Awareness of Breast Cancer Symptoms, Risk Low

 Annually, 10,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer are diagnosed among Iranian women. Annually, 10,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer are diagnosed among Iranian women.

The Breast Cancer Awareness Month, marked in countries across the world every October, helps to increase attention and support for awareness, early detection and treatment as well as palliative care of one of the leading type of cancers in women.

Breast cancer accounts for 25% of all cases of cancer and global efforts continue to raise awareness on the symptoms and treatment to reduce the stigma of the disease.

Annually, 10,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer are diagnosed among Iranian women and 3,000 women die from the disease. It is the most common cancer among women in Iran. The median age at diagnosis in the country is 10 to 12 years lower than the global average, the Persian language weekly ‘Salamat’ reported.

Based on a recent survey, only 5% to 6% of all Iranian women have adequate information on the symptoms and risk factors of the disease.

“Many people don’t even want to read or think about it as they believe that breast cancer is incurable,” said Dr Hussein Daneshvar, a member of the Pink Ribbon Campaign which was launched in 2015 with the aim to spread awareness about breast cancer through social networks.

“Cancer that’s diagnosed at an early stage, before it has the chance to spread is more likely to be treated successfully. If it spreads, treatment becomes more difficult, and generally a person’s chances of survival are much lower, so we need to raise women’s awareness of the early symptoms.”

“When free workshops on beauty and skin rejuvenation are held many people take part in them; however, only few people are willing to attend cancer awareness workshops,” he rued.

  Screening Plan

Recently, the Health Ministry has taken measures for early detection of breast cancer and the prevention of its progression to advanced stages in affected women.  

“More than 90% of women diagnosed with breast cancer in the earliest stage survive for at least 5 years more compared to around 15% for women diagnosed in the most advanced stage of the disease,” said Dr Ali Motlagh, head of the Cancer Office at the Health Ministry

Explaining the national screening plan for breast cancer, he said the newly-launched program is being implemented in state-run health centers and health houses in four cities of Naghadeh, (West Azarbaijan Province), Bafgh (Yazd Province), Shahreza (Isfahan Province) and Maragheh (East Azarbaijan Province). If successful, it will be extended to other cities.

“Women aged 30-70 years who come to the centers to treat other health complications, are also evaluated for breast cancer risk factors and those at high risk undergo diagnostic tests.”

He pointed to free screening provided by the Pink Campaign for women above the age of 30. “Many people at high risk of breast cancer refuse free screening for the disease, and many don’t even respond to the invitation.”

“Iranian women need to take screening seriously. It’s a quick and easy process that saves many lives every year.”

Some of the risk factors for the disease include getting older, early menstruation, late or no pregnancy, starting menopause after the age 55, not being physically active, being overweight or obese, and using combination hormone therapy.

According to the Iranian Association of General Surgeons, during the last two decades the number of mastectomies (surgery to remove breast) decreased by only 10% in the country which cannot be considered “significant.”  A mastectomy is usually carried out to treat breast cancer. In some cases, women believed to be at high risk of breast cancer have the operation  as a preventive measure.

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