Cancer is unfortunately globally known. It is the result of out-of-control abnormal cell growth in the body. It is primarily caused by damage to DNA. There are many forms of cancer, each concentrating on a different part of the body where abnormal cells multiply. The following is dedicated to breast cancer.
Breast cancer is received with natural responses of shock and disbelief, but it is now a highly treatable disease. It is known that it takes 100 days for a cancer cell to divide itself and become two cells, another 100 days for the two cells to become four and so on. It takes 100 billion cells to have one centimeter of cancer, which means that a cancer could have been around for eight years before it can be detected on a mammogram and ten years before it can be felt as a lump.
Some cancers grow fast and others grow slowly, and yet other cancers grow for some time and then have a period of resting, continuing to grow afterwards. A cancerous cell has the capacity to spread to other organs before the cancer can be detected, and breast cancer cells seem to have an affinity for the liver, lungs, and bones--why, nobody can tell. So, survival can be determined individually by how well the woman's immune system has been able to counteract the cancer cells already spread from the breast elsewhere in the body.
In large cancers, doctors perform the so called staging tests on the areas where breast cancer metastasizes. If microscopic cells are found in the lymph nodes after examination, and the aggressiveness of the tumor is determined, a systemic treatment is given in an attempt to destroy all the microscopic cells deposited in different parts of the body.
Either chemotherapy or hormone therapy is given, this after certain markers are evaluated to determine the affinity of the cancer cells for a certain treatment. Then the doctor and the patient together decide on the combination of surgery and radiation therapy what would be best for the patient and the type of the cancer as well.
Surgery and radiation takes care of the cancer locally, eliminating most of the area affected by cancer, but they don't have any effect on the microscopic cells spread in the body, and so chemotherapy cleans up after surgery and radiation, not always all the cells, but enough for the immune system to take over.
The curability of a cancer depends on the aggressiveness of the tumor, the strength of the immune system to fight the tumor and the microscopic cells spread from the breast, and the affinity of the tumor for a certain type of drugs. With breast cancer, though, going for five or so years without a recurrence doesn't meant that you are completely cured, but the longer you go without a recurrence the less likely you are to have a recurrence, and the more treatable it would be if it eventually happens.
Breast Cancer Specifics
Breast cancer can be quite a scary topic, especially when you don't know the facts. There are many breast cancer myths out there. Deciphering between truth and falsehoods may not be the easiest task. Here are some common place myths and truth explanations to lessen the load.
MYTH: Finding a lump in your breast means you have breast cancer.
TRUTH: Eight out of ten lumps are benign. If you discover a persistent lump in your breast or any changes in breast tissue, it is very important that you immediately see a physician.
MYTH: Men do not get breast cancer.
TRUTH: This year 182,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 43,300 will die; however, 1,600 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 400 will die.
MYTH: A mammogram can cause breast cancer to spread.
TRUTH: An x-ray of the breast is called a mammogram. The x-ray and the pressure on the breast from the
x-ray machine cannot cause cancer to spread. Do not let tales of other people's experiences keep you from having a mammogram. Base your decision on your physician's recommendation and ask the physician any questions you may have about the mammogram.
MYTH: Having a family history of breast cancer places you in a higher risk group for breast cancer.
TRUTH: Most women who have breast cancer have no family history. If you have a mother, daughter, sister, or grandmother who had breast cancer, you should have a mammogram five years before the age of their diagnosis. Women who have a family history of breast cancer are higher risk.
MYTH: Breast cancer is a communicable disease.
TRUTH: You cannot catch breast cancer or transfer it to someone else's body. Breast cancer is the result of uncontrolled cell growth in your own body.
MYTH: Knowing you have changes in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene means you can prevent breast cancer.
TRUTH: Five percent to ten percent of women who have breast cancer are thought to carry the mutant BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. Alterations in these genes for men and women can predispose them to breast cancer. If you are a carrier of the genes, you should be monitored closely by your physician. Carriers of the genes have a lifetime risk of developing breast cancer.
MYTH: A mammogram is a cure for breast cancer.
TRUTH: A mammogram is a diagnostic tool used to find breast cancer, not a treatment. A mammogram is a simple procedure that can reveal small breast cancers up to two years before they can be detected by touch.
MYTH: One mammogram is all you ever need.
TRUTH: Every woman should have a baseline mammogram between the ages of 35-40, a mammogram every other year until age 50, and one every year after the age of 50. Early detection is the key to survival. The earlier breast cancer is detected, the more options a woman has for effective treatment and survival.
MYTH: A mammogram is not effective in detecting breast cancer in dense breast tissue.
TRUTH: While more difficult to interpret in younger women because of denser breast tissue, breast cancer can be detected with mammograms. If a younger woman is having unusual symptoms, she should see a physician immediately. She may need to have a mammogram at a younger age than 35, depending upon her physical condition and the recommendation of a reliable physician.
MYTH: Breast size affects the risk of breast cancer.
