Being well-informed and sharing this information with others are big steps towards making a positive impact and helping people in their fight against breast cancer.
Facts and Statistics
What is Breast Cancer?
When cells in the breast are growing at a rate that is uncontrollable, then breast cancer starts to develop. These rapidly growing cells can easily be detected by x-ray or can be felt as a lump in the breasts. Almost all women have the tendency to be afflicted with the disease condition, but men should not let their guards down, because breast cancer can affect them too. The cancer cells have the capacity to invade the surrounding tissues of the breasts and can even spread out in other parts of the body.
Warning Signs and Early Detection
For women who are religiously undergoing regular mammography screening, most breast cancers are diagnosed at their earliest stage even before any warning signs could manifest. Early signs that breast cancer is present are a change in the way the nipple looks, a pain that seemingly doesn’t go away, the presence of redness, rash, or itchiness on the breast, and discharges coming out from the nipple.
Late Signs of Breast Cancer
When small changes in the breast are not consulted immediately, late signs of breast cancer would appear. These signs can come in the form of an abnormal enlargement of the affected breast, a peau d’orange or orange like look and feel of the breast, dimpling of the breast, visibility of veins and a sudden weight loss.
Breast Cancer in Men
Although men are less susceptible to breast cancer, it is important to understand the different warning signs men should look for in their breast. Signs of breast cancer in men could be unexplained redness, skin irritation, itchiness on the breast, thickening of the breast, retraction of the nipples and nipple discharge.
Latest Statistics in Breast Cancer
There’s a total of 508,000 women who succumbed to breast cancer last 2011 per WHO report. Breast cancer incidence rates vary in a global scale, for instance, 40 per 100,000 population are affected in developing countries; whereas, most African countries have the lowest incidence of breast cancer. On the other hand, survival rate likewise varies from country to country. There is an estimated 80% survival rate of breast cancer in North America; while 60% is for middle-income countries and about 40% for low income ones. The lower survival rates could be attributed to the problems of early detection and lack of treatment facilities.
There are a lot of risk factors that puts a woman at a greater chance of developing breast cancer. It is essential to group the risk factors into modifiable and non-modifiable ones. Non-modifiable risk factors of breast cancers can be sex, age, race, and genetics. Whereas the modifiable risks are: being overweight, having a sedentary lifestyle, abuse of drugs, chronic use of cigarettes, and exposure to carcinogens. It is necessary to group the risk factors into modifiable and non-modifiable ones, so that you can have an idea about your chances of acquiring the disease; and the capacity to further lower your chances of developing one through managing your modifiable risk factors. It is always essential to opt for healthy lifestyle so you can lessen your chances of ever developing the disease.
Breast cancer occurs 100 times more commonly in women than in men. For instance, in a study in American women, it revealed that 190, 000 invasive breast cancer cases are found yearly.
For women who have first-degree relative, say a mother or a sister, who is affected by breast cancer, the chance of getting the disease is doubled. On the other hand, it is believed that 5-10% of most breast cancers are caused by abnormal gene that is passed from generation to generation.
The increased risk of developing breast cancer is directly proportional to an increase in age. Wherein, 66% of women aged 55 and above have been found to have invasive breast cancer.
Africans, Hispanics and Asians are less likely to get breast cancer than their white women counterpart. Yet, it is the African women who have an increased chance of getting the aggressive type of breast cancer for that matter.
Screening & Detection
Prevention is always better than cure and most women and men, especially those that are highly susceptible to breast cancer should be religious in getting the regular screening and detection. Although breast cancer can easily be detected when early symptoms are already appearing, there are those affected with breast cancer who have no symptoms at all. Different tests being used to detect breast cancers are oftentimes categorized into:
These screening tests should be regularly done by those with higher risks of acquiring the disease. Most of the time, mammograms are prescribed by doctors to be performed regularly by healthy individuals who have high breast cancer risk. These screening tests are used so that breast cancer can be found at their earliest stage, even before symptoms have not actually begun to appear.
The most common diagnostic test being utilized is that of biopsy. A biopsy is often suggested by doctors for patients who are ruled in to have breast cancer. This test is used to validate whether the results of the mammogram are benign tumors or malignancies. It is important to emphasize that diagnostic tests are able to also present whether the cancer cells have actually invaded the surrounding tissues of the breast or have metastasized to different parts of the body. Doctors use these diagnostic tests to get information on what are the possible treatment options needed.
After a diagnosis of breast cancer, when treatments have commenced, monitoring tests are going to check how well the patient is actually responding to the therapies. When a patient is positively reacting to the cancer treatments, monitoring tests are done to check whether there could be possible cancer recurrence.
There are a lot of methods that cancer specialist are using in order that breast cancer can be diagnosed.
Breast Assessment – Breast cancer specialists, who are highly trained and are specialized to deal with breast cancer, will do an initial assessment to check for any abnormalities that may be present in the breast.
Breast Ultrasound – An ultrasound device will produce sound waves in order that such waves could come up with an image of the deep structures of the breast. The use of such an instrument is going to determine whether the lump is detected is a fluid-filled one or a solid mass.
Mammogram – This technique makes use of x-ray so that breast cancer can be checked. When there are lumps found on the tests, then further management will be recommended by the physician.
Biopsy – When there are lumps that are detected, then small samples of such lumps are gathered through biopsy. A biopsy is considered to be the most definitive technique to diagnose breast cancer because samples gathered will be sent to the laboratory for further analysis. The best thing about biopsy is that the cancer cells are analyzed closely to check the kind of cells which are involved, whether the cells have hormone receptors or other receptors, and also to check the aggressiveness of cancer. It can likewise guide physicians about the treatments which can be initiated.
