The Truth about Breast Cancer and What Society Can Do To Help Find a Cure
The disease of cancer, in any form, is quite rampant these days. One particularly concerning type of cancer that affects a large number of individuals is breast cancer. Breast cancer is a form of cancer that is increasing in numbers at an alarming rate. Although breast cancer has been known to occur in men, it is a largely female-related phenomenon and for this reason, the following paragraphs will talk about breast cancer relating to women. The American Cancer Society estimated that for the year 2005 approximately 211,240 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer and over 40,000 women will die this year as a result of this type of cancer. In order to truly learn about breast cancer, it is important to describe the occurrences and treatments thereof.
What Is Breast Cancer?
Prior to defining breast cancer, one should have the rough definition of cancer in the back of their mind. Cancer is the uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells. Breast cancer, more specifically, is defined as a malignant tumor which has developed from cells in that area of the body. It is important to note that all tumors which appear in the breast area may not be malignant and a doctor consultation will determine whether a lump or tumor is benign
Risk Factors Associated with Breast Cancer
As with any type of disease, there are certain risk factors which make individuals more likely candidates for developing this type of cancer. Some of these risk factors may include history of breast cancer both personal and within the family, aging, previous breast biopsy, onset of menstruation before 12 and menopause after 50. Another risk factor that has been associated with breast cancer is being overweight. The primary risk factor for being susceptible to breast cancer is being a woman.
The Onset of Breast CancerMany individuals interested in information regarding breast cancer often want to know one main thing which is how does one know if breast cancer is present. The first warning sign which will necessitate a trip to the doctor is a lump in the breast or bleeding from the nipple. If either of these things occur, it is very important that the individual make an appointment to see their doctor as soon as possible in order to rule out breast cancer or else receive treatment.
Diagnosis of Breast Cancer
There are two main ways in which breast cancer is diagnosed: either due to precautionary testing or experiencing symptoms. Precautionary testing takes place in the form of mammograms, clinical breast exams and self-exams. The mammogram is a test which should be performed annually, especially on all women who are 40 years of age and older. Clinical breast exams are physical exams performed by health professionals and it is recommended that women in their 20’s and 30’s have these tests performed at least every 3 years. The last exam, which is a self-exam, is one which individuals can perform on themselves in the comfort of their own home. The self-exam consists of feeling the breast area to make sure that no lumps or thickening has occurred. If anything is detected, the individual should make a doctor’s appointment immediately to rule out the possibility of breast cancer. Frequently, by one of these three aforementioned methods, abnormalities are detected which may result in the diagnosis of breast cancer by a physician.
A second way in which the diagnosis of breast cancer results is due to an individual visiting a doctor due to symptoms which she has been experiencing. The most common symptom which causes enough concern in a woman for her to visit her doctor for an evaluation is the presence of a lump or mass within the breast. This lump is usually painless and hard, although the consistency of the lump may vary. Other symptoms which may be a sign of breast cancer and should prompt the individual to get a medical evaluation is swelling of the breast, inverted nipple, lump in the underarm area or nipple discharge besides breast milk, to name a few.
Once the individual has been prompted to visit a doctor regarding any abnormalities, the doctor will perform a series of tests in order to properly diagnose the cancer, if that is in fact what it is. It is important to note that these symptoms may not always be breast cancer but it is imperative to have an evaluation to know for sure as early detection can save the life of the afflicted individual. Upon initial meeting with the doctor, the health professional will ask questions and perform a clinical breast exam. Once this has been completed and a full physical exam has been done, the doctor may order further tests if need be. Some of these tests may include the diagnostic mammogram, biopsy, breast ultrasound, ductogram and MRI. If one or more of these tests reveal the existence of breast cancer, the next step which a doctor will take is the staging process.
The Staging Process in Breast Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment
The staging process in breast cancer diagnosis is where the doctor will find out how widespread the cancer is throughout the individual’s body. Staging is very important as it lets the doctor know just how he/she should treat the breast cancer within a particular individual. Staging is usually done via the AJCC/TNM method. This method collects information which is combined to result in stage grouping. The stage grouping procedure ranks the results into Roman numeral formats which describes the stage of cancer. These range from 0-IV. The higher the number, the more serious the cancer stage.
Breast cancer stages are described on a 5 year survival rate table. For example, the 0 stage would be 100% whereas the IV stage would only be 20%. As not even a doctor can predict the future with regard to survival, it is so important that the individual going through this heartbreaking process realizes that this is just an estimate of survival rates.
Breast Cancer Treatments
Once breast cancer has been diagnosed and the stage in which the cancer is in has been noted, the next step is to do something about it. Treatment takes place in two forms, local and systemic. Local treatment, such as surgery or radiation, is where the tumor itself is specifically treated. In the alternative, systemic treatment is given via the bloodstream or orally to attack the cancerous cells within the body and takes the form of chemotherapy, hormone therapy and immunotherapy. Breast Brachytheraphy is where radiation is given in short high force levels through plastic catheters attched to the breast.
When diagnosed with breast cancer, most women afflicted with this type of cancer will have surgery performed to take care of the cancerous lump or mass. Surgery may take many forms including lumpectomy, partial mastectomy, simple or total mastectomy, modified radical mastectomy or radical mastectomy. All of these surgeries attack the lump or mass directly and the amount of mass taken away during surgery depends upon the type of surgery performed as recommended ’s doctor to effectively remove the cancerous area.
