Things you need to know about Breast Cancer

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  • 80 to 90 percent of complaints about the breast, whether it's pain or a lump, are benign. People usually think that when there is pain, they think they might have cancer, when not.
  • A cyst or fibroadenoma means a lump filled with fluid. It doesn't need surgery. Doctors operate on something solid thus an ultrasound is needed.
  • A mammogram is different from an ultrasound. One needs to undergo both. Ideally, these procedures should be done on the 7th day to 10th day after the first day of menstruation. What doctors look for in a mammogram are micro calcifications or calcium deposits in the breast. These calcifications undergo biopsy. A mammogram should be done yearly starting at age 40 because one can catch cancer at this age. An ultrasound on the other hand, can see a lump and check if it is solid or filled with fluid.
  • Once diagnosed with breast cancer, standard therapy is recommended. Anybody who has cancer has to undergo surgery to remove the cancer from the body. One always has two options. She may have her breast conserved or removed (mastectomy). A person who has undergone mastectomy may have the option for immediate breast reconstruction.
  • After surgery, a tumor is examined to determine if it's aggressive or not. The result will help the doctor know if the patient needs chemotherapy or radio therapy or hormonal therapy, all of which comes after surgery.
  • Some women believe that if they had their breasts removed, they are cured and the cancer will not come back. But, it depends on the nature of cancer whether it is aggressive or not. Even if one has removed her breast but does not have the recommended treatment, the cancer may come back in that area or in her other organs.
  • A chemotherapy's effect is systemic and acts throughout the body as it is given intravenously. It tries to kill cancer cells that were able to escape into one's bloodstream.
  • A radiotherapy has a local effect. It is localized and is administered on one's breast. It prevents cancer from coming back in the breast but not in other parts of one's body.
  • Breast cancer comes in many forms thus a person should not compare her condition with another. Cancer aggressiveness is also different per person. As everybody's situation is different, one cannot say that what worked for another person would work for her.
  • The chances of survival for someone who is diagnosed with breast cancer is 90 percent if stage one; 80 percent if stage two; 60-70 percent if stage three; and around 20 percent if stage four.
  • There is no prevention with cancer. A person who has a healthy lifestyle does not mean she won't get it. One cannot blame lifestyle and diet.
  • As a person gets older, the chances of getting breast cancer increases. If a person had breast cancer or uterine cancer or ovarian cancer, the risk of getting breast cancer is higher. If she has a first degree relative with breast cancer, the risk of getting it is higher compared to someone who does not have a family history.
  • 60 percent of cancers are stimulated by estrogen. If a person had her first menstruation before age 12 and had menopause after 55, the risk is higher as she have been exposed to estrogen for a long time.
  • Other risk factors: never been pregnant, had first pregnancy after 30, never breastfed, overweight, drink a lot of alcohol, and took contraceptive pills or hormonal replacement therapy for two years or more straight. Pills should be taken intermittently. For example, one may take them for six months then stop for a month, then take them for six months again.
  • If a person is pregnant, her estrogen levels are low because she is not menstruating. Having multiple pregnancies is protective because estrogen is low at those times.
  • Common misconceptions about getting breast cancer: when the baby kicked one's breast, wearing an underwire bra, using a deodorant, having a benign lump removed, had an abortion or miscarriage.