Breast Cancer: Women’s Health Care Breast Cancer awareness and breast cancer symptoms:
What is Cancer:
Cancer is a condition caused by malformed cells that have grown into solid lumps or tumors, which destroy normal tissues. Resulting in pain and hemorrhage and also interrupting the normal functions of the tissues. Many scientists believe that cancer clones occur all over the body but are mopped up by good defense mechanisms before they cause disease.
There is increasing interest not only in the lethal effects of smoking but also in other environmental hazards such as asbestos and contamination of foodstuffs by insecticides used to spray crops. However, because of good sanitary hygiene and clean water we are not at risk for certain diseases like hepatitis which causes liver cancer and early death in many developing countries.
Breast Cancer: with lung cancer fast catching up – is one of the major causes of death in women The figures, however, do show a slight improvement in the last couple of years, with 12,672 deaths from breast cancer recorded in the United Kingdom in 1983 compared to 13,980 deaths in 1981.
With early detection and treatment, the chances of recovering from the disease are good.
THE LANGUAGE OF CANCER
|The following terms and expressions are used in connection with cancer and breast cancer in particular.
The removal of a small amount of tissue for laboratory examination.
A sample of the tissue removed for biopsy is frozen and placed under a microscope while you are under anesthetic.
If malignant cells are detected, the cancerous tissue is then removed.
It is not always accurate so never consent to have an immediate mastectomy if the frozen section appears to show malignancy.
Fine needle aspiration: A needle is inserted into the breast to withdraw fluid for examination; a needle biopsy is a similar procedure. This procedure takes place without an anesthetic.
An open biopsy in which a semi-curved incision – usually between one and three inches – is made following the contours of the breast (so that it will heal well) and the suspect lump is removed for examination. This procedure may be combined with
|the removal of lymph nodes from the armpit.
The surgical removal of a breast. If the cancer is found in good time a very small amount of the breast may be removed rather than the whole breast.
The affected breast tissue is removed plus some of the tissues in the armpit; a check is then made of how many lymph nodes (glands under the arm) are affected.
In this operation, approximately half of the breast is removed.
In some areas, mastectomy is the only known technique for dealing with breast cancer, but an increasing number of patients (80 percent in New York and 20 percent in London) are now being offered other treatments.
If you wish to pursue a different line of treatment you should visit an Oncologist, a doctor who specializes in cancer.
He or she will be able to discuss with you the advantages and disadvantages of the following which may be used in combination with surgery or on their own depending on the case:
Radioactive rays are directed at the affected area. Side-effects can include burning of the skin and scarring; some women object to the permanent purple dye used to mark the ‘fields’ (target areas) of the radiation. There may also be nausea, fatigue, lethargy, and depression.
Treatment with very powerful drugs that can produce similar side effects to radiotherapy. Also, there may be hair loss or baldness.
This may be offered in addition to radiation and chemotherapy; depending on the individual it may be used on its own.
Side effects (apart from nausea) are fewer; some women have no side effects at all.
The way forward?
The current work on personality and caner survival does indicate that calm and resolute patients who understand their illness have a longer life expectancy than those who try to deny it or feel sorry for them.
The keynote sentiment for both patients and doctors is one of cautious optimism with open, friendly discussions about each stage of diagnosis and treatment.
The Breast Cancer Examination:
Breast cancer symptoms: The most important reason for examining your own body regularly is that by doing so you become thoroughly familiar with what is normal for you. Women’s breasts – and women’s bodies too – come in all shapes, sizes, and textures, but once you are familiar with your own ‘normal’ body, you will quickly notice if any irregularity occurs and can seek medical advice.
The best way to learn how to examine your breasts for any suspicious lumps is to be shown by someone who has been expertly taught. Every doctor who is interested in prevention can instruct you on how to examine your breasts, but if you prefer not to go to your doctor, do visit a women’s clinic or one of the early diagnostic centers.
eTech Breast Cancer Awareness Guide:
When to Examine your Breast:
The best time to examine your breasts is when you are in a shower, a bath, or on a warm bed when you are most likely to be completely relaxed. Many of the instruction leaflets also suggest that you carry out this examination after your period because some of the tenderness and swelling which usually occurs towards the end of the cycle due to fluid retention will then not obscure any other bodily changes.
However, one of the drawbacks of teaching women to do it after their period every month is that when they stop having periods – either because they are past menopause, have had a hysterectomy, or are in a period of stress – they forget to continue to examine their breasts. It is vital to examine your breasts monthly, regardless of age, and it is a good idea to do it at different times in your cycle.
One very good way of organizing this is to examine yourself on the first of every month so that you know exactly when you last examined your breasts, and it will become a regular habit. It will also mean that you carry out this health check at many different times during your menstrual cycle, whether this is every 25, 28, 30 days, or whatever.
Causes of Breast Cancer and Breast Cancer Risk Factors:
During this century there has been much debate about, and research into, what can be the causes of breast cancer? Even in the 19th century, it was known that women who had never had children were rather more likely to have breast cancer than those who had had a family. Breast Cancer Symptoms: But other factors appear to increase the risk of breast cancer:
- It increases with age.
- If your mother or other female blood relative has, or had, breast cancer the likelihood is increased.
- If you have or have had, any other form of cancer yourself, whether breast cancer, womb cancer, or ovary cancer, then that too is sometimes said to make your chances of developing breast cancer somewhat higher.
- If several members of your family have had different forms of cancer, then it is wise to be diligent about all the things that you can do to protect yourself and breast self-examination is certainly one of them.