Radiation, the other way to treat the area locally, is performed either externally or internally. Radioactive materials are utilized to shrink and ultimately try to make the tumor disappear for good. Radiation therapy is most often used to treat individuals with breast cancer after they have already undergone surgery.
The systemic treatment that women with breast cancer undergo most often after surgery is chemotherapy. Chemotherapy consists of intravenous injections or oral medications to kill the bad cells. Sometimes the chemotherapy will kill off good cells as well which may lead to a number of side effects such as fatigue, nausea, hair loss, loss of appetite and higher risk of infection. The total length of time in which chemotherapy treatments last is generally 3-6 months. Although chemotherapy has its share of side effects, both short-term and long-term, the good that it does far outweighs the bad.
Another systemic treatment that is used in breast cancer cases is hormone therapy. Since breast cancer is mainly a disease associated with females, one way in which to treat breast cancer is to alter estrogen levels. An oral medication used to block the estrogen is sometimes given to women who have had surgery due to breast cancer which the individual usually has to take for about 5 years after the surgery to prevent such cancer from returning.
After Breast Cancer Has Been Treated - The Breast Cancer Survivor
Once the individual has undergone the necessary treatments to hopefully cure breast cancer, it is important that the woman visit her doctor often to make sure that the breast cancer has not returned. The longer a woman is cancer-free, the better it is in the long run and for a full recovery. As breast cancer survivors often tackle emotional hurdles along the way as well, it is important that these individuals have strong supporters among their family and friends. The breast cancer survivor is a strong woman and has a lot to be proud of. Many of these individuals go on to do what they can to help other individuals with breast cancer and try to promote the further research for a cure for breast cancer.
Surely after all these procedures have been done women may feel a little self-conscious about their breast. This can easily be fixed with the help of breast reconstruction to boost up their comfortability and self confidence. This of course is easier said than done. One cannot simply just go for a quick breast surgery. They must go through planning and tests to ensure that the patient is healthy to undergo such procedures. Tests such as history of health medications, allergies, disorders, blood tests and mammograms must be evaluated prior to surgery. This is highly recommended for the women that have undergone breast cancer treatment.
Helping to Find a Cure for Breast Cancer
Perhaps one has seen the famous pink ribbon on car bumpers and jacket lapels. This is the trademark for finding a cure for breast cancer. Breast cancer research is coming along; however, there are certain things that individuals of the non-medical community can do to help further the progress.
The American Cancer Society holds a walk at certain times and certain places throughout the year. This walk, known as Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, is where individuals raise money by participating in the walk. Not only does this event make money for the American Cancer Society but it promotes awareness about breast cancer as well. Individuals who participate in this walk obtain donations from pledges prior to the walk and submit their pledge money on the day of the walk. Making Strides Against Breast Cancer occurs in over 100
Another way in which to help further breast cancer research is to volunteer at one of the many American Cancer Society events which occur to raise money and promote breast cancer awareness. The Society has organizations throughout the United States and volunteers are needed to help out with this important cause.
As legislation is relevant in all areas of medicine and medical research, one can do his/her part by getting in touch with one’s legislator to see what laws are being passed to help with finding a cure and caring for those individuals diagnosed with breast cancer. As medical issues frequently arise in the legislature, it is important to deal with these elected individuals in order to make a difference.
Finally, personal donations are a great way in which to help find a cure for breast cancer. As medical research takes money and there is only so much of it to go around, donations made by individuals help greatly when trying to find a cure.
Winning the Battle against Breast Cancer
The breast cancer battle is a challenging one. The individuals who battle this serious disease deserve admiration, praise and help, as well. In order to win the war against breast cancer, it is not only up to the individuals experiencing the trials and tribulations that go along with fighting this type of cancer but to the people surrounding that fighter who need to give their utmost support. Helping someone get through their bout with breast cancer can be done in many ways including emotional and financial support. Whether other individuals are helping out by lending emotional support to a friend or family member with the disease or working to raise money to find a cure, there are so many ways in which we as a society can win the war against breast cancer and help those afflicted with this terrible disease through this trying time. A cure is within our reach, it just needs to be found.
Breast Cancer Facts In 2008
- * Over 215,000 women will have been diagnosed with breast cancer.
* Over 41,000 woman will have died.
* 1,300 men will have developed breast cancer and 470 will die.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women. It is the leading cause of death of women between the ages of 40 and 59.
- * The average woman's chances of getting breast cancer.
* 40 years old - 1 in 217
* 50 years old - 1 in 50
* 60 years old - 1 in 24
* 70 years old - 1 in 14
* 80 years old - 1 in 10
The mortality rate would decrease by 30% if every woman was informed about the importance of early detection and followed these guidelines:
- * Monthly breast self-examination starting at the age of 20
* Clinical breast examination starting at age 20; at least every three years between 20 and 40 and every other year after
* If you are under 40 and feel you are at higher risk for breast cancer, consult your health care provider regarding when to begin screening mammograms.
* Mammogram beginning at age 40
* Screening mammogram every year age 40 and up
There is no known cure for advanced breast cancer. Early detection provides more treatment options and a great chance of survival. When the disease is confined to the breast, the 5-year survival rate is more than 95%.
More Caucasion woman than African-American women develop breast cancer. However, more African-American and Hispanic women die of breast cancer because the disease is not diagnosed at an early stage.