Saturday, October 6, 2012

October - Month of breast cancer awareness.

Spread Breast Cancer Awareness
When I say you need not think you are dying when you hear the doctor say the word cancer you can trust me on that because I am a survivor of invasive breast cancer, III stage, diagnosed at an young age of 29 with history of Cancer in family. I heard those exact dreaded words “ You have got cancer” 16 years ago, as I held a breast feeding girl who was just 11 months old in my hands. She was a special needs girl with multiple disabilities who surely needed a mom to take care of her. So I did not hear the words “you are dying”. Instead I only heard the words "You have cancer". Well, I said let us keep it that way.. I will have cancer but cancer will never have me. My kids need me and I am going to be there for them. 
First, no one have to die of cancer if we ever have it. Cancer is a dreaded disease, but the fear often arises out of ignorance and misconceptions, rather than any reality. So I had to search for positive facts. They were quite hard to find and when found not very encouraging. But my kids were my support and encouragement when they looked at me lovingly, or full of worry at times. So they were the strong push which held up my will power along with my parents. My parents had just lost their first born loving daughter to BC and I could not make them go through that agony again. So I decided to stay alive and fight hard and dirty if need be ;). I would have kicked the cancer hard in the crouch without blinking if only I could see it.
What saved my life was timely detection of lump through self breast examination. It was hard to believe at first that the pea sized knot I felt in my left breast could be life threatening. It appeared quite harmless because of the absence of pain, but to be on safer side I decided to go for medical advice. Doctors advised to go for a biopsy. The Biopsy reports said it was Invasive ductal carcinoma .. stage III. I was sure it was some kind of mistake, but the doctors said they were sure. From that moment onward life has never been the same. 
I went through the treatment and all procedures my doctor suggested. By the grace of God and everyone around me – here I am today. Mom of two teenagers and that 11 month old baby is growing up into a pretty young lady.
We need not surrender to cancer. We can beat it with all our might. All we need is timely intervention from efficient doctors and strong will to kick the cancer butt.

Some information on breast cancer.
Breast cancer is the one of the commonest malignancies afflicting women. In some parts it is the most common malignancy, and in India at present it is the most deadliest cancer found in women. It is currently estimated that one in 14 of all female children born will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.

Breast cancer causes:
Despite extensive investigation into the cause of breast cancer there is still no known cause. However, a combination of environmental factors and genetic mutations are thought to be responsible for this cancer. In familial breast cancers, a molecular change in the genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 play a major role in the onset of the disease.

Breast Cancer Types
Breast cancer is mainly of two types:
  • Ductal carcinoma- occurs in milk ducts
  • Lobular carcinoma- occurs in the milk secreting breast lobules
Categorically breast cancer can also be divided into following types:
  • In-situ breast cancer- cancer cells remains confined within their place of origin and do not attack surrounding breast tissue.
  • Invasive or metastatic breast cancer- cancer cells break free of their place of origin, and spread to different parts of the body.
Like all cancer types, breast cancer also progresses through different stages. Breast cancer stages are based on the size of the breast lump or tumor, whether the cancer is in-situ type or malignant, and considering the cancer has spread beyond the breast tissue or not.

Breast Cancer Symptoms
Following abnormalities in the breast anatomy are suggestive breast cancer symptoms:
  • Unusual swelling of all or one specific part of the breast
  • Continuous skin irritation or dimpling
  • Persisting pain in breast
  • Persisting nipple pain or inversion of nipple
  • Inflammation or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
  • An unusual discharge from the nipple other than breast milk
  • Lump in the underarm area
What are the risk factors for breast cancer?
The exact cause of breast cancer is not known, but statistics suggest that breast cancer likely involves many factors like:

Geographical: It is much more common in the western world.

Gender: Women are a hundred times more likely to have breast cancer as compared to men.

