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October Is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Baylor Scott & White MedProvider offers adult patients a comforting environment and quality medical care for their chronic medical concerns. Our management assistance for acute diseases like cancer and diabetes helps patients achieve and maintain their quality of life.


Except for skin cancers, breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women.1 Characterized by the uncontrolled growth of breast cells, breast cancer really begins in the genes because our genes are responsible for regulating cell growth and maintaining their health. When the cell process is healthy, old cells are replaced by healthy cells when needed.

However, when mutations occur, certain genes in cells are turned on while others are turned off. These cell changes allow the cell to divide constantly instead of only when a cell dies. Not only that, but any unhealthy aspects of a cell, when allowed to multiply, will cause several cells with the same unhealthy aspects to be created. When this happens, a tumor is formed.

Although many tumors can be benign, breast cancer is the diagnosis when a tumor has become malignant due to the uncontrolled and abnormal development of unhealthy breast cells.

Breast Cancer, Family History, and Other Causes

It is estimated that from 5 to 10 percent of all breast cancers are linked to gene mutations passed through family. Having a strong family history of breast cancer or other cancers can increase the possibility of developing the disease.

Tests are available which can help with preventative care by identifying the presence of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes that can significantly increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancer development.


Who else is at high risk for getting breast cancer? Both men and women can develop the disease, but women are far more likely to get breast cancer than men. Older women are at higher risk, as are those who have already had the disease in one breast.

A woman whose daughter, sister, or mother was diagnosed with breast cancer has an increased risk, especially if the diagnosis occurred at a young age. However, there are also many breast cancer patients who have no family history of the disease.

What Are the Symptoms of Breast Cancer?

Although there are many symptoms of breast cancer which are not visible and, therefore, require medical screening, there are also symptoms which can be caught early when you know what to look for.

None of these signs and symptoms should ever be considered to be a definitive sign of cancer. However, they do represent unusual developments that warrant a doctor’s visit.

Changes in the Breast and Nipple

There are several changes that can occur in the breast and nipple which can signal a change in the way that breast cells are developing.

A lump near the breast or in the underarm area is one sign of possible changes in cell development. These changes may also manifest themselves as a thickening of the skin in these areas.

Another way to achieve early detection and protect from breast cancer is to monitor skin texture changes, as well as any enlargement of the pores on the breasts, which are also signs of possible changes in the cells.

Other visible signs of possible cell changes include:

  • Shrinkage or swelling of the breast on one side
  • Dimpling of the skin anywhere on the breast
  • Inverting of the nipple, or the turning of the nipple slightly inward
  • Other unexplained changes in the breast’s shape or size
  • Bloody or clear discharge from the nipples

What Are Common Medical Options for Screening for Breast Cancer?

There are several options available for breast cancer screening. The best choice for one individual may not be the best for another. The decision to have any screening procedure is a personal one that only the patient can make via fully informing himself or herself independently and with the help of his or her doctor.

Mammogram

Mammograms are a well-known option for breast cancer screening. The mammogram is an x-ray of the breast tissue and is capable of revealing lumps in the breast before they are able to be seen or felt.

Mammograms are still recommended as a valuable tool in breast cancer screening and diagnosis by the National Breast Cancer Foundation, which advises women over 40 to have the test every 1 or 2 years.2


Ultrasound

An ultrasound can reveal more about reasons for changes in the breast and need for preventative medicine, such as the thickening of skin, because it is able to show the difference between a solid mass of tissue and a fluid-filled cyst. The ultrasound sends out sound waves and records the echoes received when sound waves bounce off tissues. The echoes are then converted to visible images.

Ultrasounds do not use radiation and are painless. The accuracy of an ultrasound depends both on the skills and experience of the technician conducting the scan, as well as the skill and experience of the doctor responsible for interpreting the images.

Are There Other Screening Alternatives?

Yes. There are several newer tests being studied for breast imaging. These include optical imaging, molecular breast imaging, and electrical impedance imaging. However, because they are still in the early stages of research, it will take some time before their effectiveness is known.

Several hormones that play a part in overall breast health have been discovered. These hormones include estriol, estrone, and estradiol. All of these estrogens can be tested for via a saliva test. The test will provide an “estrogen quotient” which reveals any imbalance in these hormones. There are also other tests which check the levels of other hormones, such as DHEA and cortisol.

The 25-hydroxy D test will reveal any deficiencies in vitamin D. Deficiencies in vitamin D have alerted clinical researchers, who continue to study the vitamin’s role in the prevention and development of breast and other cancers. The test must be requested, and it is one that most doctors doing chronic disease management can easily administer.

Reducing Breast Cancer Risk

Many wonder if there is a way to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. Although none of these options is guaranteed to prevent the development of any cancer, they can go a long way toward reducing the likelihood of certain conditions developing in the body which can contribute to cancer development, such as inflammation and acidification.

Healthy Weight

Getting to and maintaining a healthy weight is key, as being obese can increase breast cancer risk. Obesity is a form of inflammation which can be combatted with dietary changes and exercise.

Diet

A diet free of processed sugar and unhealthy fats can go a long way toward preventing all disease, including cancer. Seek out natural sugars and healthy fats like those found in fish oil and avocados. Avoid processed and fast foods. There are many healthy replacements for processed foods; discussing your options with a dietitian can help take the mystery out of healthy eating.

Alcohol Intake

The consumption of alcohol may increase breast cancer risk, as it is suspected to alter the way in which the body metabolizes estrogen, the hormone which may fuel many types of breast cancer.

Supporting Awareness

Breast cancer awareness is most commonly linked with the color pink and the month of October. Seen on hundreds of products, the pink ribbon symbolizes health and hope. However, many are warning that when purchasing these products, you must take caution and ensure that the majority of the money you spend goes to primary prevention of breast cancer and research.

The pink ribbon campaign is just one of many ways to raise awareness; there are several organizations in existence which support cancer prevention and research, such as the Breast Cancer Consortium, Breast Cancer Fund, and Silent Spring Institute.


There are also many ways to contribute to the awareness of breast and other cancers and to lend support. For example, breast cancer resource centers in your area may be looking for volunteers to assist cancer patients who are undergoing treatment. You may also be able to donate your time in other ways, all year round.

When it comes to breast and other cancers, the most important weapon that any individual can have is knowledge. Informing yourself about various prevention, screening, and treatment options will allow you to choose what you feel is healthiest for you.

Baylor Scott & White MedProvider provides patients with the tools they need for the prevention of acute disease, as well as tools for acute and chronic disease management. Learn more about the benefits of primary treatment and management of disease with Baylor Scott & White MedProvider by calling 469-701-9075.

Sources

  1. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/about/how-common-is-breast-cancer.html
  2. http://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/mammogram