October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the purpose is to raise awareness about the importance of screening and the early detection of breast cancer. After skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common kind of cancer in women. It has been estimated that 1 in 8 women born today in the United States will get breast cancer at some point during her life. (Healthfinder.gov) Many organizations, including corporations and non-profit foundations, endorse breast cancer awareness and raise funding for research and education through the sale of “pink” products, especially in the month of October, as well as breast cancer walks/runs throughout the year.
The best way to fight breast cancer is to have a plan that helps you detect the disease in its early stages. When breast cancer is detected early (localized stage), the 5-year survival rate is 98%. (National Breast Cancer Foundation) It is important for women to perform breast self-exams regularly and schedule clinical breast exams and mammograms based on age and health history. Regular mammograms, x-rays of the breast, are the best way to find breast cancer early, sometimes up to three years before it can be felt. Even if there are no symptoms, doctors suggest that women at 40 years of age start getting mammograms. When breast cancer starts out, it is too small to feel and does not cause signs and symptoms. As it grows, breast cancer can cause changes in how the breast looks or feels.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention symptoms may include:
- New lump in the breast or underarm (armpit).
- Thickening or swelling of part of the breast.
- Irritation or dimpling of breast skin.
- Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast.
- Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area.
- Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood.
- Any change in the size or the shape of the breast.
- Pain in any area of the breast.
Only a small percentage of breast lumps turn out to be cancer. But if you discover a persistent lump in your breast or notice any changes in breast tissue, it should never be ignored. It is very important that you see a physician for a clinical breast exam and further tests if needed.
In many cases, it's not known why a woman gets breast cancer. In fact, 75% of all women with breast cancer have no known risk factors. (WebMD) However, statistics have still been gathered to try and predict a woman’s chances of developing breast cancer. Some risk factors, like a person's age or race, can't be changed. Others are linked to cancer-causing factors in the environment. Still others are related to personal behaviors, such as smoking, drinking, and diet. Some factors influence risk more than others, and your risk for breast cancer can change over time, due to factors such as aging or lifestyle. Some examples of factors that cannot be changed include: gender, aging, family history, hereditary genes and ethnicity. Factors that may contribute to breast cancer that can be changed include: not having children or having children after the age of 30, oral contraceptives, hormone therapy after menopause, obesity and alcohol consumption. (American Cancer Society)
Treatment for those who have been diagnosed with breast cancer will depend on many factors such as the size of the tumor, the extent to which the disease has spread, underlying health issues, menstrual status, age and personal preference. There are two major goals of breast cancer treatment: to rid the body of the cancer as completely as possible and to prevent cancer from returning. (WebMD)
Breast cancer treatments are local or systemic. Local treatments are used to remove or destroy the disease within the breast and surrounding regions, such as lymph nodes. These include:
- Surgery, either mastectomy or lumpectomy - also called breast-conserving therapy.
- Radiation therapy
Systemic treatments are used to destroy or control cancer cells all over the body and include:
- Chemotherapy - uses drugs to kill cancer cells.
- Hormone therapy - uses drugs to prevent hormones, especially estrogen, from promoting the growth of breast cancer cells that may remain after breast cancer surgery.
- Biological Therapy - which work by using the body's immune system to destroy cancer cells.
You may have just one form of breast cancer treatment or a combination of treatments, depending on your needs. (WebMD)
The good news is that many women can survive breast cancer if it’s found and treated early. Be sure to do regular self-exams, clinical exams and mammograms to prevent advanced stages of breast cancer which are more difficult to treat. Synergy HomeCare of North Orange County can help with recovery from surgery or rehabilitation. Synergy HomeCare provides a wide range of non-medical care, including companionship, transportation, housekeeping, and personal care services. We recognize that each situation will be unique and can include more than just one kind of care. We are happy to work with you to design a service plan that is personal to your specific needs. Synergy HomeCare of North Orange County provides services for Fullerton, Brea, Tustin, Foothill Ranch, Anaheim, Placentia, Yorba Linda and most cities in NorthOrangeCounty.