“A sound mind in a sound body is a thing to be prayed for,” Juvenal once said. There cannot be wiser words uttered. No matter how much of materialistic comfort one has, deteriorating health is a burden like no other and in our polluted world, we are plagued by numerous disease that threatens to crush us. One of the most malicious evil is cancer. And breast cancer is one of them. Here in this article, we will prepare ourselves to be one step ahead by not only surviving but conquering breast cancer.
What is Breast Cancer? Is Beast Cancer a Disease ?
Cancer is a disease where cells of the body are affected. The cells affected multiply out of control and appear abnormal. There are different types of cancer according to the types of cells it affects. Breast cancer is one of the most common type of cancer especially among women. Malignant cells develop in the lining of a duct or lobule of a breast, developing into cancer.
The tumor formed is cancerous if it can invade the surrounding tissues or spread to distant areas of the body. This latter is called metastasize.
Though it is a common disease, there are still many unaware of the facts, worse knows the facts incorrectly.
Here are some brain bogglers.
- About 85% of most breast cancer occurs in women with no family history of breast cancer.
- Men too can develop breast cancer and the statistics are, as of now, one out of 1000 men are annually diagnosed.
- Breast cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death, lung cancer topping the list. This shows how much of research is still required to find an impressionable cure.
- Women diagnosed with cancer before the age of 40 have a higher risk of developing another breast cancer.
- Be it whether you are lean or slightly leaning on the chubby side, exercise reduces breast cancer risk in women. So does reducing smoking and intake of alcohol.
Myths About Breast Cancer
1) Mammogram can cause breast cancer to spread.
What is a Mammogram? Mammogram is nothing but x-ray of the breast to detect cancer. It only requires a very small dose of radiation which is what makes people skeptical but professionals have assured that the risk of harm from this radiation is extremely low.
2) History of breast cancer in your family means you are also most likely to get it.
Though the women with a family history of breast cancer are in a higher risk, it has been found that 10% of women diagnosed have no family history of this disease.
3) Breast cancer is contagious.
There is absolutely no possibility one can catch cancer from someone else. It is abnormal growth of cells within the body and with a little bit of common sense applied, it is clear the mutated cells are not contagious.
Some Facts about Breast Cancer
Statistics have revealed that one out of nine women get breast cancer, mostly over the age of 50. That is approximately 1.7 million cases worldwide. The incidence rates vary greatly around the world and are more common in developed countries like the United States.
The first step to understanding breast cancer is grasping the functions and parts in your body. This in turn will help you make better decisions and be aware of any abnormality. The major parts of the breast are as follows.
1) Adipose tissue: These are fat cells that mostly make up a female breast.
2) Lobes, lobules and milk ducts: A female breast constitutes up to 12 to 20 sections called lobes, which are further made up of smaller sections called lobules. Milk ducts that carry the milk to the nipples connect lobules and theses are generally where the cancers initially forms.
3) Lymph System: There are ligaments, nerves, lymph vessels, lymph nodes and blood vessels that form an intricate network within the adipose tissues of the organ. The combined functions of lymph vessels and nodes forms the lymph system, which runs throughout the entire body. These carry disease fighting cells and fluids and act as a filter to abnormal cells. Examining these nodes usually will tell the severity of the cancer.
Moving on to the diagnostic perspective of the disease. Doctors usually cancer into various stages based on the size of cancer, invasive or non-invasive, presence of cancer in lymph nodes and if cancer has spread to other parts of the body. This is called TNM system of staging. There are namely five stages.
These are non-invasive breast cancers where no evidence of cancer cells are present. It requires immediate treatment typically in the form of surgery, radiation or a combination of both.
This is further divided as two sub-stages- Stage 1A and Stage 1B. In Stage 1A, the growth is roughly 2 cm and is confined to the breast. Stage 1B means that cancer cells are found in the lymph nodes and either no tumor is found in the breast or the growth is approximately 2cm or smaller. This too is highly treatable with the same treatment as that of stage 0. Additionally, hormone therapy is also a preferred treatment depending on where the cancer cells found. Chemotherapy is not used.
