October is breast cancer awareness month and is very important for all of us to not only recognize, but pay close attention to. It is important to know that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. I am sorry, I know this post is going to be rather long, but at the same time everything I am sharing with y’all is valuable information that could potentially help many.
Cancer is a broad term for a class of diseases that is characterized by abnormal cells growing and invading healthy cells in the body. Breast cancer starts in the cells of the breasts as a group of cancer cells that have spread to surrounding tissues or metastasized to other areas of the body. Cancer begins in the cells, which are considered to be the basic building blocks making up tissue. The process of cell growth can go wrong and new cells form when the body really doesn’t need them and old damaged cells do not die. This process causes a buildup of cells causing a mass of tissues, known as a lump, growth, or a tumor. Breast cancer occurs when malignant tumors develop in the breast. Cancer cell cells spread by breaking away from the original tumor and enter into the blood or lymph vessels, which branch into tissues throughout the entire body.
There are myths that caffeine, deodorant, antiperspirants, microwaves, cell phones, wearing underwire bras, implants, and plastic food serving items cause cancer. The truth is the causes or breast cancer is still unknown.
Women that have certain of the risk factors I will share with y’all are more likely to develop breast cancer than women with none of these risk factors. The following are known to be risk factors:
- Even though breast cancer can affect men, it does occur 100 times more often in women.
- Two of our three women with invasive breast cancer are diagnosed after the age of 55.
- Occurs more often in Caucasian women than any other race.
- Genetic factors of if a mother, sister, father, or child has been diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer, the risk are higher.
- Risks increase if a relative was diagnosed before age 50.
- If you are diagnosed with breast cancer in one breast, there is an increased risk the other breast will developed cancer in the future.
- Risk for breast cancer increases if abnormal breast cells have been previously detected, such as an atypical hyperplasia, Lobular Carcinoma in Situ (LCIS), or Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS).
- Early menstruation (before age 12), late menopause (after 55), having your first child at an older age, or never having given birth at all.
- Genome changes which is mutation in certain genes such as BRCA1, which is a human tumor suppressor gene and is responsible for repairing DNA. Or BRCA2, which is a gene chromosome 13 that normally helps suppress cell growth. A person that inherits gene mutation in a BCRA2 gene has a higher risk for breast, ovarian, prostate, or other types of cancer.
- Dense breast tissue can increase the risks of breast cancer because it makes detection of lumps difficult. Many states have passed laws that require physicians to disclose to the patient if their mammogram shows they have dense breast and share what the risks are.
In addition to unavoidable risks, there are several avoidable risks for chances of breast cancer.
- Lack of physical activity. Living a sedentary lifestyle can be quite unhealthy causing numerous other issues besides for a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
- Poor diet that is high in saturated fats and a lack of fruits and vegetables.
- Being overweight or being obese and already going through menopause.
- Frequent consumption of alcohol. Basically, the more alcohol you consume, the greater your risks are.
- Radiation to the chest before age 30.
- Combined hormone replacement therapy, which is prescribed for menopause increases the risk that when cancer is detected, it will be a more advantaged stage.
60-70% of women with breast cancer actually have no connection to any of these risk factors, but still 30-40% of women do have some connection to the known risk factors.
Signs & Symptoms of breast cancer:
Most with breast cancer symptoms will initially notice one of two symptoms, which do not automatically mean you have breast cancer.
- While doing monthly self-breast exams, you will be able to notice any changes which should definitely be discussed with your physician.
- Changes in how the breast and nipples feel:
- Nipple tenderness or a lump in or near breast or underarm area.
- Changes in the skin texture or enlargement of the pores in the skin. Some have described this as feeling like an orange peel.
- Even though not all lumps are cancerous, it is still vital to discuss any new lumps or changes to existing lumps with your physician.
- Changes in appearance of the breast or nipple:
- Any unexplainable size or shape of the breast.
- Dimpling anywhere on the breast.
- Unexplainable swelling to the breast, especially if it’s only one side.
- Even though it is common for women to have one breast slightly larger than the other, if the change onset is recent, it should be discussed with a professional.
- Nipple is turned slightly inward or inverted.
- Breast, areola, or nipple skin becomes scaly, red, swollen, has ridges, or pitting resampling the skin to be orange.
- Any discharged, whether clear, bloody, or milky should be discussed with your physician.
After it has been determined a person has a malignant tumor or diagnosed with breast cancer, the healthcare team will communicate the staging and how far the disease has already progressed.
Stages of breast cancer
Your healthcare professional will determine the size of tumor/abnormal cells and whether or not those cells are contained to the place of origin. The most common form of breast cancer is Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS) which indicates the cancer cell growth starts in the milk ducts.
Stage 0 cancers are referred to as “Carcinoma In Situ”. Just to clarify a little of the term, “Carcinoma” means cancer and “In Situ” means in original place. The three types of “In Situ Carcinomas” of the breast tissue are:
- Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS) is a non-invasive cancer when abnormal cells were found in the lining of the breast milk ducts. This is a very early stage of cancer that is very treatable, however if left untreated or undetected it can spread into surrounding breast tissue.
- Lobular Carcinoma In Situ (LCIS) is generally not even considered to be cancer. It is really describing a growth of abnormal, but non-invasive cells form in the lobules. Even though according to experts this isn’t considered to be cancer, it may indicate a woman has an increased risk of developing breast cancer at some point.
- Paget- Disease of the nipple.
