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When a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, fear is the most natural reaction. The same is true for men. Learning the facts about breast cancer can be a lifesaving act for women and men Arming yourself with knowledge about breast cancer, its effects, and its treatments is an advisable way to prepare for the challenges and choices the illness often brings. This quick reference guide is designed to be a first stop on the road to self-education about breast cancer.
The FactsApart from skin cancer, breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer among American women. On average, every woman has a one in eight (12%) chance of developing breast cancer at some time in her life. According to the American Cancer Society, there will be an estimated 240,000 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed in the United States in 2007. About 180,000 of these will be invasive breast cancer.
CausesWhile the exact causes of breast cancer are not clear, a number of risk factors have been identified by the medical community. They include:
There is no sure way to avoid contracting breast cancer. However, certain behavioral factors such as alcohol use, lack of exercise and being overweight can increase the risk of contracting the disease.
Types of Breast CancerThere are four main types of breast cancer, determined by a combination of two factors: where the cancer originated in the breast and whether or not it has metastasized (i.e., spread beyond the breast to other parts of the body). Cancer which originates in the milk ducts of the breast is called ductal carcinoma, while cancer which originates in the lobules of the breast is called lobular carcinoma. Cancer that originates from either of these locations can either remain in the general area of origin (in situ) or can spread to other parts of the body (invasive). In summary, the four main types of breast cancer are: ductal carcinoma in situ, lobular carcinoma in situ, invasive ductal carcinoma, and invasive lobular carcinoma.
In general, the in situ forms of cancer are treated with higher success rates, given their localized condition. However, viable treatments are available for all four types of cancer listed here.
Key Terminology (Initial Diagnosis)
Adenocarcinoma: Cancer in gland forming tissue, such as breast tissue
Biopsy: Removing or taking a sample of tissue that has been invaded by cancer
Calcification: A small calcium deposit which can be seen on a mammogram
Cancer: Term for multiple diseases which are characterized by abnormal cell growth and which may destroy surrounding tissue. Cancer can metastasize, or spread to other parts of the body via the blood or lymph system.
Carcinoma: A cancerous growth that begins in the lining of an organ and tends to invade surrounding tissues and metastasize (spread) to other regions of the body.
Clinical Trials: Cancer research studies often include the testing of new drugs or treatments in order to compare them to current, standard treatments. Before a new treatment is used on people, it is studied in a laboratory environment. If lab studies suggest that a treatment works, it is tested with cancer patients. These human studies are called clinical trials.
DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ): Cancer cells which have not spread outside the duct
Fibroadenoma: Benign, fibrous breast tissue
HRT: Hormone replacement therapy
IDC (invasive ductal carcinoma): Cancer cells which have metastasized, spreading outside of the duct to other parts of the breast
ILC (invasive lobular carcinoma): Cancer cells which have metastasized, spreading outside of the lobule to other parts of the breast
Lobule: Part of breast which can produce milk
LCIS (lobular carcinoma in situ): Cancer cells which have not spread outside the lobule
Malignant: Cancerous (cells)
Mastectomy: Removal of a breast as an element of a breast cancer treatment regimen
Metastasis: The spread of cancer from the site of origin to other parts of the body, or a secondary cancer growth
Prognosis: The expected outcome of having cancer
Staging: Tests used to figure out where the cancer is in the body, whether it has spread, and how it compares to other cancers. (e.g., Stage I is the least serious stage of breast cancer, while Stage IV is the most serious.)
TREATMENTAND POST-TREATMENT SUPPORT
Typical Treatments and their Side EffectsTypical cancer treatments can be divided into local therapies and systemic therapies. Local therapies, such as surgery and radiation therapy, involve treating tumors at their site of origin while minimizing effects on the rest of the body. Meanwhile, systemic therapies are drugs which can be given orally or placed directly into the bloodstream to reach cancer cells anywhere in the body. Examples of systemic therapies include chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and targeted therapy.
Links to Support Resources
Cancer Hope Network:http://www.cancerhopenetwork.org/
Cancer Consultants - Cancer Topicshttp://www.texasoncology.com/cancer-blood-disorders.aspx
I Can Cope:http://www.cancer.org/Treatment/SupportProgramsServices/HopeLodge/i-can-cope
Living Beyond Breast Cancer:http://www.lbbc.org/
Look Good . . . Feel Betterhttp://www.cancer.org/Treatment/SupportProgramsServices/look-good-feel-better
Reach to Recovery:http://www.cancer.org/Treatment/SupportProgramsServices/reach-to-recovery
Susan G. Komen for the Cure:http://ww5.komen.org/
“TLC” Tender Loving Care:http://www.cancer.org/Treatment/SupportProgramsServices/tlc-a-magalog
Managing ChemotherapyChemotherapy is a commonly-prescribed systemic therapy for treating cancer. While chemotherapy is a powerful technique, it is usually accompanied by a number of side effects. Here is a list of common chemotherapy side effects and some strategies for managing them:
Weakened Immune System:
Nausea and Vomiting:
Breast ReconstructionWomen who have had a mastectomy (removal of one or both breasts) as part of their breast cancer treatment often choose to undergo breast reconstruction surgery. As its name implies, the goal of this surgery is to give the affected breast(s) an appearance of relative normalcy despite the recent removal of part of or the entire breast. Breast reconstruction is typically carried out by a plastic surgeon.
Here are some facts and tips about the breast reconstruction process:
Key Terminology (Treatment and Post-Treatment)
Adjuvant therapy: A type of therapy whereby drugs are used in conjunction with surgery and/or radiation to destroy microscopic disease and improve the overall chances of living without disease.
Alopecia: Hair loss (often accompanying chemotherapy)
Chemotherapy: The treatment of cancerous diseases with drugs that interfere with cancer cell growth and reproduction
Lumpectomy: Surgical removal of a lump, along with the small circle of tissue surrounding it
Lymphedema: Swelling of armpit, arm or chest wall due to excess fluid in the tissues after surgery
Quality of Life: How you live on a day-to-day basis (self-care, relationships, social activities, ability to work, emotional life, etc.)
Radiation Therapy: Treatment with high-energy X-ray radiation. Radiation kills cancerous cells (and also healthy cells).
Reconstruction: Rebuilding a breast after a mastectomy
Systemic Treatment: Treatment of the whole body (usually through some type of drug therapy)