Every October, the nation comes together in observance of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Not only is the month raising…
Every October, the nation comes together in observance of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Not only is the month raising awareness for the disease itself, but for education, screening and early detection, and support. Among the most common cancers, breast cancer is a disease that affects not only women but also a percentage of men. Breast Cancer Awareness Month reminds us that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime, and although rare in men, about 1 in every 100 breast cancers diagnosed in the United States is found in a man.
Getting Educated on Breast Cancer
Part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month is understanding what breast cancer is and how it spreads. Breast cancer is a disease in which the cells in the breast tissue grow out of control. As they grow, the cells can form a tumor, some of which can be cancerous. These cells can then spread to surrounding breast tissue. The spreading process is known as invasion or invasive breast cancer. Not only can the cells spread within the breast, but they also can break away from the original tumor and make their way to other organs in the body. The process of the cells breaking away is called metastasis and can lead to metastatic breast cancer.
Why breast cancer develops in a particular person at a specific time is still something that doesn’t have an answer. It is known that the disease develops due to a gene mutation and that some gene mutations are hereditary, but only about 5-10% of breast cancer in the US is genetic. The remaining percentage of cases occur as a spontaneous gene mutation sometimes in a person’s life. They could be due to lifestyle or long-term exposure to an environmental toxin. It is known that certain factors increase the chances of getting breast cancer, such as genetics, being overweight as an adult, even taking menopausal hormones. Still, not everyone with these factors will develop breast cancer. Most don’t. It is also known that the two most common risks for breast cancer are being female and getting older, but some men will develop breast cancer, and some young women will as well. Potentially everyone is at risk of developing the disease, even those who are healthy, eat right, exercise, are an ideal weight, and have no family history. These unanswered items make it essential for everyone, including those with no family history, to make themselves aware and care about breast cancer.
Although there are unanswered questions on how you get breast cancer and who is at risk, there are steps you and your loved ones can take to improve your chances of being and staying healthy.
- Get educated. Understand the potential causes, the risks, the symptoms. Know the options for treatment plans and do your research on how the disease works and the different families of cancer.
- Conduct monthly self-exams. Breast cancer is not preventable, but early detection can increase your chance of finding breast cancer before it spreads. If you are unsure how to perform a breast self-exam, please visit NationalBreastCancer.org and check out their self-exam guide.
- Quit smoking. According to most cancer research, smoking is a significant risk factor for breast and many other types of cancer. Non-smokers are at a lower risk than smokers regardless of age and how long they have been smoking.
- Exercise more. Regular exercise and a healthy diet have also been shown to lower risk factors.
Knowing the Importance of Screening and Early Detection
Breast cancer cannot be prevented, especially with no known cause, but research shows that early detection can help prevent cancer from spreading and increasing the survival rate if diagnosed. Women whose breast cancer is detected early have a 93% or higher survival rate in the first five years.
Breast cancers found because they were causing symptoms resulting in a doctor visit are often more extensive and more advanced. On the other hand, breast cancers found during screening exams are more likely to be smaller and confined to the breast. The size of cancer and how far it has spread are two of the most important factors predicting the outlook of someone with the disease. Although a mammogram can find breast cancer before it is felt, it is the best screening tool to date, but not perfect. When combined with a clinical breast exam and breast self-exam, the chances of finding cancer are even more significant. Getting checked regularly can put your mind at ease, and finding cancer early could even save your life.
The American Cancer Society says that women should have the choice for an annual mammogram beginning at the age of 40 and recommends that all women at average risk should be screened annually beginning at the age of 45. If breast cancer is prominent in your family history, consult your doctor on when you should start the yearly mammogram screening process.
There are many sorts of support groups out there for those who are currently living with breast cancer or are survivors of the disease. But for those who have not experienced the disease, the chances of knowing someone who has is very likely.
- Respect their trauma and grief. Even if a person appears strong, understand that their mind and body are still recovering from trauma.
- Understand the fear of recurrence. Although someone may have beaten the disease, many breast cancer survivors fear returning cancer.
- Ask what their needs are. You may be wanting to jump right in and try and “fix” things or take some of their burdens away, but now is the time to really listen to what they want and need.
- Continue to show up. Remind the person to be patient with themselves and to have compassion for themselves. Remind them that it is ok to bring up hard conversations with you. They may not want to burden you with the heavy emotional aspects.
- Understand their priorities have shifted. After someone goes through a traumatic illness, their interests may change.
- Take care of yourself. You cannot take care of someone else if you don’t properly take care of yourself. Caregivers are also a part of the emotional cancer journey, and your feelings matter too.
With breast cancer finding a home in such a large percentage of women is essential to make ourselves aware of the potential causes, risks, signs, and symptoms. Take the month of October to get educated and support the cause with a donation if you would like to support cancer research or a person in need of financial support. Breast cancer still has so many unanswered questions surrounding it and will not be going away until questions have answers. The only way to hopefully cure this disease is by advancing the world’s most promising research.
If you or someone you love is recovering from any breast cancer surgery and requires transitional care, consider Assisting Hands Home Care. They provide professional and compassionate caregivers who can help with meal preparation, groceries, shopping, and a complete list of other home care services. Find our list of locations by visiting https://assistinghands.com/location-list/
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