Breast cancer affects the lives of about 1 in 8 women in the U.S. It’s second only to lung cancer as a cancerous cause of death in females.
This health blurb touches on some key points for a cancer that is treatable when discovered early. However, early detection is difficult because cancer in the breast typically won’t cause initial symptoms. Thus, regular breast self exams are extremely important.
Your breast is made up of three main parts:
Brest cancer may occur in any one of these areas. Also, your breasts contain lymph vessels, which connect to lymph nodes generally in your underarm region.
No two natural breasts are alike and what’s typical for yours maybe very different from another. Your breasts can be affected by various circumstances and may even feel lumpy or uneven at times. Some health related scenarios for which you may detect something amiss with your breasts include:
- post childbirth
- lose, gain weight
- during pregnancy
- taking certain drugs
- just before menstruation
A lump in your breast does not equate to cancer. In fact, most breast lumps are caused by other health conditions, like:
- cysts ~ small fluid filled sacs
- fibrocystic condition ~ noncancerous changes making breast lumpy, tender, sore
- benign tumors ~ abnormal breast cell growth that stay in one spot & don’t cause major health issue
Yet, breast tumors can be “malignant” and cause you some serious health problems, even death. So no matter what, any lump or other breast changes must be checked just by your health care provider for an evaluation of breast cancer.
As stated before, early breast cancer may not cause symptoms. However, as your cancer grows, symptoms may involve:
- breast pain, discomfort
- scaly, red, swollen breast skin
- change in size, shape, feel of breast, nipple
- dimpling, puckering skin that looks like an orange
- nipples discharge ~ bloody, clear to yellow, green, pussy
- breast lump or armpit lump that’s hard, uneven edges, painless
Breast cancer may cause symptoms beyond your breasts as it advances, for instance:
Women aren’t the only gender who can have breast cancer, men get cancer of the breast as well. Symptoms for men may entail a breast lump, breast pain and breast tenderness.
The risk of breast cancer is categorized as those you can’t change and ones you may have some control over. Breast cancer risks considered unchangeable are:
- age & gender ~ over age 50 women
- defective genes ~ BRCA1 and BRCA2
- menstrual cycle ~ before age 12, menopause after age 55
- family history ~ close relative with prior breast, uterine, ovarian, colon cancer
Other risks for cancer of the breast involving some level of choice are:
- never had children
- taking birth control pills
- first childbirth after age 30
- physically inactive throughout life
- hormone replacement therapy for several years
- alcohol use ~ more than a couple of glasses per day
- took diethylstilbestrol (DES) to prevent miscarriage (1940s – 1960s)
- obesity ~ theory is produce more estrogen, which fuels breast cancer development
- radiation ~ received in chest area as a child or young adult, including Hodgkin lymphoma treatments
And breast implants, antiperspirants and under-wire bras don’t raise your risk of breast cancer.
The type of breast cancer treatment you receive depends on numerous considerations, some of which are:
- stage ~ 1 through 4
- invasive, noninvasive
- HER-2 gene production
- hormone sensitive ~ estrogen, progesterone
- type ~ ductal carcinoma, lobular carcinoma, sarcoma
A starting point of treatment is most often surgery to remove your cancerous tissue. Breast cancer surgery may be a lumpectomy, only removes the lump, or a mastectomy, which removes all or part of your breast and potentially some nearby structures.
Post surgery your cancer treatments may consist of:
- radiation therapy
- drugs that shut down the HER-2 gene ~ eliminates cancer cell’s energy supply
- hormonal therapy blocks hormones that fuel cancer growth ~ tamoxifen, aromatase inhibitors
- targeted therapy, aka biologic therapy ~ anticancer drugs that interfere with cancer cell growth & function
Breast cancer treatment side effects should be expected, albeit they’re less troublesome than the lurking alternative of death by cancer.
Chemotherapy causes side effects that vary, but generally this anticancer drug affects rapidly dividing cells. This predominantly means blood, hair and digestive cells, so consequential side effects may be:
- hair loss
- less energy
- bleed easily
- mouth sores
- infection risk
- loss of appetite
- nausea, vomiting
These side effects are frequently short lived. Exercise may assist with nausea and pain, thus making treatment easier to endure. And because your infection resistance is lower you’ll want to avoid others suffering stuff like a cold or flu during your chemo period.
Common side effects of radiation are around the skin area that’s been treated, causing it to be red, dry, tender and itchy. In addition, you may become very weak toward the end of treatment.
Sometimes, cancer returns even after you’re found to be cancer-free. However, healthy lifestyle choices, for example improved diet and regular exercise, might depreciate your risk of having to treat any future cancers.
Finally, recent research indicates that consuming a moderate amount of soy appears safe, and may even be beneficial for preventing recurrence.