Did you know that breast cancer is one of the common killers among women these days? It may seem like a simple boob-growing-lump issue, but believe it or not, thousands of women around the world are suffering from this deadly disease. What’s even scarier is no one is exempted. In fact, one in every eight women will have breast cancer in their lifetimes.
The good news is, more people are coming up with different ways to educate others about breast cancer. Experts are also introducing different options to help treat the condition.
The problem now is more people are also so frightened by cancer that they refuse to look at the issue and pretend that nothing is happening – until they get it.
Sure, buying anything with pink ribbons and voicing out your support against breast cancer can help, but it will never be enough. The first thing you need to do is to educate yourself and gather as much information as you can to kick the scary feelings to the curb.
Here are things you should know about breast cancer, plus a peek at the different treatments available today.
1. Breast Cancer In A Nutshell
According to the American Cancer Society, more than 232,000 women were diagnosed with invasive cancer in 2013, with about 39,000 dying from the disease. This makes breast cancer the second cause of cancer deaths in women.
What Exactly Is Breast Cancer?
When a body is healthy, its natural systems are able to control the creation, growth and death of the cells.
When your body decides to wage a war against itself, meaning it will malfunction, the result is more cell growth than death. The mass of tissue results to a malignant tumor called cancer. And when this mass of tissue happens in the breast area, then breast cancer occurs.
It doesn’t end there. In fact, there are two major types of breast cancer.
- Non-invasive – Also known as DCIS or ductal carcinoma in situ. This is when abnormal cells grow inside the milk ducts but do not spread to the nearby breast tissues or beyond. Still, this can develop into an invasive breast cancer.
- Invasive – This is when abnormal cells invade even the nearby tissues. The cancer cells will then travel in other areas of the body through the bloodstream or lymphatic system, starting from the underarm area. In advanced stages, breast cancer cells can even divide and form new tumors.
There are other special forms of breast cancer, such as inflammatory breast cancer, metaplastic breast cancer, and Paget disease of the breast or nipple.
2. Causes Of Breast Cancer
Here’s the truth: there is no exact formula as to what causes breast cancer.
In fact, experts have not yet come up with a definite list of the exact causes. However, there are certain risk factors that make someone more prone to this condition than others.
Age, a history of breast cancer in the family, poor diet, and personal health history are some of the risk factors that can put you more at risk compared to others. Surprisingly, only five to 10 percent of breast cancer patients have defined genetic predisposition for this disease. The rest are sporadic cases.
This means despite the history of breast cancer in the family, this doesn’t mean you can get it, as well. In fact, as women age, their risk of getting breast cancer is higher, regardless of the genetic predisposition.
3. Symptoms Of Breast Cancer
Before you get too scared, you should know that there are warning signs that could tell that you might have breast cancer. These symptoms include –
- Persistent lumps or thickening in or near the breast area or underarm. This is usually the first sign of breast cancer and feels as small as a pea.
However, keep in mind that breast tissues are naturally bumpy, which is why lumpiness is normal, especially when felt throughout the breast.
If the lump is harder or different from the rest, then it can be a sign of breast cancer.
- Any changes in the shape, size or contour of the breasts.
- Fluid discharge from the nipple that is either clear or bloodstained.
- Changes in the appearance or feel of the skin on the breast area, such as inflamed, dimpled, scaly or puckered nipples or breasts.
- Redness on the nipple or breast area.
- A change in the position or shape of your nipple.
- A pain in one spot that does not go away.
The bottom line is if you notice something that feels different, see your health care provider as soon as you can for further diagnosis. In this case, there is nothing wrong with being paranoid.
4. Your Treatment Plan For Breast Cancer
You’ll never know if and when you will have it. Still, there is no harm in making yourself equipped with a treatment plan just in case breast cancer come knocking at your door. In this case, this is what you need to consider.
- Your Medical Team
- The Biology of the Tumor
- Stage of the Breast Cancer
- Existing Medical Issues
- Local Therapy vs. Systemic Therapy
5. Treatment Options For Breast Cancer
The good news is, there are many ways to treat breast cancer and eventually get rid of cancerous cells.
Keep in mind that treatment depends on whether you have invasive or non-invasive one and the stage of your condition.
Here are the different treatments available –
- Mastectomy – This is where the entire breast is removed, which may include some lymph nodes from the underarm area. Breast reconstruction is done after this procedure. This treatment is considered for the early stages of cancer.
- Lumpectomy – The breast tumor is removed, including a small rim of normal tissue surrounding it. Just like mastectomy, it is also resorted to for the early stages of breast cancer.
Radiation Therapy – Also known as radiotherapy, this method uses high-energy x-ray to kill the cancer cells that might be left after surgery. This is also a popular choice among women with breast cancer, regardless of the stage.
- Oncoplastic Surgery – This is a combination of cancer surgery and techniques of plastic surgery. In this procedure, the surgeon will reshape the breast and operate on the other breast to make it symmetrical. Unlike other treatment options, oncoplastic surgery is still new, although many doctors are comfortable with it.
- Neoadjuvant Therapy – This type of treatment is given before the breast surgery. Take note that the purpose of this method is to change the timing of the treatment, allowing you to change surgical options. However, it does not increase survival rate.
- Chemotherapy – When you hear the word “cancer,” the first thing that pops in your mind is chemotherapy. It is a treatment option regardless of the type of breast cancer because of its ability to kill or disable cancer cells.
- Hormone Therapy – Some breast cancer cells need female hormones, such as estrogen or progesterone to grow. This is where hormone therapy comes in. It stops or slows down the growth of hormone receptor – positive tumors and prevents the cancer cells to get the hormones they need to grow.
Targeted Therapy – This method is a form of drug designed to attack particular molecular agents or pathways that are responsible for developing cancer. An example of this is trastuzumab or Herceptin.
- Personalized Treatment – This method is adapting or tailoring the treatment of breast cancer in order to give the most effective treatment. You need info such as your genes, lifestyle factors and other non-genetic characteristics and the molecular characteristic of the disease.
6. Protect Yourself From Breast Cancer
Here’s the truth: breast cancer can be difficult to recover from, no matter how soon you catch it. However, there are ways you can do to detect breast cancer as early as possible. Here are steps for early detection of breast cancer:
- Get A Mammogram Every Year, Starting From 40 to 50. Some may argue that women should start screening at an early age, especially those who belong in high-risk categories. However, remember that older women are more prone to breast cancer than younger ones. It’s much better to ask recommendation from your doctor.
- Have Your Breasts Examined By A Health Care Provider Once A Year. This is to check if there are lumps forming.
- Do A Self-Check. Examine your breasts by lying down with your arm resting at the back of your neck. Then check if there are any lumps forming, which are painful and distinct.
- Maintain A Healthy Lifestyle. Keep in mind that breast cancer is sporadic. Therefore, keep yourself as healthy as you can and avoid any form of stress as much as possible.
The key to save yourself from breast cancer is early detection. Stop making excuses and bring yourself to the doctor for a booby check. If worse comes to worst, the last thing you need to tell yourself is “I should’ve paid attention.” The bottom line is love your breasts and never take your boobs for granted.