Stage 1 in breast cancer means that cancer is evident, but is contained to the area where first abnormal cells developed. Breast cancer being discovered in the early stage is actually good because it can be treated very effectively. Stage 1 can be divided into 2 categories which are Stage 1A and Stage 1B.
Stage 1A indicates the tumor is smaller than the size of a peanut and has not spread into the lymph nodes.
Stage 1B means either lymph nodes have evidence of cancer with small clusters of cells between approximately the size of a pinprick to the width of a grain of rice. OR NO tumor was actually found TO the tumor size is smaller than a peanut.
Stage 2 cancer means that even though the breast cancer is continuing to grow, it is still contained in the breast or the growth has only extended to the nearby lymph nodes. This stage is divided into two groups, Stage 2A and Stage 2B that are determined by the size of the tumor and if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.
Stage 2A describes both NO tumor was found and less than four auxiliary lymph nodes have cancer cells present. OR the tumor is small, less than 2 centimeters and less than four auxiliary lymph nodes have cancer cells present. OR the tumor is between 2 and 5 centimeters and has not spread to the lymph nodes.
Stage 2B means with the tumor is between 2 and 5 centimeters and has spread to less than 4 auxiliary lymph nodes. OR the tumor has not spread to any auxiliary lymph nodes and is larger than 5 centimeters.
Stage 3 cancer the breast cancer has spread beyond the immediate region of the tumor and has possibly invaded nearby lymph nodes and muscles, however the cancer has not spread to organ. Even though this stage is viewed as advanced, there are still many effective treatments. Just like with the other stages of breast cancer, stage 3 is divided into three groups, Stage 3A, Stage 3B, and Stage 3C. These groups are determined by the size of the tumor and if the cancer has spread to the lymph node and surrounding tissue.
Stage 3A breast cancer will include one of the following descriptions:
- There is no tumor associated with cancerous cells OR the tumor can be any size. Also as many as 9 nearby lymph nodes contain cancer.
- The tumor is larger than the size of a small lime being more than 5 centimeter. In addition, small clusters approximately from .2mm to 2 mm of breast cancer cells are found in the lymph nodes.
- Tumor size is over 5 centimeters and cancer has spread to 1-3 lymph nodes, either under the arm or near the breastbone.
Stage 3B breast cancer indicates the tumor is any size. At this point though, the cancer has invaded either the chest wall or breast skin with evidence of swelling, inflammation, or ulcers. It is also possible the breast cancer has seized up to 9 nearby lymph nodes.
Stage 3C breast cancer will indicate one of the following explanations
- Like with inflammatory breast cancer, no tumor is found. OR the tumor may be any size. The cancer also has penetrated the chest wall or breast skin and invaded 10 or more lymph nodes under the arm.
- NO tumor is present in the breast. OR tumor is any size, but also lymph nodes that extended to the collarbone area are found to contain cancer.
This stage may be inoperable, but it is still treatable!
Stage 4 breast cancer does indicate cancer has spread to other areas of the body, including brain, bones, lung, and the liver.
Even though Stage 4 breast cancer is thought to be incurable, there are still many advances that provide better research for treatments. Women can live longer by treating this disease like you would treat any other chronic illness.
Lastly, I want to discuss the how breast cancer is diagnosed. Breast cancer can be diagnosed through several different tests, including a mammogram, ultrasound, MRI, and a biopsy.
A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast. Screening mammograms are used to detect breast cancer in women with not apparent symptoms. Diagnostic mammograms are used after there have been suspicious results on a screening mammogram or signs of breast cancer alert your physician.
There are differences been a typical screening mammogram and a diagnostic mammogram. A diagnostic mammogram takes larger because there are more x-rays taken from multiple different views. This also allows the radiologists administrating the test to zoom in on areas where there are suspicions of additional abnormalities. This type of mammogram can also locate tumors that are too small to feel. The diagnostic mammogram may also find Ductal Carcinoma In Situ, which are abnormal cells in the lining of the breast duct that can become invasive cancer in some women.
A breast ultrasound is a scan using penetrating sound waves not heard by humans and do not affect or damage the tissue. During the ultrasound the breast tissue will deflect the waves causing echoes. A computer then will use the echoes to create pictures of what is going on inside the tissue.
The MRI is important to get a variety of pictures and perspectives during the diagnostic examination. The MRI can provide access to the extent of the disease. While going through a breast MRI, a magnet that is connected to a computer transmits magnetic energy and radio waves through the breast tissue. The MRI creates detailed pictures of areas within the breast providing images to help a medical professional differentiate between normal and diseased tissue.
A biopsy removes tissues or sometimes fluid from the suspected area. Cells that are removed are examined under a microscope and further tested for presence of breast cancer. A biopsy is the only diagnostic procedure that can determine if the suspected areas are cancerous. The good news about this is, 80% of women that have a biopsy done do not have cancer!
I hope you have had a great weekend. I want to thank you for visiting my site today and again I am sorry this was SO long. I used pink for this post because that is the color for breast cancer awareness.There is just so much information to share about breast cancer considering it does affect so many people’s lives. I hope this did give you information that was helpful and I do look forward to reading your comments. Please never forget that I am always sending y’all LOTS of love , comfort, and many positive vibes!
Reblogged this on Survivors Blog Here.
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Great blog Alyssa. A lot of really good information. It must have taken a lot of time doing all the research. I hope this helps people who may be questioning symptoms they are having. Never anticipate what symptoms mean. Have a qualified medical doctor confirm any suspicions you’re having. Never give up no matter what the diagnosis is. There’s always new treatments being developed every day. Good job!! All my Love & Support, Mom!!
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