October is Breast Cancer awareness month | SkyHiNews.com

October is Breast Cancer awareness month

Tami Griffith, CFNP-BC
Granby, Colorado

According to the American Cancer Society, Breast Cancer affects hundreds of thousands of individuals every year in the United States.

It is estimated that for the year 2009, 192,370 females in the United States will be diagnosed with Breast Cancer, and approximately 40,170 females will die of breast cancer.

Men are not immune to breast cancer either.

It is estimated that 1,910 men will be diagnosed with Breast Cancer in 2009 and 440 men will die from this disease this year.

The incidence of Breast Cancer in men has increased approximately 1 percent annually over the past several years. Researchers are unsure why there has been an increase in the male population. The current thinking is that men are unaware of their risk of developing this type of cancer and screening is not done on a routine basis for men. Some contributing factors to the development of breast cancer include obesity as well as alcohol consumption. These are prevalent among many men today as well.

What is Breast Cancer?

This is a disease that causes cells in the body to change and grow rapidly at an abnormal rate. These cells cling together and form a mass. The breast is made up of lymphatic, connective, and fatty tissue. There are also lobules in the breast – which are designed for milk production and ducts that connect the lobules to the nipple. Cancer can be found in these areas.

Are all masses cancer?

No. Many of the masses located in the breast are benign (non-cancerous). Some women have fluid filled cysts in their breasts and these can present as a lump or tender area. These cysts are often associated with heavy caffeine intake.

Some breast masses are identified as “in situ” – meaning cancer is found but it is confined to the duct or lobule. Most cancer found at this stage is curable.

Other breast tumors are noted as being “invasive” – meaning the cancer has broken through the duct or glandular walls and is invading the surrounding breast tissue.

Is there any good news in regards to Breast Cancer?

Yes. Since 1990, Death rates from breast cancer has decreased. This is largely due in part to early detection and improvement in Breast Cancer treatment.

The 5 year survival rate is 82 percent with females diagnosed with Breast Cancer before age 40 and 89 percent in those diagnosed after age 40. This rate difference may be due to breast cancer being more aggressive in younger women and responding less to treatment.

What are the risk factors for Breast Cancer?

• Age

• Family history: especially a first degree relative such as a mother, sister, or daughter.

This may be due in part to breast cancer susceptible genes BRCA1 and BRCA2. These occur in less than 1 percent of the population. If you have concerns about a family history, discuss it with your primary care provider. He or she can provide you with a referral to a genetic counselor. The genetic counselor can discuss with you the benefits, limitations, and risks in having testing done.

• Early menarche-before age 12

• Late menopause-after age 55

• Radiation exposure to chest as child/adult

• Age at first pregnancy – after 35 yrs of age

• Obesity

• Alcohol – over 1 drink a day

• Little or no exercise

• Long term use of post-menopausal hormones

How can I avoid breast cancer?

now your body …Have a set day once a month to perform breast-self exams. The best time to perform this exam is approximately one week after your period. If you are post-menopausal, pick a set date every month – such as the first of the month to check yourself.

See your primary care provider yearly for a clinical breast exam.

Have an annual mammogram. These are usually recommended beginning at 40 years of age.

If you do find a lump or see something unusual in your breast, follow up with your health care provider as soon as possible. Diagnostic tools used to determine the type of mass you have, include:

Mammogram, Ultrasound, MRI, and biopsy.

If you are overweight, loose weight.

If you drink alcohol, drink no more than one drink per day.

If you do not exercise, START – even walking 20-30 minutes 4-5 times a week is effective

For more information contact The American Cancer Society 303-758-2030 or The National Cancer Association : http://www.cancer.gov