Health Information Document: Breast Cancer
Cancer refers to the uncontrolled division of cells in the body that defy the normal programmed body mechanisms of cell division and death after a certain time. Cancerous cells generally cause tumors, apart from those that attack blood cells – leukemia. These cells, which form tumors referred to as malignant, are able to attack nearby cells and continue the harmful process. This process is referred metastasis. Cancer is referred to the name of where it first attacked, regardless of where it then metastasizes. There are many risk factors that may cause cancer, including substances found in cigarettes, genetic factors among other numerous factors. (NCI, 2015). This handout aims to provide additional information to the general student population on breast cancer, for more awareness, and with a view of avoiding as many preventable deaths as possible. It also aims to increase support for those affected.
Prevalence and testing
Breast cancer is one of the most common type of cancer in America, and indeed, the entire world. One in 8 American women expects to develop cancer of the breast in their lifetime. Another statistic indicates that almost 30% of all cancer diagnoses will be breast cancer. In fact, most deaths among Hispanic women are associated with breast cancer, and as are huge numbers among other races and ethnicities. It should also be noted that slightly higher percentage of African-American women test for breast cancer than other races. A small number of men are also affected, by breast cancer, though the number is extremely small (the US registered only 405 deaths for men arising from breast cancer, as opposed to 41,150 women in 2012 alone).(CDC, 2015); (Breast.cancer, 2016)
It has been shown that almost 100% of cases detected early are successfully tested. This makes regular testing extremely important. Women are encouraged to attend these tests, also known as mammograms monthly. Additionally, women can themselves check for any lumps in the breasts by using a technique suggested by the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Discovery of any lumps should be evaluated by a doctor, but keeping in mind the fact that only 2 out of 10 of lumps are actually malignant. (NBC, n.d. ). When compared with other cancers that affect women, breast cancer is more lethal, apart from lung cancer.
From the statistics, it is obvious that being a woman predisposes someone to getting cancer. Another factor is age – more women get cancer as they get older, as opposed to those who are young, all other factors being constant. (Breast.cancer, 2016). Only one in eight cases of invasive breast cancer are diagnosed in women under 45, while 2 in 3 of the cases are found in women over 55 years old. (AMC, 2016).
Family and personal factors have also been proven to influence incidence of breast cancer. Women with sisters or mothers who have been diagnosed with breast cancer have a significantly higher risk of getting cancer. 15 percent of breast cancer patients have such a relative. Genetic defects inherited from parents are also documented a risk factor. These defects lead to the irregular mutations of cells responsible for cancer. 5-10% of cancers can be explained this way. (AMC, 2016) Lifestyle – related factors can also be used to explain cancer. For example, usage of birth control, and even getting child is a risk factor, though the increased risk in quite small. Alcohol intake and cigarette smoking have been identified as risk factors in breast cancer, as is the lack of physical exercise, and being overweight or obese.
Prevention and treatment
As can be deduced from the risk factors outlined above, though there no sure way to prevent breast cancer, people can align their lifestyles to better avoid some of these documented risk factors. More exercise, and not being obese can go a long way in preventing breast cancer, especially when accompanied with dishes rich in vegetables, poultry, fish and low fat foods. . At the same time, reducing or avoiding alcohol intake, cigarette smoke and oral contraceptives will also decrease the chances of getting it. Regular self-exams are also instrumental in detecting cancers before they develop too much. As indicated above, most cases that are detected early are successfully removed. (AMC, 2015)
Once detected, an array of ways can be used depending on the stage of the cancer, personal characteristics among other factors as discussed with specialists. One of the method involves physical removal of the cancerous tissue, surgically. Special medicines are sometimes used to target the cancer, so as to kill or shrink it, in a process known as chemotherapy. Special energy rays can also be used, a procedure known as radiotherapy. Sometimes, treatment may be inform of hormonal therapy, whereby treatment is focused on denying cancer cells the hormones they need to grow. (CDC, 2014)
AMC. (2015, October 09). Can Breast Cancer be Prevented? Retrieved from AMC: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/breastcancer/moreinformation/breastcancerearlydetection/breast-cancer-early-detection-prevention
AMC. (2016, February 22). Breast Cancer Risk Factors. Retrieved from AMC: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/breastcancer/detailedguide/breast-cancer-risk-factors
Breast.cancer. (2016, March 2). US Breast Cancer Statistics . Retrieved from Breastcancer.org: http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/understand_bc/statistics
CDC. (2014, August 28). How is Breast Cancer Treated? Retrieved from CDC.gov: http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/basic_info/treatment.htm
CDC. (2015). Breast Cancer Statistics. Retrieved from CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/statistics/ NBC. (n.d. ). Breast Self Exam . Retrieved from NBC: http://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/breast-self-exam
NCI. (2015, February 9). What is Cancer. Retrieved from National Cancer Institute: http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/what-is-cancer