the risk of developing breast cancer. White women are at higher risk, but usually African or Latin women have more aggressive kinds and more often die from breast cancer. The last factor mentioned, family history, can double a woman`s probability of getting breast cancer if a close relative (such as mother or sister) ever had the disease. Although there are many risks that one cannot change, there are just as many avoidable factors. According to cancer. org, one of the things that increase the risk of breast cancer is being overweight or obese, especially if the weight was gained after menopause.

The reason for this is that the ovaries that produced estrogen for the body stop functioning and the fat tissue takes over the production of the hormone. The more fat there is, the more estrogen is produced, which raises the probability of breast cancer. To lower this risk, the simple solution is to exercise. A study from the Women`s Health Initiative says that walking just 10 hours a week might be sufficient to reduce the risk by 20%. A 1997 study by the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) found that of the 20,624 women participating in the study, those who exercised regularly cut the risk of breast cancer by up to 72%.


Brest exam
Photo: Ximena Noya

Another popular risk factor for the illness is alcohol. The more alcohol is consumed, the higher the risk. In a comparison of non-drinkers and regular drinkers, women who had one drink a day had a slightly higher risk. Women who have two to five drinks a day have 1 ½ times the risk of women who abstain. A rather unknown factor is sleeping with light. The National Cancer Institute announced in its journal in 2001 that the constant suppression of melatonin, which is a hormone only produced in the dark, increases the risk by at least 36%. Therefore, women should sleep in complete darkness with only light from the moon being allowed.

Breast cancer myths busted

There are as many myths as real risks to what causes breast cancer. One of them is that living near a power line can cause the illness. Studies from New York and Seattle from 2003 did not find a link between electromagnetic fields from power lines and the disease. Another common myth is that caffeine is responsible for breast cancer. There is no scientific proof for this so far and, in fact, some research even suggests that caffeine may lower the risk. An e-mail rumor suggested the use of antiperspirants increased the risk of breast cancer because it prevents one from sweating out toxins. Although traces of parabens, which are used in deodorants and antiperspirants as conservatives, have been found in tumors, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) did not find a cause and effect connection between the two. Another myth claims that wearing an underwire bra causes the illness because it compresses the breasts’ lymphatic system and causing toxins to cluster, but so far there is no scientific proof which would affirm this thesis.

Prevent breast cancer with healthy nutrition

It is estimated that one third of cancer deaths are linked to one’s diet in adulthood. A food that can help prevent breast cancer is quinoa. Due to its high content of insoluble fiber, it is a good addition to the regular diet. It is also an unrefined seed that contains phytoestrogens, which in various studies (e.g. Lancet from 1997) has shown to reduce breast cancer risk by 25%. Other healthy unrefined seeds are wheat, rice, and corn, and should also be part of a regular diet. To eat healthy, it is important to eat more plants and less animal products more often. As an article on cancernutrition.com states, the reason why plants can help defend our body from cancers is rather simple: plants stay in one place and incapable of running away from danger. Therefore, they need various chemicals to protect them. We can consume these chemicals and hence add them to our own body defense systems, which then help our cells from damage to the DNA.

According from officials from the Viedma hospital, 5 out of 100,000 women die of it in Cochabamba. This number could be significantly reduced with the right campaigns and public awareness, as most cancers are found at an advanced stage and therefore inoperable.

To lower one’s risk for developing breast cancer, it is important to take care of oneself and consider the mentioned lifestyle changes as it can greatly reduce the probability of getting the disease. Just following the tips in this article will not definitely prevent one from becoming ill. It is therefore important to inspect the body regularly and seek a professional if changes occur.

Behind the door
Ana Cecilia Moreno and Patricia Sejas are the directors of Detrás de la Puerta, a Contemporary Dance project during the BAU festival of Martadero (a social development project through arts and culture.) in the southern part of Cochabamba. BAU stands for Bienal de Arte Urbano and is an art project where artists will create art in public spaces and streets along the Paseo de las Artes. In the middle of all the graffiti projects, Atempo Danza is performing at the Plazuela Corazonistas on Saturday, April 6th. At eleven in the morning, a bigger crowd than usual is gathering at the Plazuela. They are all dance lovers or former students of one of the directors. With two professional
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