About breast cancer

breast-cancer-awareness-octoberOctober is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The entire month is dedicated to letting the world know that the threat is very real. Statistics prove that it’s growing and more and more women are susceptible to getting it. I know someone who has it. You probably do too.

Spreading awareness is the key. Talking about the disease and symptoms and getting screened regularly are all part of the fight to overcome it. Wearing pink helps. And so does routine wellness testing. Below is a brief guide to some information about breast cancer. For a more complete review and information, please check the links below for more in-depth resources about breast cancer.

What is Breast Cancer?

In layman’s terms, breast cancer is cancer that originates in the breast tissue – it can occur in both men and women. The cancer can effect different people in different ways and the type of cancer one has determines the kind of treatment that they are going to undergo. Breast cancer may spread to other organs, but if it originated in the breast tissue, it is classified as breast cancer.

Here’s a quick overview on some breast cancer facts:

Two main types of breast cancer are:

  • Ductal Carcinoma-this starts in the ducts that move milk from the breast to the nipple.
  • Lobular Carcinoma- this starts in the lobules, the part of the breast responsible for producing milk.

Breast Cancer can be:

  • Noninvasive (also called in situ)- this is when the cancerous cells remain within their area of origin. Both Ductal and Lobular Carcinoma can be noninvasive. In this case, the cells have not penetrated into other parts of the breast.
  • Invasive- Breast cancer is invasive when the cancerous cells have spread to the other parts of the breast from their area of origin. This is a more advanced stage of cancer.

What causes Breast Cancer?

Like most cancers it’s hard to credit, rather than discredit, any one factor that might cause breast cancer. In fact when it comes to the causes, there are some that one can control and then others that are completely out of ones’ hands.

Factors that one cannot change include:

  • If you are a woman, your chances of getting breast cancer increase as you get older. Women over 50 are prone to the most advanced cases of breast cancer.
  • If someone in your family has had breast, uterine, colon or ovarian cancer you have a greater chance of having breast cancer.
  • Some people might have genetic mutations that are more likely to develop breast cancer. The most common gene defects are found in BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.
  • Early periods (before age 12) and late menopause (after 55), both contribute to breast cancer.

Factors that one may be able to control:

  • Alcohol use. Consuming up to 2 glasses of alcohol everyday increases the risk of breast cancer.
  • Women without children or with pregnancies over the age of 30 are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
  • Increased levels of estrogen in the body can lead to breast cancer.
  • Exposure to radiation at any given time in your life can increase the risk of getting breast cancer.

Symptoms of Breast Cancer

Extreme care is needed to diagnose breast cancer. It is hard to detect early stages of breast cancer. Some symptoms may manifest as:

  • Lumps in the armpit or around the breast area – not painful but hard with uneven edges.
  • Changes in breast- size, shape, dimpling of skin, puckering of skin, inverted nipples.
  • Pus-like fluid, bloody or greenish-yellow oozing from breast.

Getting screened for Breast Cancer

The best possible way for staying on top of breast cancer is to get screened regularly, especially as you get older. Mammograms each year starting at age 40 (unless there is concern to start earlier) are the first step in detecting breast cancer. If you have symptoms or the mammogram indicates further testing is needed.

Resources for Breast Cancer

Susan G. Koman Foundation

American Cancer Society

National Cancer Institute

 

 

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