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The importance of prevention in the battle against breast cancer

The stories of four women and the words of a doctor to generate awareness around this disease

The importance of prevention in the battle against breast cancer  The stories of four women and the words of a doctor to generate awareness around this disease

I couldn't experience the concept of prevention on my own skin. I found myself at 29 with a diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer. Only then you realize the importance of preventing something. For me it was too late, I could no longer prevent, the only choice I had was to cure. 

These powerful words would be enough to briefly explain the importance of prevention against disease, that of breast cancer, that affects thousands of women every year. Nicoletta Saracco, the author of this quote, is one of these women. As she told nss G-Club, following the diagnosis and in particular during the lockdown Nicoletta has discovered her passion for painting and, through her project @NI.ART.GALLERY, she tells her story and her daily battle. Her works, however, want to raise awareness of the topic of prevention, raising funds for the IEO Foundation, the Foundation that directly supports the research of the European Institute of Oncology (IEO), where she's still under treatment. There could therefore be no more heartfelt testimony than his to celebrate October, which has been the month of prevention for many years now. 

The term "loving yourself" is the one I most associate with the concept of prevention, a concept that is somewhat ignored and unknown to younger people, we don't want to reflect and meditate on problems that exist. We tend to think that it is always too early, believing that we are young we think that health is something obvious. We always feel too "small" for such "big" problems. And instead the nice thing is to make sure that we become the "big ones", also through prevention, to ensure that everything becomes "small" and minimized. Experiencing on my skin what it means to cure rather than prevent, I feel compelled to push and urge everyone, especially my peers, to love themselves more, to find the time once a year for a check-up. 

Breast cancer affects 1 in 9 women over a lifetime and is the most common cancer in women. In 2019, about 53,000 women fell ill with breast cancer in Italy. Survival five years after diagnosis is continuously increasing, in the last twenty years it has gone from 81% to 87%, but to reach 100%, the research must go on. Although there are hereditary risk factors in 5-7% of breast cancer cases, regular check-ups and healthy life are the best ways to prevent the disease. Every woman should undergo an annual gynaecological examination, between 40 and 50 years specific tests would be appropriate in case of familiarity, while between 50 and 70 years it is advisable to have a mammogram every two years. In everyday life there are few and simple actions that we must remember to make our body feel good: don't smoke, do physical activity, follow a balanced diet rich in vegetables. Another fundamental aspect of prevention concerns listening to and observing the signals that our body sends us. The presence of a lump, changes in the shape of the nipple, redness or thickening of the skin around the nipple, loss of blood, serum or milk from the nipple, or underarm swelling, all indicate the presence of a possible disease. Prevention and timely diagnosis make a difference.

Although more frequent check-ups are recommended from the age of 40, it is not uncommon for breast cancer to affect much younger women, such as Nicoletta, Fabrizia, Veronica, or Francesca, who have described below their battle with an illness that has struck them around to 30 years. In addition to the advice of the experts, it is the direct testimony of women who have faced this disease to raise awareness on the subject, inviting everyone to take care of their body, listening to it and taking care of it.