Here, the tumor is roughly about two to five centimeters or the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. This phase requires aggressive treatment that generally can treat the cancer.
The size of the tumor has grown to roughly 2 inches and has started to spread to the lymph nodes or tissues of the breast. This is called locally advanced stage. This is curable to some extent with proper and disciplined treatment of surgeries, radiation, chemotherapy and others.
Cancer has bread beyond the breast to other distant parts of the body. This is what is called metastatic. Though there are many treatments available to control the disease, it is not curable.
Prevention Is Better Than Cure For Sure. The Obvious Question Now Is What Causes Cancer?
There is a variety of reasons for cause of cancer. The most common ones are as follows.
- Age mostly above 50.
- Family history of breast cancer increases risk.
- Age of pregnancy especially after 30.
- Starting menstruation at a young age.
- Entering menopause late.
- Having dense breast tissue
- Oral contraceptives
- Alcohol consumption
- Obesity and intake of high calorie food, refine sugar and fat
Recognizing signs & symptoms of breast cancer and early detection is important in treating cancer. The symptoms of breast cancer are listed below.
- Lump in your breast. Do note that there are what is called cysts that might have formed. It is fluid filled sacs in your breast, which are usually not cancerous. They appear as round or oval lumps that distinctly resembles a water-filled balloon. They do not require treatment unless it becomes large and painful. Cysts usually appear around the age of menopause.
- Swelling in and around your breast especially in the regions of your collarbone and armpit.
- Skin on your breast begins to thicken into the texture of an orange peel or becomes red.
- Breast warmth and itching.
- Nipple changes like turning inwards or change of skin color and texture.
- Nipple discharges.
- Pains not related to your menstrual cycle.
How Do You Know If You Have Cancer?
The part of early detection is examining yourself for any of the symptoms. Breast self-exam is encouraged to be followed by women. They are to be performed at least once every month by women above the age of 18. There are five basic steps to examine yourself.
How To Perform A Self Breast Exam ?
1) Keep your shoulders straight, hands at your hips and Check if the size, shape, color are the usual. Make sure there no visible swelling or distortion.
2) Do the above but with your arms raised above your head.
3) Ensure your nipples are normal without any unusual discharge, change of color, texture or shape.
4) Lie down and feel your breast for any lumps. Make tender circular motion and cover the whole breast. Apply firm pressure for the deep tissue in the back.
5) Finally examine your breast while standing or sitting.
If any symptoms are noticed, bring attention of a doctor immediately. Another important step for women with average risk of breast cancer should have periodic screening to check for the symptoms.
When Should You Be Worried?
Women ages 40 to 44 are recommended to do annual breast cancer screening with mammograms. Women ages 45 to 54 should get mammogram screening every year. Women age 55 and older can either continue with yearly screening or make it twice a year. For all those who are wondering what exactly mammographic screening means, it simply means x-ray of the breasts. It usually finds cancer at an early age. They helps a great deal in early detection and thus saving a woman from a great threat.
Another thing people need to be aware of are many non-cancerous conditions that one might mistake to be cancer symptoms.
1) Breast pain which usually can just be general menstrual indication
3) Breast rashes like Paget’s disease and eczema.
4) Strange thick sticky, gray to green discharge, which is usually mammary duct ecstasia.
5) Bleeding in your nipple
6) Warm tender lumpy and red breast while you are breast-feeding.
If you are not sure and feel quite unsettled, it is always safe to consult a doctor.
Medicinal field have advanced over the years. So if you are diagnosed with cancer, have faith. Some of the common treatments of cancer are as follows.
3) Hormone therapy
5) Targeted therapy.
What To Say To Someone With Cancer
Having cancer is a challenge like no other. The victims are putting on a brave fight and having their close friends and family support would be a great help. Be empathetic and stay strong by their sides. The victims will have their vicissitudes. Endless encouragement will boost their confidence.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month
October is considered Breast Cancer Month. Many charities and foundations are lending their support and trying to bring about a strong awareness. The world is such a bright place; do not lose hope. To all the fighters, you are not just going to survive but going to conquer.