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DWK: Breast Cancer Basics

We’ve taken a break from Diva’s Wanna Know for a couple of weeks so that we can gear up for October. Now that it’s here we’re going to change the focus of the series momentarily from a question and answer segment to getting informed and being aware. As we take time to dedicate the site to Breast Cancer Awareness I wanted to share a few things breast cancer and what you need to know.

What is breast cancer?
According to Susan G Komen’s site, “Breast cancer occurs when cells in the breast divide and grow without normal control. Between 50 and 75 percent of breast cancers begin in the ducts, 10 to 15 percent begin in the lobulus and a few begin in other breast tissues.

Tumors in the breast tend to grow slowly. By the time a lump is large enough to feel, it may have been growing for as long as 10 years. However, some tumors are aggressive and grow much more rapidly. [5]”

Who is most likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer?
Ultimately any woman can be diagnosed with breast cancer regardless of if she has a family history or not. However, there are risk factors that increase one’s chances of being diagnosed with breast cancer. To name a few: having first menstrual cycle before 12-years-old, family history, and using birth control. For a complete list see Susan G. Komen [4].

According to Bright Pink, “Breast cancer is one of the leading cancer diagnoses in women and is the leading cause of cancer death in women ages 15 to 54. [2]”

It is important for women to be aware of their bodies, in particular their breast, and know what’s normal and what’s not. That way if you feel or experience any changes it can be discussed with your doctor. Perform monthly self breast examinations (diagram shown here). Also talk with your family about their health history and learn what diseases run in your family; this can help you be aware of what to look out for. 

What is a Mammogram?
A mammogram is a low dose x-ray of the breast that physicians use to get images to either check for symptoms of cancer. There are two different types of mammograms: screening and diagnostic. Screening is used to check for signs of breast cancer such as tumors that can’t be felt and calcium deposits that could be cancerous. Diagnostic is used when signs of breast cancer have already been detected, or to view areas that are difficult to see from a screen (for instance a patient with implants). This type of test takes longer than screening because it views the breast at different angles and so a technician can get more detailed pictures of suspicious areas [1] [2].

References:
1. National Cancer Institutes- http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/detection/mammograms
2. Bright Pink- http://brightpink.org/for-high-risk-young-women/get-informed/breast-cancer-facts/#Anchor-Breast-11481
3. WomensHealth.gov- http://womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/mammograms.cfm
4. Susan G Komen- http://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/FactsForLife.html
5. Susan G Komen- http://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/WhatisBreastCancer.html

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