- New Clients
by Tammera J. Karr, PhD.
This article is dedicated to those of my clients who are daily living with breast cancer and the health options made available to them. All of them have faced their fears with courage, proving that women are far from being the weaker sex.
“Courage is the art of being the only one who knows you’re scared to death!” – Earl Wilson
What is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the breast. It is considered a heterogeneous disease—differing by individual, age group, and even the kinds of cells within the tumors themselves. Fortunately hearing the words “breast cancer” doesn’t always mean an end. It can be just the opposite – a beginning – an opportunity to find strength you never knew you had, – a time of assessment on what you really want and believe, and most importantly a time to take charge and find hope.
Women in the United States get breast cancer more than any other type of cancer except for skin cancer. It is second only to lung cancer as a cause of cancer death in women. Many researchers believe this is partly due to the increased use of synthetic hormones and xenoestrogen exposure for the baby-boomer generation and those who have been born since.
“When you do nothing, you feel overwhelmed and powerless. But when you get involved, you feel the sense of hope and accomplishment that comes from knowing you are working to make things better. ” – Maya Angelou
The lymph system is one of the main ways in which breast cancers can spread. Lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped groups of immune system cells that fight infections. Breast cancer cells can enter lymphatic vessels and begin to grow in lymph nodes, forming tumors.
There are many types of breast cancer, some are very rare. A breast tumor can be a mix of types or a mixture of invasive and in situ cancer.
Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS): This is the most common type of non-invasive breast cancer. DCIS means that the cancer is only in the ducts. It has not spread through the walls of the ducts into the tissue of the breast and so cannot spread to lymph nodes or other organs. Nearly all women with cancer at this stage can be cured.
Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS): This is not a true cancer.
Invasive (or infiltrating) ductal carcinoma (IDC): This is the most common breast cancer. It starts in a milk passage (a duct), breaks through the wall of the duct, and invades the tissue of the breast. From there it may spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. It accounts for about 8 out of 10 invasive breast cancers.
More women are choosing to not undergo chemo or radiation for this type of cancer as those treatment methods increase the risk of secondary cancers. The best odds are with a mastectomy – removal of the breast and diet / lifestyle changes. Fortunately this is not as horrifying as it was only a few years ago and reconstructive surgery is available.
“A woman’s breasts do not make her who she is, they are only one part of the dynamic being she is. The love and respect a woman receives has to do with the latter not her breasts.” – Tammera Karr
Invasive (infiltrating) lobular carcinoma (ILC): This cancer starts in the milk glands then can spread to other parts of the body. About 1 in 10 invasive breast cancers are of this type.
Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC): This uncommon type of invasive breast cancer accounts for about 1% to 3% of all breast cancers. Usually there is no single lump or tumor. Instead, IBC makes the skin of the breast look red and feel warm. It also may make the skin look thick and pitted, something like an orange peel. The breast may get bigger, hard, tender, or itchy.
In its early stages, inflammatory breast cancer is often mistaken for infection. Because there is no defined lump, it may not show up on a mammogram. It has a higher chance of spreading and a worse outlook than invasive ductal or lobular cancer.
What can be done?
Many will tell you to have frequent breast exams, ultrasounds, thermograms and mammograms, but as family nurse practitioner Mary Hagood has frequently said “that is all early detection not prevention, there is so much more a woman can do to lower her risk.”
To your Good Health.
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