Responsible for over 500,000 deaths worldwide in the mid 2000s, breast cancer is one of the leading health threats to women. Over 10% of cases of cancer in women are some type of breast cancer. It is the most common form of the ailment after the various skin cancers.
Men are not immune. While they are much less likely to develop the disease, men have a higher mortality rate, mostly due to the fact that much of the time they are diagnosed only after the disease has progressed to a fatal stage. If you have relatives who have suffered from breast cancer you are at a higher risk of developing it yourself. The news is not all dire, however, there are ways to detect and treat the disease, some of which we will discuss in this article.
Generally breast cancer develops in the areas that serve milk production. There are two main areas where it is seen: in the milk ducts ( a cancer called ductal carcinoma) and in the region that delivers milk to those ducts (lobular carcinoma). The two main ways a cancerous tumor is detect are breast exams and mammograms.
A breast exam can be administered either by oneself or by a clinician. It consists of feeling the breast for lumps or other irregularities that might indicate the presence of the cancer. While the effectiveness of catching the disease early is disputed, it is a good way to make sure a tumor is caught before widespread sickness commences. There are numerous tutorials about how to conduct a self-administered breast exam.
The other way to detect a cancerous tumor is through a mammogram. A mammogram is an X-ray that searches the breast for abnormal tissue growth. It is much more accurate than a self-administered breast exam because it can detect growths that are still in the very early stages and therefore too small to be felt with the hands. It’s sensitivity makes it a good choice for women who have family histories of breast cancer.
Once detected, breast cancer can be treated in a number of ways. The exact line of treatment depends on the life history of the patient, the stage and aggressiveness of the cancer, and the personal requests of the woman involved. A biopsy, once conducted, will confirm or refute the initial diagnosis; if confirmed, it will also provide information about how to proceed through treatment.
The widespread nature of breast cancer-geographically, culturally, and historically-has fostered the growth of an immense support system for its sufferers. There are a variety of affinity groups; there is an official Breast Cancer Awareness month, October; there is the international symbol, the pink ribbon; and there are many fashion and medical advancements designed to ease the psychological stress of cancer survivors.