Age: Breast cancer risk increases with age. 16% of women aged between 40-60 years have breast-related problems, and complain of breast lumps. In most of the cases, these breast lumps may carry a potential breast cancer risk.

Genetic: A family history of breast cancer will increase the risk of developing breast cancer in a woman by three to five times. Recently, a breast cancer gene (BR CA 1) has been identified. If a woman has this gene present in her chromosomes, there is an 85% chance of developing either breast or ovarian cancer, or both in her lifetime.

Hormonal: It appears to be more common in women who did not bear children. It is also less common in women who have their first child at early age.

Women who started their menstrual periods before age 12, those who delayed menopause until after age 55, and those who had their first pregnancy after age 30 have a mildly increased risk of developing breast cancer (less than two times the normal risk).

Fitness levels and life style related factors such as smoking are also some of the most commonly known breast cancer risk factors that can be checked.

Breast Cancer Prevention:
Cancer prevention though a very ambiguous concept due to their molecular cause of origin, can be achieved through small but effective changes made to lifestyle:
  • Restricted alcohol consumption
  • Maintaining a healthy body weight
  • Inclusion of limited fat in diet
  • Regular exercise
  • Avoiding unnecessary consumption of antibiotics
  • Reverting to organic food free of pesticides
Besides, long-tern hormone therapy may also undermine breast cancer. But screening is by far the best breast cancer prevention method.

What factors have a protective effect?
Pregnancy and breast feeding have a protective effect in preventing breast cancer.

How is breast cancer diagnosed?

The prognosis of breast cancer is closely related to the stage of disease at the time of diagnosis, therefore screening for breast cancer is extremely important. Numerous studies have confirmed that populations which get screened for breast cancer yield patients having much smaller tumors with much better prognosis. Currently, mammography and breast examination serve as the foundation in screening for breast cancer. Mammography is an x-ray examination of the breast. It has the ability to detect a cancer in the breast when it is quite small, long before it may be felt by breast examination. Eighty-five to 90% of all breast cancers are detectable by mammography. Approximately 10 to 15 percent of breast cancers are not visible on mammography, but can be felt on physical examination of the breast.

The importance of Breast Self Examination cannot be over stressed. A percentage of breast cancers is not seen on mammography and it is extremely important for a woman to perform Breast Self Examinations.

Currently, it is recommended that a woman should have a baseline mammogram between the ages of 35 and 40 years. Between 40 and 50 years of age mammograms are recommended every other year. After age 50 years, yearly mammograms are recommended at women's health care centers.

Other diagnostic tests and procedures:
Ultrasound: An ultrasound is a test that uses sound waves to visualize structures inside the body. It is often used to distinguish between cysts and solid tumors in the breast. Fluid within cysts can be aspirated (withdrawn with a needle and syringe) for analysis in the laboratory.

Biopsy: It is a procedure which involves removal of a piece of tissue to analyze under the microscope. Biopsy still remains the only confirmatory test for breast cancer. If an area of the breast is suspicious for a cancer, a biopsy is usually performed to confirm or deny the diagnosis.

Breast Cancer Treatment:
In recent years, there has been an overwhelming explosion of life-saving treatment advances against breast cancer. So, once breast cancer is detected, one should go for the following treatment options:
  • Surgery
  • Radiation
  • Surgery followed by Radiation
  • Chemotherapy
  • Combined Therapy
  • Adjuvant and Neoadjuvant Therapy for Breast Cancer
  • Hormonal Therapy - Aromatase Inhibitors
  • Targeted Therapies
  • Complimentary and Holistic Medicines
  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors Therapy
Breast Cancer Awareness:
A pink ribbon is universally accepted as the emblem of breast cancer awareness campaign. It denotes the struggle of the breast cancer patients. It was in 1996, when the pink and the blue ribbon was first designed to create awareness of the fact that "Men Get Breast Cancer Too!”

Join hands dear friends and spread awareness about Breast cancer.

My sisters in survival...



Rayyan Lost in Laptop

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