My first time with hodgkin's lymphoma was in 2002, at the very young age of 12. The timeliness in identifying the first alarm bells, in my case, has meant that I am still here to tell my story. If my mother (in 2002) had been a bit more superficial, or if in the last relapse (2018) I had pretended not to see what was happening inside and outside my body, today we would talk about something else. In recent months I have decided to tell without veils what happened to me, first because I firmly believe that there is nothing to be ashamed of or to hide for. Second, because I am convinced that too many people still underestimate the multiple changes that their body manifests when suffering from such a serious pathology. I will never stop screaming that you shouldn't hide behind a finger. If there is something wrong within us, it must be dealt with by taking the bull by the horns. Problems are not solved by running away, on the contrary, arriving just a day earlier can radically change the ending of many stories like mine. And prevention in this case is fundamental, this is the testimony given to nss G-Club by Fabrizia Greco.
A strong and shocking experience like the one lived by Veronica Savo Sardaro.
No 30-year-old woman does prevention. Or again, no 30-year-old girl who has no familiarity or who has already experienced cancer in her family environment, spontaneously takes prevention. Here, I am living proof that, even if you have never suffered from back pain, even if energy flows through your veins and feeds your mind, even if you make smile and kindness your strong point, or if your career is going the way you've always wanted, cancer can one day suddenly knock on your door. And decide for yourself. Decide on your life. Deciding whether to make yourself feel good or bad, whether to give you the opportunity to live, whether to give you the opportunity to build your own family. But there is one thing we have on our side. The screenings, the check-ups, call them what you want. But book them. Do them. If you come across the disease, treatments for early-stage cancer are very different from treatments for advanced cancer. Why allow a monster to take possession of a part of our body if it can be avoided through a simple ultrasound scan? I will continue my battle against the disease and above all so that it is no longer a taboo subject. Because a woman must feel serene to be able to live her path freely, only surrounded by true love. Which we know is the key to everything. Always. 
Francesca Stella, working for Furla by day and as a trainer at Barry's Bootcamp by the evening, at 30, in excellent shape, received the diagnosis like a bolt from the blue. 
I started doing breast checks because in the shower I feel a "ball" on the outside of the right breast. They treated me with a little superficiality at the beginning: 30 years old, healthy, no familiarity, low risk. But I wan't calm, I met the right person, she is only 2 years older than me and she is a breast specialist at the Ieo. Very efficient, in a week I had already done all the tests necessary to see clearly and, sbam, a few days after my 31st birthday I had the diagnosis: it is cancer. From there I started soon a very challenging journey, my hair and eyelashes fall out, I lost physical strength, but I hid the truth from everyone. I kept working, going out, teaching in the gym. I used a super cool wig, false eyelashes. I can bear everything but not the idea of ​​being treated with "pity". My character as a trainer is that of a strong girl who doesn't take herself too seriously, who helps other women. But then comes the month of October, dedicated to the prevention of breast cancer, I feel I have to do something for others. I post a photo of me without a wig on my Instagram profile, I tell the truth, I invite everyone to donate money to research and pay more attention to the topic. The reaction of the people leaves me speechless, I am overwhelmed with messages and love. Dozens of women text to me telling me that they have found in my story the strength to face their path. This makes me happy and in turn, I find the strength for my final sprint. I finish the chemo, I have surgery, radio cycles, and here I am today, at 32, back to what I was before. Actually no, I'm much stronger. The future scares me a little bit, but in the meantime I enjoy the present.
Although the progress made in the last 40 years has been revolutionary, the month of October reminds everyone of the importance of prevention, self-care, love for one's body as simple gestures to fight the disease before it even occurs, as also remembered by MD PhD Fedro Alessandro Peccatori, director of the Fertility and Procreation Unit in Oncology at the European Institute of Oncology. 
2 Young 4 Cancer is still one of the nonsense sayings that is heard around. While it is true that breast cancer in young women is relatively rare, there are many more breast cancers diagnosed every year in women by the age of 40 than soft tissue sarcomas in the entire male and female population, just to give an example. Self-examination is useful because it allows women to know their breasts and to report to the doctor the presence of nodules that do not change with the menstrual cycle, secretions from the nipple, skin changes. A breast ultrasound then allows you to differentiate normal situations from those that require further study. A few years ago Umberto Veronesi spoke of zero mortality for breast cancer, starting from the simple assumption that the improvement of diagnostic techniques would lead to the identification of smaller and more curable tumors. In reality, there is still a long way to go. Today, however, women are more aware, we have more and more effective drugs to use after surgery or in metastatic disease and mortality is therefore decreasing. In Italy about 9 out of 10 women are alive 5 years after the diagnosis of breast cancer and there are over 800,000 women who lead their normal lives after a diagnosis of breast cancer. 

Among the initiatives dedicated to the prevention, thanks to the LILT Pink Ribbon Campaign, the Italian League for the Fight against Cancer, for the whole month of October, it will be possible to undergo free breast examinations at the LILT provincial associations and about 400 clinics active in the country, where you can receive advice, find informative materials and dedicated brochure, as well as participate in the many initiatives that each Provincial LILT is preparing.  

To do this, you need to book at the SOS LILT toll-free number 800 998877, where you can also get information about your needs. Here it is possible to consult all the LILT prevention centres. 

Like every year, AIRC also supports the Breast Cancer Campaign, launched by Evelyn H. Lauder and promoted by The Estée Lauder Companies since the 1990s, a mission further described in the hashtag #TimeToEndBreastCancer. Many insights, information and testimonies are available at

On the IEO website, it is possible to consult the page dedicated to the topic, with practical advice and find out more about the Women's Cancer Center, a multidisciplinary and multifunctional centre for women.

Finally, information, insights and indications for visits and screening for breast cancer are available on the website of the Ministry of Health