Breast MRI – You will be injected with a specialized dye that immediately clings to your breast tissue, and machines producing radio waves and are using magnets are used to create a picture of the insides of your breast.
Medicines for Cancer
There has been an increase in the number of individuals and companies that are pouring their resources into cancer research. It is for this matter that enhanced life-saving treatments have come to the fore. It brings about a new age in cancer care and management. There are now a lot of options that anyone with cancer can opt for such as—surgery, hormone therapy, radiation, chemotherapy—this brings about hope for the future as to how cancer is to be battled.
There are doctors that are prescribing localized treatments for cancer utilizing surgery and that of radiation therapy. These two treatments do get straight to where the cancer is without actually affecting the rest of the body parts. Oftentimes, localized treatments for cancer are best directed for early stage.
There are pills and cocktails of medications which are being used and are given by mouth or through IV. These systematic treatments are usually chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and hormone therapy. The use of the systematic treatments is based usually on the kind of cancer and its aggressiveness.
Doctors Who Treat Breast Cancer
There are different doctors who are specialized in treating breast cancer. These medical professionals are those with ample experience and right medical knowledge especially suited for cancer management. For instance, breast surgeons are those you can rely on to perform surgery in order that breast cancer can be treated. On the other hand, radiation oncologist, are those who make use of radiation, while medical oncologist makes use of chemotherapy and other appropriate medicines in order that cancer can be treated easily.
Treatment Decisions and Second Opinion
It is best that you will discuss with your doctor and your family with respect to the different treatment options you can avail of. You can then start on pinpointing the goals of each treatment which are being presented by the doctor. It is best that you will also pay attention to the kind of side effects that you will get with respect to the treatment you have opted for. On the other hand, it is also advised that you get second opinions from other health professionals so that you will get the peace of mind in lieu with the kind of treatment which you have decided to get. You will feel more certain about your decision through second opinion.
Alternative and Complementary Treatments
There are now a growing number of people who are opting for some alternative or complementary treatments with respect to cancer management. These treatment options could be in the form of herbs, diets, massage, and even vitamins.
It is essential to differentiate what alternative and complementary treatments are, such that you understand that alternative treatments are those that are used in replacement of the medical treatment prescribed to you, while complementary treatments are those used in conjunction with the medical treatment that you are currently getting.
It is best to understand that some of these treatments could manage or relieve the symptoms that you are experiencing so that you can feel so much better, but pay attention to the fact that none of which have actually been proven to be effective. In fact, there are dangers associated with the treatments.
It is necessary that you talk with your oncologist to get the best information necessary for your treatment.
Metastatic Breast Cancer
Breast cancer starts to metastasize when it reaches Stage 4, this means that cancer cells from the breast have already spread to the different parts of the body such as in the bones, liver, lungs, and even the brain. The spread of cancer cells from the breast can happen when it invades the nearby healthy cells, and then after, the overtaken healthy cells will replicate abnormal cells. On the other hand, the fastest means of metastasizing is when cancer cells are able to be carried in the bloodstream as well as that of the lymph system. Through this, these cancer cells are easily circulated through the different parts of the body.
Metastasis of the breast cancer cells has different presenting symptoms, which largely depends on where the cancer cells are able to finally lodge. For instance, when they have metastasized to the bones, it will start to have symptoms like swelling on the site, severe and progressing pain, and bones are easily fractured. On the other hand, when it reaches the brain, it can cause seizures, vomiting, behavioral changes, and vision disturbances. For those lodged in the lungs, symptoms often include abnormal chest x-ray, chest pain, coughing, and difficulty breathing. On the other hand, metastasis on the liver can have symptoms like jaundice, abdominal pain, high liver enzymes, and rash on the skin.
Don’t let your big C stories end on a period.
Have you been touched by cancer, or have you known someone who’s close to you touched by it? The stories you share, however simple, provides solace and encouragement for those people who are waging their war against the C. It is stories like yours which push them forward to continue their battle no matter what.
When you share your lived experience with cancer, you take on the role of being the light bearer, so as to increase the knowledge and awareness of others about cancer prevention, and detection. It is your stories which lighten up the dark paths which are oftentimes filled with fear, anxiety and ignorance about cancer.
There are a thousand others who would like to know where you sourced your strength during your treatment period, what kind of support is most helpful, what realizations were made in the course of your journey, and what advice will you give to those battling breast cancer.
Therefore, let your big C stories live from period to another period!
Tools and Resources
Female doctor with pink breast cancer awareness ribbon Lynn Lewis Foundation will offer you the following needed support:
- Breast health and cancer information, counseling and support for FREE
- Assistance in connecting with local organizations who can provide further help
- Educational materials
Do know that you are never alone in this battle. We will help you through the ebb and flow of the cancer battle. It is our assurance that you get the right support all throughout so you will have an enlightened path in your most troubled days. The battle is never easy, and that is why our tools and resources are always adept at catering to whatever questions have been clouding your senses.
Let us win the battle against breast cancer together!
Assistance and Support
The battle with breast cancer is an overwhelming challenge. Please know that there are various organizations and support groups you can easily go to for the support you might need. Government and non-government organizations stand ready to assist you in whatever way, so you can ease through the battle you are facing. Learn more about what help you could collect in these most difficult times, just by simply calling our community relations at 480-688-2080, or you may email us for assistance at Mashonda@lynnlewisfoundation.com. You can always rely on our staff to support you in every step of your cancer battle.