In a world where there is so much to think about when it comes to health, as women one of our biggest concerns is the likelihood of developing breast cancer. From your doctor performing a breast check at every appointment to the numerous articles put out in the newpapers, you’re constantly bombarded with information about breast cancer. While you may hear things about advocacy or how to perform a home breast exam, we want to provide you with the basics of what you need to know about breast cancer: what is it and how are women around the world affected by it? As always, if you want to learn more or have any concerns about your risk for developing breast it’s best to talk to your doctor!
What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer occurs when cells in the breast divide and grow at an abnormal rate, beginning in either the ducts (most common), in the lobules (where milk is made), or (more rarely) in the other breast tissue. When a tumor develops it tends to grow slowly, so slow that if a lump is large enough to feel it could have been growing for as long as 10 years. However, in some cases tumors are aggressive and grow more rapidly.
There are also two different kinds of breast cancer: invasive and non-invasive (referred to as a carcinoma). Invasive breast cancer happens when abnormal cells from inside the ducts or lubules spread into nearby tissue. This enables the cancer cells to spread through other parts of the body through the lymphatic system, which can sometimes happen early in the process when the tumor is small or later when the tumor is large. Non-invasive breast cancer, on the other hand, is when abnormal cells grow inside the milk ducts and have not spread to nearby tissue or around the body. Although the abnormal cells haven’t spread, they can develop into invasive breast cancer.
What are the warning signs of breast cancer?
Even though the regular use of mammography allows most women to be diagnosed at an early stage of breast cancer (before symptoms appear), many times symptoms are found through a change in the look or feel of the breast. Taken from Worldwide Breast Cancer’s website, here are some visuals to explain the warning signs for breast cancer:
Side note: If you feel a lump in your breast or experience nipple discharge, know that this is not always a sign of breast cancer. Breast tissue naturally has a bumpy texture and should feel equally bumpy on both breasts, but if it’s harder or different than the rest this could be a cause for concern. Also, liquid discharge from your nipple can be a natural bodily reaction to squeezing the nipple and is rarely a sign of breast cancer.
What are the current breast cancer rates for women in the U.S.?
In 2012, it’s estimated that there will be about 227,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer, 63,000 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer, and 39,500 breast cancer deaths. These numbers vary for all sorts of factors such as age, race/ethnicity, and population segments (lesbian, gay, and bisexual women, transgender people, and pregnant women).
How does breast cancer affect the world?
Interestingly enough, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide. In 2010, it was estimated that 1.6 million new cases of breast cancer occurred among women around the globe with varying rates depending on the region. In general, developed countries have higher rates than developing countries. All the factors that would explain this discrepancy is unknown, but it’s recognized that lifestyle and reproduction factors play a big part. Also, low screening rates and incomplete reporting can make rates of breast cancer in developing countries look lower than they are and is one explanation of the difference.
As you can see (based on the astonishing breast cancer rates for this year) it’s important that women do their best to make healthy living choices. For those that are or will be diagnosed with breast cancer, it’s even more important that we come together as a community to lend our support. With brayola, you can start by joining the Pink Connection to help us make a donation to breast cancer education and research. As always, we want to hear your thoughts, so join in the discussion on our Facebook page!