Fighting Breast Cancer
Fighting Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is not only a woman's cancer, it also affects the male population. To try to have the best prognosis we all have to aware of the ways to try to catch it in the early stages. Breast cancer has four stages, which we need to understand.
- Stage 1 breast cancer is when the cancer is contained, it has not spread outside the area to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body. This is the stage anyone who gets breast cancer hopes to be in.
- Stage 2 breast cancer is when the cancer has spread outside the area of the breast, it is not contained. This is when it is found in the lymph nodes of the axillary area or the sentinel node of the breast bone area.
- Stage 3 breast cancer has subcategories lllA, lllB, or 111C. This is where the cancer has spread to 9 or more lymph nodes. Women in this stage will require chemotherapy and radiation.
- Stage 4 the cancer has metastasized to the bones, other organs of the body such as the lung and brain. This stage requires chemotherapy and also treatment if it is in the bones.
To try to prevent breast cancer both woman and men have to be aware of their bodies. If while examining ones body and you have a lump that you never felt before, do not put off having it checked. We cannot feel embarrassed to do monthly self breast checks. The best places to do the self exam is in the shower, in front of a mirror or when one lies down. Also as women there are mammograms that everyone needs to remember to have each year. To lessen the pain that women complain of with the mammograms- about half an hour before the exam take Tylenol to help with the pain.
- It is important to know the signs of symptoms of breast cancer. Any change in the breast or nipple should be a bell going off.
- Any nipple discharge, or inverted inward.
- If you feel a lump in breast area or the underarm area.
- If there is a change in the way the breast feels, color, texture or swelling.
Breast cancer can be found in a woman with no family history of breast cancer and it can be heredity. Inherited breast cancer are usually associated with one for 2 genes- BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. The BRCA genes help to help keep breast cells growing normally and prevent cancer. If the genes have the mutation in they do not function as they should and the risk of breast cancer increases. We have Genetic testing available to those who have a history of breast cancer in their family. The testing can make one aware if they carriers of either gene. Women who have the gene are at increased risk of developing Ovarian cancer and men with the gene are at increased risk for Prostate cancer.
Another gene they look for is the HER2 status.Her2 receptors help control how breast cells divide, grow. If the HER2 gene does not work properly it tells gene to make extra cells. If one is HER2 positive this means the cancer tends to grow faster and are more likely to spread.
Hormone receptors are proteins that if positive tells the cells to grow. It is important to test for hormone receptors because it will help the doctor decide what treatment is needed. If the tumor is Hormone receptor negative then homonal therapy is unlikely to work. For Hormone receptor positive results treatments can be Aromatase inhibitors- such as Arimidex or Femara. Estrogen-receptor downregulators (ERDs). - which include Faslodex.
Your doctor will look at all the results then decide the best treatment for the cancer. He looks at the HER2 status, your age, if you are menopausal or not, your health, size of tumor and stage, hormone receptor status and the cell growth rate.
Treatments for breast cancer include Chemotherapy, Radiation, and Surgery. Chemotherapy is used to treat early stage cancer to get rid of cells if any were left from surgery. Also it is used for advanced cancer to try to destroy as many cancer cells as it can. Some cases are seen where Chemotherapy is given prior to surgery.
- Some treatments for breast cancer can make one lose their hair. Women are encouraged if they want a wig to go obtain one before their hair falls out so they can be matched up to their color and style.
- Another side effect is Neuropathy- numbness and tingling in the fingers and toes. If one begins to develop this you need to let your doctor know and also how severe you feel it is.
- Lowering of blood counts. Treatments are tried to be given on schedule, unfortunately sometimes a treatment needs to be delayed do to low blood counts. While the Chemotherapy fights the bed cells, at time it brings the blood cell count down. If the Hemoglobin which is the red blood cells with iron in, gets to low patients may need an injection to help increase the count or a blood transfusion. The white blood cells which fight infection, if they become to low occasionally injections of Neupogen may be given. Patients are also educated to stay away from family members who are sick and about good hand washing
- Some treatments can cause early menopause for woman who have not reached that time yet. This is called Chemotherapy induced menopause which can cause hot flashes, mood swings, trouble sleeping and depression.
It is good for patients to have a support system. Some have family and friends. Other ones choose to involved in a local support group. This can be found at most hospitals. Women find it helpful to talk to others who have gone through what they are experiencing, as they can help them better with the diagnosis of cancer better than they loved ones at time.
After Chemotherapy is finished patients are scheduled for follow ups. It is important to encouraged them to keep these appointments even if they feel well. If there is anything going on your oncologist will be able to catch it early rather than later. You will be monitored and checked every few months with blood counts and cat scans. Breast cancer can be scary but if we all remember to do our monthly self exams and get yearly mammograms we can hopefully catch the cancer before it has had time to spread anywhere else in the body