Breast cancer: Know it to beat it
With October being Breast Cancer Awareness month, here’s a few things you should know about the most common form of cancer.
Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer that affects women worldwide. No one knows why some women get breast cancer, but several risk factors exist.
Breast cancer may originate from the glands or the ducts of the breast. If cancer originates from the glands, it is called lobular carcinoma. The lobules are the special milk-producing glands. When cancer happens in the ducts of the breast, it is known as ductal carcinoma.
Cancer is known as “infiltrating” or “invasive” when it moves beyond where it began. Cancer that has not crossed beyond the involved lobule or tubule is minimal. It is called “in situ” carcinoma.
Breast cancer may involve more than one member of a family. It is usually called familial breast cancer. There may be some hereditary and genetic causes for this type of breast cancer. Women with familial breast cancer can benefit from genetic counseling and testing.
Asessing the risks
Risks that cannot be changed include:
Age: The chance of getting breast cancer rises as a woman gets older.
Genes: Some genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, increase the risk. Women who have family members with breast or ovarian cancer may wish to be tested.
Personal factors: Beginning periods before age 12 or going through menopause after age 55.
Other risks include:
- Being overweight
- Using hormone replacement therapy (also called menopausal hormone therapy)
- Taking birth control pills
- Drinking alcohol
- Not having children
- Having your first child after age 35
- Having dense breasts.
Signs and Symptoms of breast cancer
Early cancer of the breast usually has no symptoms. Later, as cancer grows, it may cause a lump that can be felt in the breast.
Sometimes the skin overlying a tumor becomes coarse and wrinkled, known as “peau d’orange” in French or “orange skin.” Another sign is discharge from the nipple.
How can it be discovered?
Most breast cancer cases are discovered either by a mammogram or clinical breast exam. These are times when your health provider performs a breast examination.
Pain in the breasts is extremely uncommon, if ever, as a symptom of breast cancer.
Most breast cancers are removed surgically. The operation’s extent depends on the tumor’s size and whether or not the lymph nodes in the axilla, or armpit, are involved.
Breast cancer surgery
Cancer occurs in approximately one in every eight to nine women. The following health information will help you better understand the benefits and risks of the different breast operations.
When a breast lump is determined to be cancerous, the treatment includes one or a combination of the following:
Your doctor may recommend surgery as part of your treatment for breast cancer. If your doctor recommends surgery, the decision of whether or not to have breast surgery is also yours.
The two primary goals of breast cancer surgery are to remove the whole tumor, and to check the lymph nodes to see if any cancer has spread.
Breast surgery is very safe. Risks and complications are infrequent. Knowing about them will help you detect and treat them early if they happen.
After surgery, your health care provider may recommend one or more types of therapy to help prevent cancer from coming back.
There are beneficial networks of patient support groups with people who have all experienced similar procedures.
Breast cancer survivors in support groups and patient networks are glad to share their experiences and support. It is often a positive step toward recovery to join a support group and meet people who can understand your feelings.
At Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare (JHAH), our mental health team follows a holistic approach to your treatment that promotes health and well-being through the collaboration of groups of experts from various medical disciplines.
Two comprehensive booklets on early detection and a journey with breast cancer include A Journey with Breast Cancer and Early Detection Saves Lives.
JHAH cancer care services
If you or a loved one have cancer or a blood disorder, our oncology teams at JHAH are here to provide you with the best possible service and care.
We offer an extensive range of cancer care services and facilities. These include specialists at our Oncology Institute, adult and pediatric oncology and hematology, radiation oncology, and palliative care. Visit us here for more information.