October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and the perfect time to learn more about this disease that affects so many women and men throughout the world. What is Breast Cancer?
Cancer is a group of diseases that cause cells in the body to change and spread out of control. Most types of cancer cells eventually form a lump or mass called a tumor, and are named after the part of the body where the tumor originates. Most breast cancers begin either in the breast tissue made up of glands for milk production, called lobules, or in the ducts that connect the lobules to the nipple. The remainder of the breast is made up of fatty, connective, and lymphatic tissues. What are the Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer?Breast cancer typically produces no symptoms when the tumor is small and most easily treated, which is why screening is important for early detection. The most common physical sign is a painless lump. Sometimes breast cancer spreads to underarm lymph nodes and causes a lump or swelling, even before the original breast tumor is large enough to be felt. Less common signs and symptoms include breast pain or heaviness; persistent changes, such as swelling, thickening, or redness of the skin; and nipple abnormalities such as spontaneous discharge (especially if bloody), erosion, or retraction. Any persistent change in the breast should be evaluated by a physician as soon as possible. How is Breast Cancer Diagnosed?
Breast cancer is typically detected either during a screening examination, before symptoms have developed, or after a woman notices a lump. Most masses seen on a mammogram and most breast lumps turn out to be benign (not cancerous), do not grow uncontrollably or spread, and are not life-threatening. When cancer is suspected, microscopic analysis of breast tissue is necessary for a diagnosis and to determine the extent of spread (stage) and characterize the type of the disease. The tissue for microscopic analysis can be obtained from a needle biopsy (fine-needle or wider core needle) or surgical incision. Selection of the type of biopsy is based on multiple factors, including the size and location of the mass, as well as patient factors and preferences and resources. Prevention, Early Detection & Treatment
The American Cancer Society is doing everything in our power to help prevent breast cancer – and all cancers. We promote healthy lifestyles by issuing cancer guidelines for prevention and early detection, helping people avoid tobacco, and reducing barriers to healthy eating and exercise. For those who are diagnosed, we’re there every minute of every day. For More Information, Anytime
The American Cancer Society is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week online at cancer.org and by calling 1-800- 227-2345. Callers relate to caring, trained American Cancer Society staff who can help them locate a hospital, understand breast cancer and treatment options, learn what to expect and how to plan, address insurance concerns, find financial resources, find a local support group, and more. We can also help people who speak languages other than English or Spanish find the assistance they need, offering services in more than 200 languages. People can visit cancer.org/breastcancer to find information on every aspect of the breast cancer experience, from prevention to survivorship. We also publish a wide variety of pamphlets and books that cover a multitude of topics, from patient education, quality-of-life and caregiving issues to healthy living.
This is an ongoing series of columns dedicated to informing the Marco Island community about the American Cancer Society, the nationwide community-based voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health concern by preventing cancer, saving lives, and diminishing suffering from cancer, through research, education, advocacy, and service. The Marco Island American Cancer Society office is located at 583 Tallwood St., Suite 101 and is open daily from 9 AM-5 PM. For more information about volunteering or any of the events mentioned in this column please contact Sue Olszak or Lisa Honig at 239-642- 8800 ext. 3890.