What You Need to Know About Breast Cancer
Two hundred fifty-five thousand one hundred eighty. 255,180 … That is the number of estimated new cases of breast cancer in 2017. Of the 255,180 new cases, there is an expected 41,070 deaths because of breast cancer in 2017. Of the new cases identified in 2017 it is estimated that 252,710 will be women and 2,470 will be men. While these statistics are astounding there is HOPE. Fortunately, due to advances in early detection, prevention, and treatment the death rates associated with breast cancer have been steadily declining over the last 5 years. With all this talk about breast cancer, however, what do we really know about it? Below you will find a brief Q&A to help you better understand what breast cancer is and what having breast cancer means.
What is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer starts when cells in the breast begin to grow out of control - these cells usually form a tumor. If the cells grow into surrounding tissue or spread, the tumor is considered malignant (cancer). Breast cancer occurs almost entirely in women, but men can get breast cancer too.
Where does breast cancer start?
As with any cancer, breast cancers can start from different parts of the breast. Most begin in the ducts that carry milk to the nipple but some may start in the glands that make breast milk. There are also other types that are less common. Some types of breast cancer can cause a lump in the breast, but not all do. It is important to know and understand that most breast lumps are not in fact cancer, they are benign. Benign breast tumors are abnormal growths but do not spread outside of the breast and are not life threatening. Some benign breast lumps can increase a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer. Any lumps or abnormalities need to be checked by a health care provider and you should not wait in doing so.
How can breast cancer spread?
Breast cancer can spread when the cells get into the blood or lymph system and are then carried to other parts of the body. If the cancer cells have spread to your lymph nodes there is a higher chance that the cells could have traveled through your entire lymph system and spread to other parts of your body. Because of this, finding cancer in one or more lymph nodes often affects your treatment plan. Not all women with cancer cells in their lymph nodes develop metastases, and some women have no cancer cells in their lymph nodes and later develop metastases.
Can breast cancer be prevented?
There is no definite way to prevent breast cancer. There are things a person can do that might lower your risk. These include getting to and staying at a healthy weight, being physically active, and limiting or avoiding alcohol.
For more information on breast cancer, or any cancer, please visit the American Cancer Society at www.cancer.org. Locally, the American Cancer Society has the HopeClub which provides support to cancer patients, survivors, and family members. For more information on services provided at HopeClub please visit https://www.cancer.org/about-us/local/new-york/hope-club.html