Awareness & Early Detection Key to Survival

The facts, figures & what you need to know about Breast Cancer
STORY BY AMI BROWN

For 2017, The American Cancer Society’s estimates in the United States: About 252,710 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in women. About 63,410 new cases of carcinoma in situ will be diagnosed (CIS is non-invasive and is the earliest form of breast cancer). About 40,610 women will die from breast cancer. These numbers are staggering! If you know more than 8 women, you probably know someone that has been or wil be diagnosed with Breast Cancer in their lifetime. This topic is very close to Southport Magazine, owner, Kris Beasley is a survivor.

According the the American Cancer Society, early detection is key to early detection, effective treatment, and increased survival chances. There is no prevention for Breast Cancer, and no definitive cause. There is however lots of studies taking place, new treatments and early screenings to disgnose women at risk. There are also genetic links that researchers are studying and hopefuly one day will understand and lead to a prentitive medicine,
procedure or cure. I turned to the experts to answer some common questions about this disease that effects so many women.
WHAT IS BREAST CANCER? Breast cancer starts when cells in the breast begin to grow out of control. These cells usually form a tumor that can often be seen on an x-ray or felt as a lump. The tumor is malignant (cancer) if the cells can
grow into (invade) surrounding tissues or spread (metastasize) to distant areas of the body. Breast cancer occurs almost entirely in women, but men can get breast cancer, too. Cells in nearly any part of the body can become cancer and can spread to other areas of the body. To learn more about what is cancer and how all cancers start and spread, see our section on Cancer Basics.
WHERE DOES BREAST CANCER START? Breast cancers can start from different parts of the breast. Most breast cancers begin in the ducts that carry milk to the nipple (ductal cancers). Some start in the glands that make breast milk (lobular cancers). There are also other types of breast cancer that are less common. A small number of cancers start in other tissues in the breast. These cancers are called sarcomas and lymphomas and are not really thought of as breast cancers. Although many types of breast cancer can cause a lump in the breast, not all do. There are other symptoms of breast cancer you should watch for and report to a health care provider. It’s also important to understand that most breast lumps are not cancer, they are benign. Benign breast tumors are abnormal growths, but they do not spread outside of the breast and they are not life threatening. But some benign breast lumps can increase a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer. Any breast lump or change needs to be checked by a health care provider to determine whether it is benign or cancer and whether it might impact your future cancer risk.

HOW DOES BREAST CANCER SPREAD? Breast cancer can spread when the cancer cells get into the blood or lymph system and are carried to other parts of the body. The lymph system is a network of lymph (or lymphatic) vessels found throughout the body. The lymph vessels carry lymph fluid and connect lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped collections of immune system cells. Lymph vessels are like small veins, except that they carry a clear fluid called lymph (instead of blood) away from the breast. Lymph contains tissue fluid and waste products, as well as immune system cells. Breast cancer cells can enter lymph vessels and start to grow in lymph nodes. Most of the lymph vessels of the breast drain into: • Lymph nodes under the arm (axillary nodes). • Lymph nodes around the collar bone (supraclavicular and infraclavicular lymph nodes) • Lymph nodes inside the chest near the breast bone (internal mammary lymph nodes)
BREAST CANCER SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS Knowing how your breasts normally look and feel is an important part of breast health. Finding breast cancer as early as possible gives you a better chance of successful treatment. But knowing what to look for does not take the place of having regular mammograms and other screening tests. Screening tests can help find breast cancer in its early stages, even before any symptoms appear.
The most common symptom of breast cancer is a new lump or a mass. A painless, hard mass with irregular edges is more likely to be breast cancer, but could also be tender, soft, or round. They can be painful as well. Since there are so many different kinds of lumps, it is important to have any new mass or lump or breast change checked out by your doctor. Other possible symptoms of breast cancer include: • Swelling all or part (no lump is felt) • Skin irritation and/or dimpling • Breast or nipple pain/sensitivity • Nipple retraction (turning inward) • Redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin • Nipple discharge (not breast milk) Sometimes a breast cancer can spread
to lymph nodes under the arm or around the collar bone and cause a lump or swelling there, even before the original tumor in the breast tissue is large enough to be felt. Swollen lymph nodes should also be checked by a health care provider. Although any of these symptoms can be caused by things other than breast cancer, if you have them, they should be reported to a health care provider so that he or she can find the cause. Because mammograms do not find every breast cancer, it is important for you to be aware of changes in your breasts and to know the signs and symptoms of breast cancer.

CAUSES OF BREAST CANCER Scientists do not have a clear answer yet. But studies continue to uncover factors and habits, as well as inherited genes, that affect breast cancer risk.
Here are a few: • Several studies are looking at the effect of exercise, weight gain or loss, and diet on risk. • Studies on the best use of genetic testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations continue at a rapid pace. • Scientists are exploring how common gene variations (small changes in genes that are not as significant as mutations) may affect breast cancer risk. Gene variants typically have only a modest effect on risk, but when taken together they may potentially have a large impact. • Potential causes of breast cancer in the environment have also received more attention in recent years.

While much of the science on this topic is still in its earliest stages, this is an area of active research. • A large, long-term study funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) is now being done to help find the causes of breast cancer. Known as the Sister Study, it has enrolled 50,000 women who have sisters with breast cancer. This study will follow these women for at least 10 years and collect information about genes, lifestyle, and environmental factors that may cause breast cancer. An offshoot of the Sister Study, the Two Sister Study, is designed to look at possible causes of early onset breast cancer. To find out more about these studies, call 1-877-4-SISTER (1-877-474-7837) or visit the Sister Study website (www. sisterstudy.org).

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