Breast cancer effects nearly 1 in 8 women (~12.4%) in the United States alone. Every year the month of October is dedicated to spread awareness about this type of cancer and to help the cause, sports teams compete in pink, ribbons are splashed on food and drink products, and people all over the country lace up their shoes to march for the cause. What should you know about breast cancer? Read on!
WHAT IS BREAST CANCER?
Like many other forms of cancer, breast cancer begins to form when cells in the breast multiply out of control. There are different types of breast cancer but the most common types are ductal cancers (when cancer begins in the ducts) and lobular cancers (when cancer begins in the glands that make breast milk).
WHO CAN GET IT?
In nearly all cases, breast cancer occurs in women, although men can get breast cancer, too.
HOW DO I KNOW?
The most common symptom is a new lump which is why it’s important to be familiar with how your breasts normally look and feel. Other symptoms include swelling, skin irritation, pain, redness, nipple discharge and nipple retraction (turning inward). Although it’s good to be aware of the signs, optimal breast health involves regular screenings tests and mammograms. These screenings are necessary for early detection before any signs or symptoms appear.
HOW IS IT TREATED?
Treatment depends largely on the stage of breast cancer. Stage 0 refers to when the cancer is contained inside the milk duct and therefore is termed ‘non-invasive’. Treatment for Stage 0 may involve radiation, surgery to remove only the lump (lumpectomy), or surgery to remove the breast (mastectomy). Stage I means the cancer is relatively small. Stage II cancers are larger and may have spread to nearby lymph nodes. With Stage III, the tumors are larger and growing into surrounding tissue. Treatment of Stages I to III usually requires surgery, radiation therapy, and chemo therapy. Stage IV is also called metastatic breast cancer, meaning it has spread to other parts of the body. Treatment for Stage IV involves systemic drug therapy.
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