October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast Cancer AwarenessOctober marks the beginning of fall. As the leaves start to turn colors, so does our awareness of our health. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM). The United States refers to it as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM). You’ll mainly notice someone participating and supporting National Breast Cancer Awareness Month as they wear pink ribbons or have pink associated with themselves in some way.

This month is recognized world-wide as breast cancer charities attempt to increase awareness and raise funds. These funds are used for research and to support families in need. In doing so, many lives are saved each year.

Understanding the Survival Rate

The Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program (SEER) estimates that the percentage of those surviving breast cancer is 89.2%. This study was conducted over a five-year period during 2004-2010. The good news is that the treatment has improved since then, so this rate may be higher now.

Those in Stages 0 and I have a 100% survival chance. Those with Stage II have a 93% survival chance. Stage III survivors have a 72% survival chance. And those with Stage IV breast cancer have only a 22% survival chance. These numbers are real, but as you can see, early detection and treatment as early as possible extends the likelihood of survival. This is why having a Breast Cancer Awareness Month is so important for us all.

It’s important for women to get mammograms regularly to catch breast cancer in its earliest stage. Those 40 to 49 years old should consult with their doctor about when and how often to get their screenings. Women 50 to 74 years old should be screened every two years. The CDC has produced this fact sheet of which you can find out more information on how you can qualify for a free or low-cost mammogram. You can also sign up for the Early Detection Program, operated by the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. This program helps you keep up with your detection plan.

Trembling Facts about Breast Cancer

• Next to skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer for women
• 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer during their lifetime
• Breast cancer is not age specific. 1% of breast cancer cases are found in women under 45 years of age.
• Of all racial and ethnic groups, black women have the highest death rates of breast cancer
• 232,670 United States women are estimated to be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014 (American Cancer Society)
• 40,000 women die each year from breast cancer
• 2,000 men get breast cancer each year in the United States
• 400 men die each year from breast cancer
• Breast cancer incidences decreased 7% from 2002-2003. It’s believed to be because of the decline in use of hormone therapy after menopause. This was due to a study that the Women’s Health Initiative released in 2002.
• Breast cancer deaths have decreased, especially in women younger than 50, since 1989. This is due to the early detection screening, breast cancer awareness activities, and improved treatment.
• The United States has over 2.8 million breast cancer survivors!

Common Activities during Breast Cancer Awareness Month

The National Football League

In October, the National Football League supports breast cancer awareness in their stadiums. Pink is integrated on and off the field.

Race for the Cure

The first Race for the Cure was organized in October 1983 in Dallas, TX, of which 800 people participated. Since then, it has been known as the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and now has over 150 events in four continents. There are 1.6 million people participating in this 3-day event now.

Walks to End Breast Cancer

Many cities and organizations are sponsoring “day” walks throughout the country. St. Louis hosts a 1-day breast cancer walk event of three miles. Atlanta has a 30-mile walk. Canada has a 60 km walk over the weekend. Avon also sponsors a 39 mile walk.

Great Architect Gaming Community

The gaming communities are even engaged with Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The Great Architect Gaming Community encourages all their members to wear pink all of October.

Find a National Breast Cancer Month Event Near You!

Breast Cancer Awareness Month is important for us all. Looking at the figures that 1 in every 8 women will develop breast cancer, this is probably personal to you too. So get your pink ribbons ready and participate this October in ending this horrible disease.

5 Stages of Breast Cancer

breastcancer3As you know, breast cancer develops and can spread rapidly through the body. In order for doctors to make a diagnosis and come up with a treatment plan, they must know which stage of breast cancer you are in. This process is called staging, of which the doctor can determine how large the tumor is and how far it has spread. Once the doctor has performed a biopsy of the tumor or lymph node, they can start making the determination. Let’s review how breast cancer spreads through the body and its five stages.

How Cancer Spreads Throughout the Body

The process of cancer spreading throughout the body is called Metastasis. When cancer reaches another part of your body and form a tumor, that new tumor is called a metastatic tumor.

A metastatic tumor is not a new type of cancer in your body. If you have breast cancer and the cancer cells spread to your lungs, it’s not lung cancer, it’s still breast cancer. You just have breast cancer cells in your lungs. When you put the cells under a microscope, they will look like the cells in your breast. The same holds true if it travels to your liver, stomach, ovaries, prostate, or any other area of your body.

Once cancer cells break away from the tumor, the cancer spreads through the body in three ways: via the tissue, the lymphatic system, or the blood.

1. Tissue – When the cancer cells spread in the local area, it travels via tissue.

2. Lymphatic system – Cancer can spread from its place or origin and get into your lymphatic system. This system is responsible for fighting infections in your body. So, this system carries your cells everywhere.

3. Blood – Your blood circulates throughout your entire body. Cancer cells can get into the blood and travel via your blood vessels.

The 5 Stages of Breast Cancer

The American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) recognizes breast cancer as having five main stages, stages one through five. However, they are generally written in Roman numerals, 0 through IV. Once your cancer spreads or gets worse, it is progressing. Staging consists of the three combinations of the following classifications:

1. The tumor’s size (T)
2. The number of lymph nodes found (N)
3. How far the cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body (M)

Stages 0 through IV are considered the early forms or stages of the disease. Stages III and IV are considered advanced stages of breast cancer.

Stage 0

Stage 0 breast cancer is considered noninvasive. There is no threat that the cells will grow or spread.

Stage I

Stage I is invasive breast cancer. The tumor is smaller than 2 cm (about the width of your finger). There are two subcategories for Stage I breast cancer: 1A and 1B.

• 1A – The cancer cells have not spread outside the breast
• 1B – The cancer cells have traveled outside the breast into the lymph nodes. There may or may not be a tumor present in the breast.

