Breast Cancer Basics

Breast Cancer Basics

Breast cancer will claim the lives of 40,000 people this year. Even more disturbing is the speed at which breast cancer rates have shot up over the past 5 decades. 50 years ago, one in 20 women was diagnosed—today unfortunately, it is one in seven.

Breast cancer facts:

  • Breast cancer is the leading cause of death for women age 40 to 55.
  • 15 percent of all breast cancers occur in women under age 45.
  • 80 percent of breast lumps are non-cancerous.
  • 70 percent of breast cancers are found through breast self-exams.
  • About 80 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of cancer.

Breast cancer symptoms:

  • The most common sign of breast cancer is a new lump or mass.
  • Swelling of all or part of the breast
  • Skin irritation or dimpling
  • Breast pain
  • Nipple pain or the nipple turning inward
  • Redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
  • A nipple discharge other than breast milk
  • Sometimes breast cancer can spread to lymph nodes under the arm and cause a lump or swelling there.

If you have any of the above symptoms, that might be a sign of breast cancer, be sure to see a doctor as soon as you can.

Breast cancer treatments:

Radiation therapy involves treatment with high-energy rays (such as X-rays) to kill cancer cells or shrink tumors. It is much like getting a regular X-ray, but for an extended period. Radiation therapy may be used to kill cancer cells remaining in the breast, chest wall, or underarm area after surgery or, even, to shrink a tumor before surgery.

Chemotherapy (often called “chemo”) is the use of cancer killing drugs. These drugs can be put into a vein, given as a shot, or taken as a pill or liquid. They enter the bloodstream and fan out through the body, making this treatment useful for cancers that have spread to distant organs. While these drugs kill cancer cells, they also damage some normal cells, which can lead to side effects.

Mastectomy is the removal of one or both breasts to treat cancer. In the past, a radical mastectomy with complete removal of the breast was the standard treatment, but medical breakthroughs over the past two decades have given women more options than ever before.

Complementary Treatments for Breast Cancer (used along with traditional treatments)

These include healing traditions such as acupuncture, ayurveda, homeopathy and naturopathy, prayer, hypnotherapy, meditation, imagery, visualization, music therapy, and art therapy, nutritional therapy, supplements, vitamins, and herbal medicine.

In the event that you are diagnosed with breast cancer, always get a second opinion. Before you make any decision about treatment, and definitely before you decide to have surgery or chemotherapy, make sure your biopsy results have been reviewed by a knowledgeable and experienced breast specialist.

Finally – Do Not Lose Hope! Take courage from this fact; in 2011 there were over 2.6 million breast cancers survivors in the US.

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