#BreastCancerAwareness : Pink is Not Just the Color of a Ribbon

By: Rawan Khalil

I have always been scared of cancer. I do not understand why it always roams in my head, but it does, and I truly hope that one day we live in a cancer-free world.

1 out of 8 women is diagnosed with breast cancer, that is equivalent to 12% of women around the globe. As rare as it is, 1/1000 men gets diagnosed with breast cancer. That is a lot of people diagnosed with breast cancer, statistically speaking, the numbers are scary, and it is so important to be aware of the symptoms of breast cancer, and how it’s treated; even though, you may not be directly linked to the issue and if you are one of the people who are lucky enough to not have breast cancer, you should be thankful- yes! But also aware.

If you do have a coursera account, there is a course by the University of Yale called Introduction to Breast Cancer. It is a very informative straight forward course, the professor is engaging, and it really is an amazing learning experience. I am going to use what I learnt from that course to give a semi-educational tour on breast cancer.

Judging by the fact, that it’s october and it’s the breast cancer awareness month; this indeed is much needed, however knowledge about breast cancer should not just be bound to the 10th month of every year, but things like checking your own breasts should be regular health precautions that one takes, regardless of gender, regardless of age. Early detection could save your life!

First of all, what are the risk factors of breast cancer?

Being a woman, and getting older are the two biggest risk factors which are non-modifiable, other non-modifiable risk factors would be genetics and family history. Also, there are also mutations which increase chances of getting cancer, as well as hormones which we produce, and all these non-modifiable risks are things which we cannot do much about.

There are modifiable risk-factors, for example if someone takes hormones like oestrogen or progesterone for reasons like maintaining a regular period, birth control, to reduce menopause side effects, etc; this increases the risk of breast cancer, and not taking them will decrease the risk of developing breast cancer. Other modifiable risk factors are alcohol intake (the less the better), diet- a balanced diet, maintaining a constant body weight and a healthy lifestyle in general reduces the risk of breast cancer.

Many people tend to make the mistake of thinking that people who have breast cancer history are most at risk, however only 5-10% of people who are diagnosed with breast cancer have family history.

Now which genes increase the risk of developing breast cancer. We all probably know about BRCA one and two, but they are not the only genes that can predispose a person to developing breast cancer but they are the most known ones. There are other genes which are rare, but when mutated the person is at a very high risk of developing breast cancer, these include: P53, P10 and STK11. Studies showed that if we look at the risk of getting breast cancer at the age of 40 for example, it would be around 1% but if we look at the people who have a mutation in BRCA one or two the risk jumps to 20%, and if you go up to the age of 70 for the general population it would be something around 8-9% but on people have BRCA one or two it would be around 85%.

If you know you have a high risk or breast cancer and you can use the guidelines set by NCCN ( The National Comprehensive Cancer Network) to see if you should get tested or not. If you meet the guidelines you might consider genetic counseling which is not the same as genetic testing, it is when you consult someone to talk you through your genetic testing result and about risk factors et cetera.

I am not trying to freak you out or anything but this is really knowledge that we should all our lives for whatever reasons.

Now how to check your breasts for lumps to determine whether or not you need a mammogram- whether you’re a guy or a girl.

To all boys: please do not ignore lumps because it has been proven that most men who did get breast cancer, wait till late stages which include blood coming out of your nipples before reporting to a doctor, and so most of boys get very severe forms of breast cancer.

I can blab for so long about how to check your breasts, but I am not a professional so I recommend for your own sake that you check this out:


This is basically by NHS which is is an executive non-departmental public body of the Department of Health and Social Care.

Please remember, early detection can save your life or that of someone that you know!


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