Stage II

Stage II is invasive breast cancer. This stage also has two subcategories.

• 2A – The tumor is smaller than 2 cm, or there is no tumor found in the breast. However, cancer cells may be present in the lymph nodes. Breast cancer may also be considered stage 2A if the tumor is between 2 cm-5 cm and the cancer cells have not spread to the lymph nodes.

• 2B – The tumor is between 2 cm-5 cm, and the cancer cells have spread to the lymph nodes. Breast cancer may also be considered stage 2B if the tumor is larger than 5 cm, but the cells have not spread to the lymph nodes.

Stage III

In stage III, the cancer is now locally advanced. This means the cancer has spread to other tissues in the breast or the lymph nodes; however, it has not made its way throughout the body to other sites. Stage III breast cancer has three subcategories.

• 3A – The tumor is larger than 5 cm and has spread to one, two, or three lymph nodes. The tumor could also be of any size, but has spread through multiple lymph nodes.

• 3B – The tumor is of any size and has spread through breast tissues, the chest and skin muscles, and there may be signs in the lymph nodes in the breast or underarm.

• 3C – The tumor is of any size and has spread to more than 10 underarm lymph nodes. Alternatively, the cancer may be found in the lymph nodes around the collarbone, in the breast, and/or under the arm.

Stage IV

Stage IV is considered metastatic breast cancer or advanced breast cancer. The cancer has spread beyond its origin point. It’s not localized anymore. This is when the lungs, brain, liver, and other sites are affected. At this point, treatment can extend a patient’s life; however, the cancer is incurable.

Once your breast cancer stage has been identified, you and your doctor will discuss treatment options. As you can see, knowing the early signs of breast cancer may prevent you from reaching stage IV breast cancer.

5 Signs of Breast Cancer

breast cancerBreast cancer can attack anyone, at any age. According to BreastCancer.org, 1 in 8 women in America will develop invasive breast cancer, and 1 in 1,000 men will develop it. Breast cancer is the second most fatal cancer for women in the United States. The earlier the cancerous cells are detected, the better your chances for survival. Here are a few of the common signs and symptoms of breast cancer.

The Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer

There is no one pin-point reason for having breast cancer; however, there are common signs and symptoms exhibited in men and women. The most common signs of breast cancer in women are breast pain, discharge in the nipple, and lumps in the breast. For men, they will experience a non-painful mass, generally below the nipple.

Breast Pain

As stated above, breast pain is one of the most common signs of breast cancer… that’s noticed. This is usually a later symptom, not exhibited in the beginning stages of breast cancer. Due to women not performing self-breast exams often or not having a regularly scheduled mammogram, the earliest symptom, breast lumps, goes unnoticed. So women see their doctor once the pain develops.

Not all types of breast cancers cause pain, and in fact, the majority of the time a woman experiences pain in the breast, it is not caused by breast cancer. These pains can be recurring or non-recurring. If it’s a recurring pain lasting more than a few months, it’s advised to see your doctor. If the pain concerned is focal (just one spot in the breast) and the pain progresses, this is an indication to see your doctor.

The tricky part about breast pain in women is that it’s very common. The female body goes through many changes. This is just a few days before they start their menstrual cycle, lasting the entire cycle. It’s also common for premenopausal women. During those changes, the breast area can become sore. Other times, there may be a benign lump in the breast causing pain. A benign lump is one that is not cancerous. Breast pain can also be associated with pregnancy or trauma.

Nipple Discharge

Another common symptom of breast cancer is nipple discharge. Discharge can be normal, so it’s important to understand the difference in your discharge. If you squeeze your breast and have a discharge, this is normal. Even having a milky or green colored discharge is considered safe, since women produce milk. A few causes for concern include:

  • If your breast discharges without you disturbing it (squeezing it)
  • If your discharge is clear or bloody
  • If it’s an excessive amount of discharge and you’re not breastfeeding or haven’t recently
  • If the discharge is just from one spot on your nipple as opposed to multiple spots

Lumps in the Breast

The most noticeable cause of breast cancer in its early stage is the development of lumps in the breast. A breast is naturally lumpy, making it difficult to distinguish a cancerous lump. As women become somewhat familiar with their body, they tend to learn any masses in their breasts. However, they may not perform their self-exams frequently or not at all. The new developments of lumps are the cause for alarm. The women that are committed to performing their breast self-examinations are the ones that save their own lives.

Changes in the Breast

Watch out for changes in the breast. If you notice your breast has enlarged, or your nipple has retracted, this is something you want to talk to your doctor about. A sudden appearance of veins on the breast also should be checked out. This is not always cause for alarm though. If your breast enlarges, your tissue grows as well. So your veins will also grow.

Other changes to watch out for in your breast is if your skin starts to dimple. These are visible depressions in your breast, of which you can see best if you lift your arm straight in the air. If your breast’s texture changes, such as to that of an orange peel, or starts to peel, scale, or flake, you need to schedule an exam.

Issues with Other Areas of the Body

Signs of breast cancer are not always limited to the breast area. Rapid weight loss and lumps or swelling in the armpit area are also signs of breast cancer. Cancer cells can eat away at your body’s energy, making you lose weight rapidly. Losing 10 pounds or more is cause for concern.

Breast cancer can spread throughout the body. It spreads to the lymph nodes, and the closest occurrence is the lymph nodes directly under the arm or around the collarbone.

A breast exam with your doctor is the best way to diagnose if you do, in fact, have cancerous cells in your breast. This is determined by a mammogram, biopsy, ultrasound, or sometimes an MRI. These tests are not always conclusive, so you should visit your doctor a few weeks later if you are experiencing increased symptoms.