National Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Installment 1
Understanding the 2nd Most Fatal Cancer of Women
For the first part in my series on Breast Cancer, I thought it was important to first share what exactly breast cancer is. But first here are some statistics, that I found staggering:
- It is estimated that this year alone 192,370 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer.
- The median age for those diagnosed with breast cancer is 61 years old. That means that of all new diagnoses half of those women are under 61.
- 2.5 women in the U.S. have a history of breast cancer.
- 1 in 8 women can expect to develop breast cancer at some point over their lifetime.
The good news is that the death rate from breast cancer continues to drop about 2% a year.
Breast Cancer Basics
Here is a definition for cancer from breastcancer.org
Cancer occurs as a result of mutations, or abnormal changes, in the genes responsible for regulating the growth of cells and keeping them healthy. The genes are in each cell’s nucleus, which acts as the “control room” of each cell. Normally, the cells in our bodies replace themselves through an orderly process of cell growth: healthy new cells take over as old ones die out. But over time, mutations can “turn on” certain genes and “turn off” others in a cell. That changed cell gains the ability to keep dividing without control or order, producing more cells just like it and forming a tumor.
There are two different types of tumors, benign and malignant. Benign not a health threat, while malignant has the potential to be dangerous.
Breast cancer is a malignant tumor found in the breast. It usually begins in the milk producing glands called the lobules, or the passages draining milk from the lobules to the nipple. The least common form of breast cancer forms in the connective tissue in the breast.
Here is a diagram from the American Cancer Society Webpage:
Types of Breast Cancer
There are different types of breast cancer that a woman can be diagnosed with, listed below are the most common:
- “Ductal carcinoma in situ" is the most common non-invasive breast cancer, it means that the cancer has begun in the ducts but not have not spread through the walls of the ducts to other tissue in the breast.
- “Invasive (or infiltrating) ductal carcinoma” is the most common form of breast cancer. It starts in the duct, comes through the duct, and grows in the fatty connective tissue, at this point it can spread to other parts of the body.
- Similiar to that is “Invasive (or infiltrating) lobular carcinoma”, which begins in the lobules and can spread to other parts of the body.
I hope that I was able to help you understand breast cancer a little better, I look forward to bringing you more information.
Next time I plan to discuss the risk factors and things you can do to help prevent breast cancer.
If anyone has any information they’d like to share please do so either in the comments or by emailing me.
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