Health Magazine

For Awareness Sake…Breast Cancer Basics

Posted on the 02 October 2011 by Jean Campbell

breastDuring Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I will cover information key to early intervention and treatment as well as information about what a woman needs and has a right to know before beginning treatment for breast cancer.

For some visitors, much of this information might be redundant but for those just beginning their breast cancer experience, it is worth knowing. It is most important for those who have limited knowledge about breast cancer and the need for annual screenings. It is for those women who want to believe that breast cancer can’t happen to them because: they don’t have it in their families, they are in good health, they are too young .

To begin…information about breast cancer: Breast Cancer is not one disease or one kind of cancer. The types of Breast Cancer include:

Ductal Carcinoma In-Situ (DCIS) is a type of early breast cancer confined to the inside of the duct(s). Often called a zero cancer, it has not spread beyond the duct(s). It is non-invasive.

Infiltrating(Invasive) Ductal Carcinoma (IDC) – is the most common type of breast cancer, accounting for 78% of all breast cancers. It starts in the cells that line the milk ducts in the breast, grows outside the ducts, and often spreads to the lymph nodes.

Medullary Carcinoma- is a type of breast cancer that accounts for 15% of all breast cancer types. It most frequently occurs in women in their late 40s and 50s, presenting with cells that resemble the medulla (gray matter) of the brain.

Infiltrating Lobular Carcinoma (ILC)-is a type of breast cancer that often appears as a subtle thickening in the upper-outer quadrant of the breast. This breast cancer represents 5% of all diagnoses.

Tubular Carcinoma – Accounts for about 2% of all breast cancers. Tubular carcinoma cells have  a tubular structure when viewed under a microscope.

Mucinous Carcinoma (Colloid)-represents approximately 1% to 2% of all breast cancers. This type of breast cancer’s main differentiating features are mucus production and cells that are poorly defined.

Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) is a rare and very aggressive type of breast cancer that causes the lymph vessels in the skin of the breast to become blocked. This type of breast cancer is called “inflammatory” because the breast often looks swollen and red, or “inflamed”. IBC accounts for 1% to 5% of all breast cancer cases in the United States.

Paget’s Disease of the nipple/areola often looks like a skin rash, or rough skin. It resembles eczema, and can be itchy. The itching and scabs (if scratched) are signs that cancer may be under the surface of the skin, and is breaking through.

Note: Some of the cancers, such as Inflammatory Breast Cancer and Paget’s Disease of the Nipple are often visible and mistaken for and treated as if they were other conditions, which delays needed life-saving  treatment. For example, Inflammatory Breast Cancer can be mistaken and treated as a condition called mastitis, which is often seen in nursing mothers.

Who Gets Breast Cancer?

Women and a small percentage of men get breast cancer. Only about 10% of breast cancers are considered to be hereditary. You do not have to have a history of breast cancer in your family to get breast cancer. While young women do not get breast cancer at the same rates as older women, their numbers are significant. According to the American Cancer Society, in 2011, one out of every 210 women diagnosed with breast cancer will be under 40 years of age.

Caution: If you are a young woman and you feel something in your breast, get it checked out, ask for a mammogram. Don’t agree to wait six months and see what develops. Don’t accept a diagnosis such as…it’s probably nothing or it’s probably a cyst. If you recently had a child, whether or not you are nursing, don’t accept the explanation that is probably a blocked milk duct. Above all, never accept…your too young for breast cancer. Unfortunately too many women accept these explanations only to diagnosed with a more advanced case of breast cancer months later.

Men get breast cancer. Since they don’t get annual mammograms, their cancer is usually diagnosed at a later stage after it can be seen or felt. Their treatment options are the same as for women with breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Basics… to be continued

Sources: American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute, Centers for Disease Control, The Breast Cancer Research Foundation

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