Breast cancer affects almost 400,000 women in the United States.
Pink ribbons and walkathons raise awareness, but still many facts about breast cancer are not generally known. For instance, breast cancer is not strictly a women’s disease as it also affects men. Breast cancer is also not just one disease, but many.
Breast cancer is broadly defined as a malignant tumor of the breast tissue, but it can take many forms. Each type is defined by its’ pathology, or how it appears under a microscope. The type of treatment a patient receives depends upon which form of the cancer has been identified. A patient can be diagnosed with ductal cancer, lobular cancer, inflammatory breast cancer, Paget disease of the nipple or angiosarcoma, among others. Treatments can include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, targeted and bone directed therapy. A variety of medications may also be prescribed, depending upon both the type of breast cancer and the treatment.
Patients diagnosed with breast cancer often need palliative care as well. Diagnosis and treatment take a mental, emotional and physical toll on the patient, family members and caregivers. Palliative care provides an “extra layer” of support for patient and family and improves the quality of daily life while the patient is seeking curative treatment.
Anytime a person discovers an abnormality of the breast, they should consult a medical professional. These abnormalities may include one or more of the following: a change in how a breast or nipple feels, Unusual tenderness, a lump, thickening in or near a breast, a change in appearance, such as swelling, shrinkage or a change in color or texture, and any nipple discharge, particularly clear or bloody.
Doing a simple self-examination once a month can do a lot to catch any abnormalities early and improve future outcomes.