October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month
September 22, 2020
This October 1st you may start to see lots of people wearing pink. Why? Because October marks the start of Breast Cancer Awareness month, an annual worldwide event that aims to increase support for the awareness, early detection, and treatment of breast cancer. The disease takes the lives of approximately 42,000 women in the U.S. every year. By increasing self-screening, research and outreach initiatives, thousands of lives can be saved.
Different Types of Breast Cancer
There are four main types of breast cancer: ductal carcinoma in situ, or DCIS, invasive ductal carcinoma, metastatic breast cancer, and inflammatory breast cancer – though there are also other less common breast cancers. Metastatic breast cancer is also called “Stage 4” breast cancer, meaning that it has spread to other parts of the body like the liver, lungs, brain, or bones. Because metastatic breast cancer travels to other parts of the body, women experience a variety of symptoms depending on where the cancer has grown. For example, women with metastatic breast cancer that has travelled to the bones may experience swelling, bones that fracture or break more easily, and severe and/or progressive generalized pain. Women whose breast cancer has metastasized to the liver may experience jaundice, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, itchy skin or rash, abnormally high liver enzymes, and nausea and/or vomiting.
Ductal carcinoma in situ, or non-invasive ductal carcinoma, is a breast cancer that affects the lining of the milk duct. When it is found early, this type of breast cancer is typically highly treatable because it is localized to one area. If it is not found early, the cancer sometimes begins to grow into the surrounding breast tissue and can turn into what is known as invasive ductal carcinoma. Invasive ductal carcinoma accounts for 70% to 80% of all breast cancer diagnoses, making it one of the most commonly diagnosed types of breast cancers out there. Treatment options and medical outlooks for invasive ductal carcinoma vary depending on what stage the cancer is.
Inflammatory breast cancer (or IBC) results from cancer cells that invade the skin and lymph vessels in the breast. IBC is a very aggressive and fast growing cancer. By the time a doctor diagnoses his or her patient with inflammatory breast cancer, the disease is classified as Stage 3. Stage 3 breast cancer are cancers that have invaded nearby muscles or lymph nodes but have not yet invaded distant organs. Because of how aggressive and fast IBC can spread, it usually requires urgent medical interventions such as chemotherapy, surgery, or radiation. When inflammatory breast cancer is present, the breasts may become swollen, red, or warm. Women with IBC may also experience:
- A rash or irritation on the breast that looks like a bug bite
- Nipple changes like an inverted, flattened, or dimpled nipple
- Pore dilation on the pores of the breast skin
Both IBC and mastitis, a breast infection, can present with similar symptoms. If your doctor diagnoses you with mastitis but your symptoms do not subside after taking antibiotics for one week, consult with a breast specialist for a second opinion.
Early detection of breast cancers is essential. The American Cancer Society (ACS) reports that when breast cancer is detected early (and is localized) that the 5-year survival rate is about 99%. To improve early detection rates, conduct monthly breast self-exams at home, schedule regular check-ups, and stay up-to-date on mammograms.
Almost everyone has a family member or friend who has been touched by breast cancer. This Breast Cancer Awareness Month not only do we honor the lives that we have lost to the disease but we also pledge to continue advocating for early detection, research and treatment options in the future.
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