Cancer occurs when cells in a certain area of the body begin to divide at a rather rapid pace (cancer. org). Cancer cells grow differently than normal cells. Normally old cells die off and are replaced with new ones. Cancer cells continue to multiply forming more and more abnormal cells (cancer. org). Cancer cells are also capable of invading other tissues whereas normal cells can not (cancer. org). Breast cancer gets its name from the fact that it is a malignant tumor which originates in the cells of the breast (cancer.org).
“A malignant tumor is a group of cancer cells that can grow into (invade) surrounding tissues or spread (metastasize) to distant areas of the body” (cancer. org). Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers among women (health. ny. gov). Although this disease occurs mostly in women, it is also possible for men to develop the disease (cancer. org). Before one can understand the types of breast cancer and how they get their names you need to know about the basic structure of a normal breast (cancer. org).
A female’s breast consists of three main parts: lobules, which are the milk producing glands, ducts, the small tubes that transport the milk from the lobules to the nipples, and stroma, which is the connective and fatty tissue that surround the ducts and lobules (cancer. org). Most forms of breast cancer originate in the cells which line the ducts (cancer. org). I is far less common for breast cancers to begin in the lobules, and hardly any forms begin in the tissues (cancer. org). The lymphatic system is one of the main transporters for breast cancer that is trying to spread to other areas of the body.
Most of the lymphatic vessels in the breast are connected to those that lie in the under arm area (cancer. org). If it is found to be true that the cancer cells lymph nodes, then the chances of it having entered the bloodstream and travelled throughout the body are extremely high. There are three main types of breast cancer. These include ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC), and invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC). DCIS is the most common type of non-invasive breast cancer (cancer. org). In this form, the cancer cells are found in the ducts, but they have not reached the outlying breast tissue.
“About 1 in 5 new breast cancer cases will be DCIS” (cancer. org). IDC is the most common type of breast cancer (cancer. org). This form begins in one of the milk ducts and then spreads to the fatty breast tissue (cancer. org). “About 8 of 10 invasive breast cancers are IDC” (cancer. org). ILC starts in the lobules of the breast and then spreads throughout the body. “About 1 in 10 invasive breast cancers is ILC” (cancer. org). There is no actual known “cause” for breast cancer other than the fact that all forms are due to some sort of genetic mutation in the DNA. However there are numerous risk factors involved in the development of breast cancer.
Many of these risk factors are things that can not be changed including gender, age, family history, race, previous chest radiation, and genetics (cancer. org). The non-alterable risk factor that currently has the most scientific research attached to it would be genetic risk factors. Only about 5 to 10% of cancers, including breast, are caused by a genetic mutation that was inherited from one’s mother or father (breastcancer. org). The most common inherited gene mutation that has been linked directly to breast cancer is that of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes (cancer. org).
These genes typically assist in the prevention of cancers by creating proteins which keep abnormal cells from forming (cancer. org). Anyone who has these inherited a mutation of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes from either of their parents has a very high risk of developing breast cancer in his or her lifetime. Early detection is definitely the key to treating and surviving breast cancer. The best ways to catch breast cancer early on are by receiving annual mammograms and, most importantly, by doing self breast exams at least once per month. “The most common symptom of breast cancer is a new lump or mass” (cancer. org).
Should you ever feel a new lump with irregular edges that is hard, soft, painful, or even painless, you should get it examined by a doctor as soon as possible )cancer. org). A new mass accompanied by any of the following symptoms should most definitely get immediate attention from a physician: swelling of breast, skin dimpling, nipple pain, turning inwards of the nipple, or any discharge from the nipple other than breast milk (cancer. org). If you ever come to your doctor with concerns that you may be developing breast cancer, there are many tests that can be performed to either confirm or disprove your fears.
The first way to potentially diagnose breast cancer is by running one of several imaging tests. The two most common of these imaging tests are diagnostic mammograms and magnet resonance imaging (MRI)(cancer. org). Screening mammograms use x-rays to screen the breasts of women who are asymptomatic (appear to have no problems)(cancer. org). Screening mammograms usually take to pictures from two different angles. Diagnostic mammograms take more pictures from various angles of breasts which are either exhibiting symptoms of a breast disease or of those with an abnormal screening mammogram (cancer.org).
MRI’s on the other hand use radio waves or strong magnets accompanied by an initial injection of a contrast liquid know as gadolinium which is injected into the veins either before or during the scan (cancer. org). MRI’s, which are much longer than mammograms, can take as long as an hour to complete. The other common method of diagnosing breast cancer is done by performing a biopsy. Biopsies are done whenever a physical exam or imaging test presents suspicions of breast cancer (cancer. org).
The way a biopsy works is that a specialized doctor, called a pathologist, examines a sample of the suspicious area underneath a microscope (cancer. org). A biopsy is the only true way to tell if breast cancer is actually present. Once you are officially diagnosed with breast cancer the stage must be clarified before a treatment plan can be put into place. The size of the tumor(s), involvement of lymph nodes (if any), and whether the cancer is invasive or non-invasive are the three things looked at when attempting to determine the cancers stage and severity (cancer.org).
There are nine main stages and substages of breast cancer (breastcancer. org). In Stage 0 the cancer cells are in the breast ducts only. In Stage IA the tumor measures no more than 2 cm and it has not yet spread outside of the breast (breastcancer. org). In Stage IB the tumors are no longer found in the breasts, instead, small groups of cancer cells ranging in size from 0. 2 mm to 2 mm are found in the lymph nodes (breastcancer. org). In Stage IIA no tumors are in the breast, but the cancer cells are in the lymph nodes under the arms (breastcancer. org).
