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Awareness of breast cancer signs could save a life

By Mayra Ramirez

First, ask yourself: What is breast cancer?

What did you come up with? For those of you who don’t know what it is, or happen to know very little about it, keep reading. This could change the course of your life or somebody else’s life.

Breast cancer is when cells divide and grow without their normal control. There are three main types of breast cancer: non-invasive (or DCIS), invasive, and metastatic.

Non-invasive breast cancer, or better known as DCIS, is caused by the abnormal cells that are contained in the milk ducts. These cells have not yet left the milk ducts to invade nearby breast tissue, which is why you may hear the terms “pre-invasive” or “pre-cancerous” to describe DCIS.

DCIS is treated to try to prevent the development of invasive breast cancer, but it can still be found alone or combined invasive breast cancer. Without treatment, DCIS could develop into invasive cancer over time. Invasive breast cancer occurs when cancer cells from inside the milk ducts or lobules break out into nearby breast tissue.

If breast cancer spreads, the lymph nodes in the underarm area (the axillary lymph nodes) are the first place its likely to go. Metastatic Breast cancer (also called stage IV or advanced breast cancer), however, is not a specific type of breast cancer, but rather the most advanced stage of breast cancer.

To put it into a better perspective, stage IV breast cancer is when the cancer has spread beyond the breast to other organs in the body, most often the bones, lungs, liver and/or brain.

Treatments

Every breast cancer — depending on what stage of development that its in — has different symptoms and treatments that go along with it.

Non-invasive breast cancer can only be treated with surgery, whether it’s with or without radiation. After surgery and radiation therapy some women may take hormone therapy and with treatment prognosis/forecast of the final outcome is usually excellent.

The treatment for invasive cancer, on the other hand, includes a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and targeted therapy. These treatments are designed to remove the cancer from the breast and destroy any cancer that might still be inside the rest of the body.

As of today, there isn’t a known cure for metastatic cancer. The treatment mainly focuses on length and quality of life. The treatment plan is guided by many factors, including the biology of the tumor (characteristics of the cancer cells), where the cancer has spread, symptoms, and past breast cancer treatments.

Men and women affected

Did you know that men can get breast cancer as well as women?

According to the Susan G. Komen organization, it is estimated that in 2019, there will be 2,670 new cases of invasive breast cancer, 500 breast cancer deaths for men, 41,760 breast cancer deaths for women, and an estimated amount of 268,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer.

Organized to help

Throughout the years there have been many organizations to help aid the fight against breast cancer, one of which has supported and helped me refine my understanding of cancer through this whole learning process. It is the Susan G. Komen non-profit organization, with the help of Ariel Thomas, the community programs manager for the organization’s branch here in Chicago.

The organization was founded by Nancy G. Brinker who made a promise to her dying sister, Susan G. Komen in Dallas, Texas in 1982, that she would do everything in her power to end or find a cure for breast cancer. The Susan G. Komen organization is now the largest and best funded breast cancer organization in the United States.

My aunt, who recently passed away from a late diagnosed breast cancer, metastatic breast cancer, had the symptoms, but never got it checked until it was too late. It was so late that not even chemotherapy would help. After she was diagnosed in December, she passed away six months later in June.

Having someone close to me go through something like this made me realize that I could help someone else and prevent them from going untested.

There are eight main warning signs of any kind of breast cancer:
* Lumps, hard knots, thickening inside the breast area or underarm
* Swelling, warmth, redness or darkening of the breast
* Change in size or shape of the breast
* Dimpling or puckering of the skin
* Itchy, scaly sore or rash on nipple
* Pulling in of your nipple or other parts of the breast
* Nipple discharge that starts suddenly
* A new pain in one spot of the breast that does not go away

For further information visit https://ww5.komen.org; call 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636); or email at helpline@komen.org.

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