Updated: Oct 2
Its October, we must educate ourselves on what the month means to the female community. A lot of us may not know what October signifies and that's okay. I’m writing this article to help us all learn.
For years, breast cancer has plagued women all around the globe and it's considered the most common invasive cancer in women. In a bid to raise awareness of breast cancer, October was dubbed The Pink Month. It is a month dedicated to educating everyone about the disease, answering questions, proffering solutions, and bonding us all.
What Is Breast Cancer?
Breast Cancer is said to occur when the cells in the breast tissue grow at an abnormal rate. Although there are two main types of breast cancer, there are also a few other sub-sects. The main types of breast cancers are ductal carcinoma and lobular carcinoma. Here on out, we'll be using quite a lot of medical terms. Don't let it scare you. We'll give you an easy-to-understand explanation of them all.
· Ductal carcinoma: This is referred to as noninvasive simply because it rarely spreads to other body parts. It's highly curable and is considered to be the most common. It is also referred to as carcinoma in situ which means the cancer is limited to the milk ducts. However, in some cases, one has invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC). This is cancer spreading from the milk ducts to other parts of the body. They're divided into the following subtypes:
· Tubular carcinoma
· Mucinous carcinoma
· Medullary carcinoma
· Papillary carcinoma
· Cribriform carcinoma
· Lobular Carcinoma: This is also called the ILC and is an invasive type of breast cancer. This type of breast cancer spreads through the breast tissue and can get transmitted to other body parts through the lymph nodes.
· Other types of breast cancer are Metastatic breast cancer, Paget's disease of the breast, HR+ breast cancer, HER2+ breast cancer, and Inflammatory breast cancer, albeit rare.
Telltale Signs of Breast Cancer
Breast Cancer, when detected in its early stages, is considered curable and as such, it is advised that women all around the world schedule regular appointments to test for breast cancer. In cases where there is a form of breast cancer present, early detection could save such a person's life. While a doctor's appointment is your best way to know for sure, here are a few signs and symptoms of breast cancer.
· Redness in the skin of the breast
· Rash around the nipples
· Tenderness around the breast or armpit that doesn't end with the regular monthly circle.
· Discharge from the nipple.
· A lump around the breast or underarm.
While having a few of these symptoms may not necessarily mean you suffer from breast cancer, it is a lot safer to get tested to better know the state of your body.
The Stages of Breast Cancer
If you or anyone around you suspect that they may have breast cancer, the next step would be to run a test. Do not self-diagnose. After one has been diagnosed by a doctor with breast cancer, a few more tests would be run to determine the size of the tumor, and if cancer has spread to other parts of the body and treatment would commence accordingly. There are 4 stages of breast cancer
· Stage 0 (the noninvasive stage)
· Stage 1: In this stage, the tumor is small. It can be two centimeters or slightly larger. It hasn't reached the lymph nodes and it hasn't spread to other areas.
· Stage 2: The tumor is larger than 2 centimeters. The lymph nodes may be affected but it hasn't spread to any other area.
· Stage 3: The tumor is larger than 5 centimeters and has affected the muscles and skin. Lymph nodes may also be affected but it has spread to their areas yet
· Stage 4: Cancer has spread from the breast area to other parts of the body.
The Causes of Breast Cancer
Professionals don't know for sure what exactly causes breast cancer. However, there are certain factors to consider that may affect a person's chances of preventing or getting breast cancer.
· Age: Where a person around or below age 20 has a lower of getting breast cancer, a person above age 50 to 60 has a higher chance.
· Genetics: If a person has or has had breast cancer or ovarian cancer in a family, it's recommended that fellow members of the family get tested as well. Also, people with certain mutations in their genes are likely to have breast cancer or ovarian cancer. In some cases, they have both. Similarly, a person who has had breast cancer or any form of noncancerous breast lumps may have breast cancer again. The best way to know for sure is to get tested.
· Body Weight and Alcohol Consumption: Women who are obese, especially after menopause, have a greater likelihood of getting breast cancer. Also, high alcohol and sugar intake could increase one's chances of getting breast cancer as well.
· Estrogen Exposure and Breastfeeding: While extended exposure to estrogen increases the chances of breast cancer, breastfeeding reduces the chances of developing breast cancer.
· Other risk factors are Race; as black women are more likely to develop breast cancer than white women, radiation exposure, and hormonal treatment.
Diagnosis and Treatment
During a check-in with a doctor, you're likely to take a couple of tests before an official diagnosis is given. These are:
· Breast Exams: physically checking the breasts for lumps, redness, or any other sign of breast cancer.
· Imaging Test: which would mostly include mammograms, ultrasounds, and MRI. All these are painless procedures. If you feel the discomfort of any kind, don't hesitate to let your doctor know.
· Biopsy: This involves taking a sample of tissue and analyzing it. The analysis will show whether or not the cells are cancerous and what type of cancer they are.
After a thorough diagnosis, treatment would be given putting into account the type of cancer, its stage, and other underlying factors. There are several ranges of treatment and the most suitable one would be applied.
Although breast cancer has taken the lives of many women, many others have survived with it. As much as Pink Month is made for its awareness, it is also a time to rally around and celebrate the women in our midst who have fought against it and still are day after day. Don't forget to tell someone to get tested as you get tested as well.