Breast cancer affects women and in some cases men all over the world. October is observed as Breast Cancer Awareness Month in America and some Caribbean countries. It is an annual international health campaign organised by major breast cancer charities every October to increase awareness of the disease and to raise funds for research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure. The campaign also offers information and support to those affected by breast cancer.

What is breast cancer?

The Mayo Clinic defines breast cancer as “Cancer that forms in the cells of the breasts.” www.cancer.org offers a longer definition, “Breast cancer starts when cells in the breast begin to grow out of control. These cells usually form a tumour that can often be seen on an x-ray or felt as a lump. The tumour is malignant (cancerous) if the cells can grow into (invade) surrounding tissues or spread (metastasize) to distant areas of the body…”

Quick facts

• Breast cancer can occur in both men and women. It is more common in women.

• Survival rates have increased over the past years. Early detection and a personalised approach to treatment are key factors that help.

• Symptoms may include a breast lump or thickening that feels different from the surrounding tissue, bloody discharge from the nipple, change in the size, shape or appearance of the breast, a newly inverted nipple, peeling, scaling or flaking of the pigmented area of skin surrounding the nipple (areola) or breast skin or redness or pitting of the skin over your breast, like the skin of an orange.


Risk factors

1. Most women who have one or more breast cancer risk factors never develop breast cancer, while many women with breast cancer have no known risk factors other than being a woman and growing older.

2. Risk factors like a person’s age or race cannot be changed.

3. The environment and personal behaviour such as smoking, drinking and diet are linked to breast cancer.

4. 5% to 10% of breast cancer cases are thought to be hereditary, meaning that they result directly from gene defects (called mutations) passed on from a parent.

5. Women diagnosed with certain benign (non-cancer) breast conditions may have a higher risk of breast cancer. Some of these conditions are more closely linked to breast cancer risk than others. Doctors often divide benign breast conditions into 3 general groups, depending on how they contribute to this risk.


Questions to ask if diagnosed

1. What type of breast cancer is it?

2. How big and where exactly is it?

3. Has it spread to lymph nodes or other organs?

4. What other tests are required before treatment?

5. What are the chances of survival based on the type of cancer?


Questions about treatment

1. How much experience do you have treating this type of cancer?

2. Should I get a second opinion?

3. What are the treatment options available?

4. What treatment do you recommend and why?

5. What are the chances of cancer returning after treatment?

In closing, if you find a lump or other change in your breast — even if a recent mammogram was normal — make an appointment with your doctor for prompt evaluation.

Special note: The questions stated are taken from a longer list. please, click on the 3rd link to access the full list of items.


Sources:

1. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/breastcancer/detailedguide/breast-cancer-what-is-breast-cancer

2. http://www.breastcancer.org/

3. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/breastcancer/detailedguide/breast-cancer-talking-with-your-doctor

4. http://www.mayoclinic.org/

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