- Women who have had many chest X-rays as a child, or have had radiation therapy on the chest wall (although not many women have this now) are at increased risk of breast cancer.
- If you have had multiple biopsies so that you have a lot of scar tissue in the breast, or if you tend to have multiple large cysts, this again may be an increased risk factor.
Apart from all the above factors, there is an increased interest in the amount of fat in our diet. Many authorities consider that maintaining a stable, normal weight, and eating a diet relatively low in animal fats and high in fresh fruits, fresh vegetables and cereals may decrease your chances of developing breast cancer.
It has been noted that many women who have had their babies early – and certainly those who have breastfed for a long time – seem to be much less at risk than women who have had their children late and did not breastfeed.
The current controversy over whether or not the taking of oral contraceptives increases the likelihood of breast cancer is still an open question.
The actual effects of oral contraceptives are complicated by the fact that women who have been taking them for a long time tend also to be those who defer their families until later. And it will be some time yet before the specialists can be clear about whether or not oral contraceptives can increase the risk of breast cancer.
At the moment, the majority of studies have produced very little evidence that oral contraceptives cause an increase in breast cancer, and in some studies, they seem to have an ameliorating effect not only on breast cancer but on other breast disorders.
Side effects of Breast Surgery:
The side effects are different for each woman. After a mastectomy, the sensation is very common as though the breast is still there. Indeed the feeling may be so strong that you feel compelled to touch the breast – only to realize, of course, that it has gone.
This curious feeling, called causalgia, or phantom pain, is due to the disturbance at the nerve endings where they have been cut during surgery.
Getting used to being without a breast takes some time; if you have a very heavy bosom, you will feel particularly lopsided and uneven. It is therefore essential for each woman to consider what she can do for herself and be aware of what help she can obtain to return to normal as quickly as she possibly can.
Physiotherapy can minimize the effects of muscle loss on the ability to breathe efficiently or move the arm. These exercises usually begin about five days after surgery and are designed to strengthen the muscle of the arm.
That will do the job of the pectoral which has been removed; they also play an important part in stimulating the circulation of blood and lymph through the wound, therefore promoting healing.
Prosthesis (a realistically-shaped artificial breast) can be fitted. Usually, it is made of silicon, but a variety of prostheses are now available and the option will be discussed with you. The prosthesis of your choice can then be fitted to match your other breast. Worn inside your bra, it is completely undetectable when you are dressed.
If the cancerous growth was slight, but a total mastectomy was carried out, some surgeons are now prepared to leave sufficient skin for a silicone prosthesis to be fitted underneath, although this is usually not implanted until sometime after the initial surgery.
If beforehand you feel that breast removal would be a particularly traumatic experience for you, it is well worth checking with your surgeon about the possibility of reconstruction – but the time to discuss this is before the surgery is carried out.
A flexible breast-shaped sac filled with silicon get or saltwater is inserted between the skin and the rib cage. Surgeons have achieved excellent results by doing an internal breast implant and can produce nipples by utilizing a small part of the labia.
Learning to Adjust:
Most women go through depression and anxiety after breast surgery. And a few weeping sessions can help you through the inevitable period of adjustment, so don’t struggle to suppress them. They are normal and to be expected.
But if your experience of depression is severe, you can contact the Mastectomy Association in London. Their members, who have had mastectomies, have learned to come to terms with the fact and are leading well-adjusted, normal lives. They will visit you in the hospital or at home and be very supportive and reassuring.
The hospital social worker or welfare officer can also organize home help or visits from a health visitor to tide you over the first weeks at home.
Try not to anticipate your partner’s reaction to your changed body. Many men adjust more quickly than you would imagine. And many are only relieved that the operation has saved their life.
To summarize: all of us are at risk just by being female and having breasts. Therefore all of us, whether or not we are doctors or Olympic swimmers, must learn to examine ourselves diligently once a month. So that this becomes a lifetime habit, just like cleaning your teeth.
If every woman, from teenager to octogenarian, practiced self-examination, then with any luck every cancer could be diagnosed early enough to allow alternatives to surgery to be considered. This practice of ‘self-screening’ would also be a considerably cost-effective and care-effective change in terms of how we think about breast cancer in the Western World.
Where and How to Examine Your Breasts:
Start by placing the hand opposite to the breast you are examining high up in the armpit of one breast, where you will find a hollow space.
Then, slowly bring your fingers down, gently but firmly along the edges of the breast tissue. Breasts often feel quite stringy in what is called the auxiliary tail, but if you do this every month you will recognize what is normal for you.
Next, use the flat of your hand to push each part of the breast against the rib cage.
Repeat the action with your fingertips and you will be able to detect any alterations in the actual texture or shape of the tissues. Most women’s breasts are symmetrical, but with one slightly larger than the other. To make lumps easier to feel, stretch the breast tissue by extending the arm you are not using behind your head.
About 40 percent of women have chronic lumpy breasts – that is, cystic swellings or bumpy areas called fibro-adenosis.
These women need to know which bumps are ‘normal’ (and therefore harmless) for them, and which they should keep a watchful eye on. This can only be done by self-check-ups.
Another good way to examine your breast is to look in the mirror while you put on your bra. As you bend slightly forward to put it on, look in the mirror, and observe whether the nipples are reasonably symmetrical or whether there is any dimpling or change.
Then, having fastened your bra, place your hand inside the cup so that you can gently lift your breast so that it fits neatly into the bra cup. In so doing again you can feel for any irregularity. Incidentally, your bra should always be a perfect fit, without wiring or shaping.