Pink October – National Breast Cancer Awareness Month!
The month of October is known as the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Let us learn more about this cancer which affects millions around the world! This cancer is considered as the most prevalent form of cancer in the US, second to skin cancer. As per the American Cancer Society, around 192, 370 new invasive breast cancer cases are predicted to be discovered among women in the US this year. Also, nearly 40,170 women are predicted to succumb to death from this disease. Now, there are around 2.5 million survivors of breast cancer alone living in the US. Read and discover more about breast cancer and its various facades.
If you are worried or fear about manifesting this cancer, or if you personally know a friend/relative who is diagnosed with this cancer, one way to successfully curb your worries and concerns is to gather as much information and facts as possible. This article will let you explore and learn important facts and information about the cancer and how it manifests.
Breast Cancer – An Overview
• This is malignant tumor which grows in either one or both the breasts. This cancer mostly develops in the lobules or ducts, which are also recognized as the milk secreting areas. This cancer is the second leading cause, after lung cancer, of deaths among women due to cancer.
• Even though Afro-American women have a lower incidence rate of breast cancer post 40 when compared with Caucasian women, they are more susceptible to manifest breast cancer before 40. But, Afro-American women are more prone to develop and die from this cancer at every possible age.
• This cancer is very rare in males; when compared, the cancer is around 100 times more prevalent among women. As per the American Cancer Society, nearly 1, 910 new invasive breast cases are expected to be screened among men in the US.
Breast Cancer – The Types
There are many different breast cancer types which can be divided into 2 primary forms – invasive cancers and noninvasive cancers. The noninvasive type of cancer is also referred as the “carcinoma in situ.” These cancers are restricted to the lobules or ducts. They don’t spread to the surrounding tissues.
There are two forms of noninvasive breast cancers – lobular carcinoma in situ (known as LCIS) and ductal carcinoma in situ (known as DCIS).
It is a well-known fact that hormones in your body, like progesterone and estrogen, actually play a crucial role in the manifestation of breast cancer. Estrogen can cause a doubling of cancerous cells every thirty-six hours.
Also, the developing tumor needs to enhance its blood supply in order to provide oxygen and food. The other hormone, progesterone, is known to induce stromal cells to transmit signals to supply more blood to the growing tumor. Stromal cells are the woman’s own cells.
Non-Invasive Breast Cancer
• The most common non-invasive cancers are known to be DCIS. In this type of cancers, the cancerous cells are found in the milk duct. If it is not treated on time, it may gradually progress to invasive cancer.
• In LCIS, the cancerous cells are located only in the lobules. Different from DCIS, LCIs is not referred as a cancer. This is considered more as a warning signal of risk of manifesting an invasive breast cancer. This can occur either in the same or other breast.
• Even though LCIS is a considered as a risk factor for invasive cancer, this does not necessarily manifest into invasive breast cancer among most women.
Invasive Breast Cancer
• Infiltrating or invasive breast cancers can penetrate through the normal breast tissue like the lobules and ducts. It finally invades the surrounding areas.
• These are considered graver than noninvasive cancers as they can actually transfer to other sites of the body, like the brain, lungs, liver and bones.
• There are numerous types of invasive breast cancers which a woman can suffer.
• One of the most commonly occurring types of such cancers is invasive ductal carcinoma, which manifests in the ducts of the breast. It is responsible for around 80% of all types of breast cancer cases.
• You must know that there are several differences in the numerous types of invasive breast cancer, although the treatment methods are almost similar for all.
Not All Types of Breast Cancers are Similar
You must know that all types of breast cancers are not similar – there are various stages which are based on whether the cancer has spread and on the size of the tumor. For patient and doctor, knowing the stage of the cancer is a very important factor in selecting among treatment options. Physicians use a biopsy, physical exams and various other tests to understand and determine the stage of the breast cancer.
Breast Cancer – The Different Stages
The general system used to characterize the breast cancer stages is the AJCC/TNM (American Joint Committee on Cancer/Tumor-Nodes-Metastases). This procedure involves factors like the tumor spread and size, if the cancer has also spread to the lymph nodes and if the cancer has spread to any other distant sites (metastasis).
