October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Other than skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer amongst American women. Each year, about 255,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer and 42,000 die from the disease. Most breast cancer is found in women over the age of 50, but it can affect younger women as well.
There are many different symptoms of breast cancer, and some may not have any symptoms at all. Symptoms may include:
- A lump in the breast or under the armpit (lymph node)
- Thickening or swelling in part of the breast
- Irritation or dimpling breast skin
- Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area of the breast
- Any change in size or shape to the breast
- Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood
- Pain in the breast area
Although these are the most common symptoms of breast cancer, these symptoms can occur with conditions other than breast cancer. It is always best to consult your doctor right away if you have any symptoms that worry you.
Breast cancer is treated in multiple ways depending on the kind of breast cancer you have and how far it has spread. People with breast cancer usually undergo more than one type of treatment.
- Mastectomy: The removal of the whole breast
- Surgery: During surgery, doctors can cut out the cancer tissue.
- Chemotherapy: This is the use of special medicines to shrink or kill the cancer cells. The drugs can be pills you take orally or medicines given intravenously (sometimes both).
- Hormonal therapy: Blocks cancer cells from getting the hormones they need to grow
- Biological therapy: This works with your body’s immune system to help fight cancer cells or to control side effects from other cancer treatments.
- Radiation therapy: Uses high-energy rays (similar to X-rays) to kill the cancer cells
Foundations and Research
There are many foundations today that help support those with breast cancer and their families, as well as educate people on the signs of breast cancer. Some include the Susan G. Koeman Foundation, Breast Cancer Research Foundation, American Cancer Society and many more. The success of these foundations has made funding possible for scientific research on breast cancer. October is a month to recognize the survivors, their families, those who have passed, while continuing to fight this horrible disease. Together, we can help the fight against breast cancer!