TRUTH: Whether large or small, the size of a woman's breasts does not place her at a higher risk. Exercise and weight loss will affect the size of the woman's breasts. Eating a low-fat, healthy diet reduces the risk of breast cancer. Studies have shown that exercise greatly reduces breast cancer risk.
MYTH: Women under the age of 50 do not benefit from mammograms.
TRUTH: More than twenty percent of breast cancers are diagnosed in women under the age of 50. At present, one woman in eight either has or will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. While women over the age of 50 are at a higher risk, younger women should be cautious about observing changes in their breasts and unexplained lumps.
MYTH: Women with known risk factors are the only ones who get breast cancer.
TRUTH: Being a woman is the greatest risk. Age increases risk. Seventy percent of women with breast cancer have no known risk factors. A cure for breast cancer has not yet been discovered, so early detection is the best protection a woman can have. Educate yourself about breast cancer so that you recognize early symptoms.
MYTH: Breast feeding causes breast cancer.
TRUTH: A woman who breast feeds can get breast cancer, but no studies indicate that breast feeding causes breast cancer. In fact, some studies indicate that breast feeding can reduce the risk of breast cancer in women.
MYTH: Self-examination is all that is needed to detect breast cancer.
TRUTH: Unfortunately, many individuals stray away from aggressive medical care out of fear of what may be found. Take charge of your own health by monthly self-exams, regular visits to the doctor, and regularly scheduled mammograms.
If you are interested in researching breast cancer any further, please feel free to venture the following compiled collection of links.
Comfort & Support
If you are a candidate of breast cancer, or any cancer for that matter, remember you are not alone. There are many cancer communities that you may belong to such as MSN Groups and Gilda's Club Worldwide.
Don’t give in to negative thoughts. You are stronger than you realize. Coping with cancer may not be the easiest task, but the road ahead is not as dark as it seems. False hope is a silly oxymoron.
It is perfectly normal to feel sadness. There is no need to put on a facade. Suppressing emotions may jeopardize psychological adjustment and immune responses. Getting involved in body-mind meditation such as tai chi, yoga, and qi gong are powerful fighters against stress and depression.
Don’t close the door on the people who care about you. While it may feel horribly difficult being diagnosed with cancer, it is also hard on those who love you. While all situations are different, many things are universal. Communication is a very important factor. All in all, discussion is better than assumption.
The following links lend a hand in giving support and comfort to those in need. Please feel free to skim through each link.
Mary and her husband Jim had a dog, Lucky. Lucky was a real character.
Whenever Mary and Jim had company come for a weekend visit they would warn their friends to not leave their luggage open because Lucky would help himself to whatever struck his fancy. Inevitably someone would forget and something would come up missing.
Mary or Jim would go to Lucky's toy box in the basement and there the treasure would be, amid all of Lucky's favorite toys. Lucky always stashed his finds in his toy box and he was very particular that his toys stay in the box.
It happened that Mary found out she had breast cancer. Something told her she was going to die of this disease...she was just sure it was fatal.
She scheduled the double mastectomy, fear riding her shoulders.
The night before she was to go to the hospital she cuddled with Lucky.
A thought struck her...what would happen to Lucky? Although the three-year-old dog liked Jim he was Mary's dog through and through. If I die Lucky will be abandoned, Mary thought. He won't understand that I didn't want to leave him. The thought made her sadder than thinking of her own death.
The double mastectomy was harder on Mary than her doctors had anticipated and Mary was hospitalized for over two weeks. Jim took Lucky for his evening walk faithfully but the dog just drooped, whining and miserable.
Finally the day came for Mary to leave the hospital. When she arrived home, Mary was so exhausted she couldn't even make it up the steps to her bedroom so Jim made his wife comfortable on the couch and left her to nap.
Lucky stood watching Mary but he didn't come to her when she called. It made Mary sad but sleep soon overcame her and she dozed. When Mary woke, for a second she couldn't understand what was wrong. She couldn't move her head and her body felt heavy and hot. Panic soon gave way to laughter though when Mary realized the problem. She was covered, literally blanketed, in every treasure Lucky owned!
While she had slept the sorrowing dog had made trip after trip to the basement and back bringing his beloved mistress his favorite things in life.
He had covered her with his love. Mary forgot about dying. Instead she and Lucky began living again, walking further and further together every night.
It's been 12 years now and Mary is still cancer-free. Lucky? He still steals treasures and stashes them in his toy box but Mary remains his greatest treasure.
Live everyday to the fullest...because every day is a blessing...
What Cancer Cannot Do
Cancer is so limited...
It cannot cripple love,
It cannot shatter hope,
It cannot corrode faith,
It cannot eat away at peace,
It cannot destroy confidence,
It cannot kill friendship,
It cannot shut out memories,
It cannot invade the soul,
It cannot reduce eternal life,
It cannot quench the spirit,
It cannot lessen the power of the resurrection.
—David C. Egner
In Loving Memory of Adrien