By Charlotte Gerber
Breast Cancer Can Affect Anyone
We think of breast cancer as a woman’s disease. Many people are surprised to find out that men can get breast cancer too. Every year, according to the National Cancer Institute, over 211,000 American women are diagnosed with breast cancer and 1,700 men are diagnosed with the disease as well. Chances are, you or someone you know, has been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Women often find lumps in their breast while doing their own monthly self-exam. There is, however, no excuse to not have a yearly mammogram if you are 40 or older. The mammogram can detect very small groups of cancerous cells that are too small to feel with your hand. Lumps that may be cancerous often do not move and actually pull against the other tissue in your breast. If you feel a suspicious lump make an appointment immediately to see your physician. Breast cancer can be quick moving; the sooner it is diagnosed the sooner you can begin a treatment program that can save your life.
Common symptoms of breast cancer include a lump or thickening of the breast or underarm, a chance in how the breast or nipple looks or feels and nipple discharge. A breast that has a cancerous growth may be dimpled like the skin of an orange and the nipple area may be red, swollen, and scaly or the nipple may become inverted.
Your physician can diagnose breast cancer in a variety of ways. First, your physician will do a clinical breast exam. He or she will be looking at and feeling the breast and nipple to check for obvious breast cancer symptoms. A physician can then order a mammogram for their patient to detect any smaller cancerous growths.
A mammogram, an MRI or ultrasound test can be used to diagnose cancerous growths as well as fluid filled cysts. Cysts are commonly found during this phase of a diagnosis and they are not cancerous. If a hard lump that is not filled with fluid that is detected in this phase of the diagnosis can then be tested by using a biopsy.
There are several types of biopsies that can be done to determine whether a lump is malignant or not. The types of biopsies include an ultra-sound guided biopsy, a needle localized or a stereotactic biopsy. Most biopsies are done on an outpatient basis and the patient can go home soon after the procedure.
If a malignant or cancerous growth is diagnosed after the biopsy, there are many treatment options available for your physician. You, the patient, may also elect to seek a second opinion of the diagnosis. Treatment choices vary by the stage of the disease. Your physician can determine which stage your breast cancer falls in based on the extent of the disease. The typical treatment options include the following:
Surgery Chemotherapy Radiation Therapy Hormone Therapy Biological Therapy
Breast Cancer Survivors
Individuals who have been diagnosed with breast cancer consider themselves survivors no matter what stage their disease is in. Anyone who is still alive and has the disease or is in remission is a survivor. People who have the disease can expect to find support from a wide network of individuals. The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Organization (www.komen.org) offers support for patients, survivors and co-survivors. It is also one of the largest cancer fundraising groups in the United States. The familiar pink ribbon that is symbolic of the disease can be seen everywhere from car magnets to key chains and proceeds from these sales benefit breast cancer research. You can also find support groups for breast cancer patients and families at your local hospital.
For more information on breast cancer diagnosis, treatment and research please visit the National Cancer Institute at www.cancer.gov.
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