All these information is then processed and combined to form a stage grouping. Each stage of breast cancer is characterized as a Roman numeral. Post stage 0 (carcinoma in situ), the other different stages of cancer are then referred to as I to IV (1 to 4). A few of the cancer stages are further sub-grouped using the letters A,B and C. if the number is low, the cancer has spread less. For example, the stage IV means that the cancer has reached a more advanced stage.
Here are the four stages of breast cancer:
1. Stage 0 – This is carcinoma in situ, which is the early stage of cancer and restricted to the lobules or the ducts, based on where it begin. The cancer has not spread into the breast tissues or to any other organs or tissues in the body.
• Ductal carcinoma in situ: This is considered as the most commonly occurring form of noninvasive breast cancer, where cancerous cells are present in the duct lining. This is also known as the intraductal carcinoma. It can sometimes become invasive if not treated on time.
• Lobular carcinoma in situ: This begins or initiates in the milk-producing glands of the breast, although it does not reach via the lobules walls. It seldom turns invasive cancer, but if it is present in one breast, it can increase the cancer risk for both breasts.
Stage I – This is an early invasive cancer stage. The cancerous cells have not yet spread after the breast. Also, the tumor is 2 centimeters across.
2. Stage II – This occurs as one of the these ways:
1. The growing tumor is only 2 centimeters across in the breast. It has spread till the lymph nodes just under the arm.
2. The tumor is now between 2-5 centimeters. It has spread to the lymph nodes.
3. The tumor is longer than 5 centimeters. It has not spread yet to the lymph nodes.
3. Stage III – This can be a large tumor, although the cancer has not spread into the breast and lymph nodes. This is an advanced cancer found locally:
• Stage IIIA – It can be either one of the these:
1. The tumor is around 2 inches in the breast. The cancer has now spread to the lymph nodes located under the arm.
2. The tumor is longer than 5 centimeters. It has now spread to the lymph nodes under the arm.
• Stage IIIB – It can be either one of the these:
1. The tumor is now growing into the breast skin or the chest wall.
2. The cancer has now spread to the underarms lymph nodes just behind the breastbone.
3. A rare form of Stage IIIB cancer is inflammatory breast cancer. The affected breast looks swollen and red as the cancerous cells obstruct the lymph vessels in the breast skin.
• Stage IIIC – This stage is characterized with a tumor of any size. The cancer has now spread in either one of the these modes:
1. The cancer has now spread into the lymph nodes under the arm and behind the breastbone.
2. It has spread into the lymph nodes above or under the collarbone.
4. Stage IV – The stage is characterized as a distant metastatic cancer. It has now spread to rest of the organs in the body.
Recurrent Cancer – This is a type of cancer which has recurred (come back) post a period when it could not be diagnosed or detected. This may either locally recurs in the chest wall or breast as primary cancer, or recur in any other region, like the lungs, liver or bone. This is usually known as metastatic cancer.
Self-Examination is Important
Here are a few steps which you can follow in order to check your breasts, if you notice any changes.
How do I check my breasts?
There is no absolute way to assess and check your breasts. You must get used to look and feel your breasts on a regular basis. Keep in mind to check all the parts of your armpits, your breasts and even the collarbone.
Changes you must notice
• Swelling in around collarbone or armpit.
• Continuous pain armpit or breast.
• Discharge from either one of both nipples.
• A rash or redness on the skin surrounding the nipple.
• A thickening or lump of breast tissue.
• Inverted nipple.
• Changes in the breast skin texture like dimpling or puckering.
• Changes in shape or size.
If you notice any of the above-mentioned changes in your breast, you must immediately consult your doctor. It is very important to be aware of breast cancer and its consequences as it a growing concern among many women. You must self-examine your breasts regularly and if you see any changes, seek medical intervention.
Remember it is better to be aware of your condition and take immediate action. The early you detect the disease, more efficiently it can be controlled and treated. This will ensure you a good health in the future!
If you are suffering from breast cancer, then don’t lose hope. Remember the words of C.C Scott – “The human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it.” So, you gain confidence, courage and strength by every experience in which you actually stop to look fear in the face!