In Stage IIB the tumor is larger than 2 cm but smaller than 5 cm and is in the under arm lymph nodes as well (breast cancer. org). In Stage IIIA, no tumors are in the breast, but cancer that itself or to other structures is found in the axillary lymph nodes (breastcancer. org). In Stage IIIB, tumors can be any size and have spread to the chest wall or skin of the breast (breastcancer. org). In Stage IIIC, there may not be any signs of cancer in the breast which means it could have spread to lymph nodes in the under arm, breast bone, or collarbone Ibreastcancer. org).
In Stage IV, the cancer has spread to other parts of the body including the lymph nodes, and possibly to other organs (breastcancer. org). After you have been diagnosed and the stage of your breast cancer has been determines, the next step is discussing what your treatment options are. The first treatment that will be offered is most likely going to be some form of removal surgery. This is because if all of the cancer can be removed through by way of surgery then chemo and radiation therapies won’t be necessary. The two most prominent types of cancer-removal surgeries are a breast-conserving surgery and a mastectomy.
In a breast-conserving surgery, only the affected areas of the breast will be removed; however, the amount taken will depend on the size and location of the tumor(s) (cancer. org). Subcategories of breast-conserving surgeries include a lumpectomy, which only removes the lump and a small portion of the surrounding tissues, and a quadrantectomy in which one-quarter of the breast is removed followed by radiation therapy (cancer. org).
A mastectomy, on the other hand, involves complete removal of either one or both breast(s) in their entirety (cancer. org). Some of the surrounding tissues must also be removed in addition to the breast(s).
Lymph node surgery may also be discussed if your doctor deems it necessary. The other most common form of breast cancer treatment is radiation therapy accompanied by chemotherapy. Chemo is a treatment that contains cancer killing drugs (cancer. org). Chemo can be administered intravenously or by mouth. Chemotherapy is given in cycles alternating between treatment and recovery periods which continues on for several months (cancer. org). Most people who have never had the scare of actuality of having to deal with breast cancer would probably assume that their life would be ending soon.
That isn’t quite the case with all of today’s modern medicines and technology. Cancer. org proves that the chances of surviving breast cancer are actually rather high for most stages in their “5 Year Survival Rates” chart. The odds of living to see another five years after beginning treatment are as follows: Stage 0, 93%; Stage I, 88%; Stage IIA, 81%; Stage IIB, 74%; Stage IIIA, 67%; Stage IIIB, 41%; Stage IIIC, 49%; and Stage IV, 15% (cacner. org). As you can tell from viewing the statistics, the chances of surviving to see the next five years after beginning treatment for Stage IV breast cancer are not very high.
My aunt, Deta Bourriague, found a lump in one of her breasts somewhere around October of 2003. Her husband, Allen, had just started a new job and Deta’s insurance would not go into effect for another six months. Due to the high costs of cancer testing, and the fact that the insurance wouldn’t cover a pre-existing illness such as cancer, Deta put off seeking medical attention until her insurance became valid. Having lost two of her three brothers to cancer only a few years apart from one another within the previous five years, Deta feared the worst.
By the time she was able to have all of the proper tests performed it was already too late. In May of 2004, Deta was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. By this time the cancer had already spread all throughout her body including the lymph nodes, and several major organs. She immediately began radiation and chemotherapy treatments at Biloxi Regional Medical Center in Biloxi, MS. After a short time she was sent to receive treatment at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. On May 13, 2005, just one short year after her diagnosis, Deta lost her battle with cancer.
You see, breast cancer does not discriminate; not against race, age, religion, ethnicity, or even sex. In 2011 alone it was estimated that 230,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer would be diagnosed among women in the United States (breastcancer. org). It was also estimated that 2,140 new cases would be diagnosed among U. S. Men (breastcancer. org). It appears that white women are more likely to develop breast cancer, but African-American women are more likely to be diagnosed at a younger age and to die from the disease (breastcancer. org).
With the odds of developing breast cancer in a woman’s lifetime being 1 in 8 (breastcancer.org), we need to try to do everything that we can to ensure that we lower our risks. Although risk factors such as race and gender can not be changed, many other factors can be.
For example, increased body weight in post-menopausal women has been linked to breast cancer, and diets which are rich in poultry, fish, fruits and vegetables, and low-fat dairy products have been linked to lower risks of developing breast cancer (breastcancer. org). These two things alone help to prove that if we try to maintain a healthy diet and weight throughout our lifetimes, coupled with getting regular exercise (breastcancer.org), we just may be able to save ourselves from potentially developing breast cancer!
Works Cited “Breast Cancer. ” Cancer. org. American Cancer Society, n. d. Web. 15 Mar. 2013. <www. cancer. org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003090-pdf. pdf>. “Understanding Breast Cancer. ” Breastcancer. org. N. p. , 18 Sept. 2012. Web. 8 Apr. 2013. <http://www. breastcancer. org/symptoms/understand_bc>. “What Should People Know about Breast Cancer? ” Health. ny. gov. N. p. , June 2012. Web. 6 Apr. 2013. <www. health. ny. gov/statistics/cancer/registry/abouts/breast. htm>.