Why We Should Take More Serious Breast Cancer Essay Example
According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime; moreover, on average, every two minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer and one woman will die of breast cancer every thirteen minutes (National Breast Cancer Foundation, 1994). I chose to do my research on breast cancer to spread awareness of early warning signs, to illuminate the struggle of sufferers, and to confront my own experience with the disease and how it has affected those around me. Knowing it can affect anyone at any time and the harm it does on the individual suffering and the people surrounding them; spreading awareness of breast cancer is important to me. By spreading awareness, we can encourage women to go get screenings regularly. Early detections can lead to more treatment options and a higher chance of survival.
Breast cancer is a disease caused by irregular breast cells that grow repeatedly and uncontrollably. This results in the formation of a tumor. Tumors can either be benign or malignant. If a tumor is benign, then it is not cancerous. If, however, the tumor is malignant, then cancerous material is present. Breast cancer is most commonly formed in the lobule cells. Lobules are the glands that produce breast milk. If breast cancer goes untreated, the cancer could spread to other parts of the body making it even harder to treat. This action is referred to as metastasis. According to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, women who are older and have a higher socioeconomic status tend to have a higher risk of developing breast cancer (Susan G. Komen Foundation, 1982).
There are several possible reasons as to why breast cancer is more prevalent in women of high socioeconomic status more so than women of low socioeconomic status. Women of a higher socioeconomic status are more likely to have children at a later age, use birth control, and drink alcohol, all behaviors which have been linked to the development of cancer. Cancer cells can gradually take over breast tissue and eventually take control over lymph nodes under the arms. According to the Breast Cancer Organization, cancer cells that invade lymph nodes can also invade other parts of the body with easy, a process which is extremely dangerous (Breast Cancer Organization). Breast cancer can also be caused by irregular genetics. Most forms of breast cancer are caused by genetic irregularities brought upon by aging, rather than inheriting abnormalities from the parents.
There are various warning signs of breast cancer. Three of the most common ones include; the breast looks different or feels different as in size and shape, changing in shape and color of the nipple, or nipple discharge. Although these are the most common signs, it doesn’t mean they are the only ones to look out for. Some breasts may swell or get red and dark. Other indicators are lumps, knots, or thickening in the breast area or even under the armpits. It is natural for breasts to have somewhat of a lumpy texture, which can cause confuse and alarm when checking for the telltale signs of the disease.
An important aspect to feel for while doing a self-examination on oneself is a hard lump that doesn’t feel like any other part of the breast area. Nipple discharge tends to come out without compressing the nipple, and it often only comes out of one breast. Some women may also experience pain in the breast or nipple, however, most lumps do not cause any pain. Those who do experience pain will feel itching, burning, or ulceration. Knowing the signs and symptoms ahead of time can make it easier to treat in the event that you are diagnosed.
Breast screenings can be unnerving and it’s normal to feel nervous before going into one. Many women fear the possible outcomes and what exactly might happen during their mammogram. “A mammogram is an x-ray picture of the breast” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1946). During a mammogram, the woman is required to stand in front of the x-ray machine. The technician will place the breast on a clear plate made of plastic. Another plate from above presses on the breast to help flatten it. The plates will also press on the breasts from the sides in order to capture an entire picture.
This examination is often uncomfortable and painful, however this is not the case with all women, with some feeling little to no negative sensation. Results should only take about 30 days to get back to the patient. However, some patients might get called back within five days if the doctor notices anything suspicious. This call back is not to be confused with a confirmation or diagnosis of breast cancer. The doctor may just want to take new pictures to correct mistakes made in the initial examination, or to obtain a second, more through look.
The progression of breast cancer has various stages, as well as two main categories; invasive and non-invasive. Non-invasive refers to the cancer being stationary in the ducts or lobules. Invasive, on the other hand, spreads outside of these two areas. Health professionals use stages for “describing how far a cancer has advanced and where it has spread in the body” (Everyday Health, 1996). Stage I of breast cancer contains two other breakdowns; stage IA and stage IB. In stage IA the cancer cells are smaller than 2cm and haven’t spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body. In stage IB, the cancer cells are slightly bigger. They appear in clumps and sit inside the lymph nodes. In both cases, sometimes a tumor isn’t even present.
The second stage of breast cancer breaks down into two subcategories as well; IIA, and IIB. During stage IIA, the cancer has spread from 1 to 3 lymph nodes under the arm. Again, a tumor is not always present. When looking at stage IIB in a screening, one will most likely observe a tumor that ranges from 2 to 5 centimeters. Cancer will also appear in 1 to 3 axillary lymph nodes near the breast. As the stages progress, they become more serious. When an individual is in stage III, they will be in one of three subcategories including; IIIA, IIIB, or IIIC. Stage IIIA shows that the tumor could be any size at this point. The cancer has also spread from 4 to 9 lymph nodes closer to the breastbone.
The tumor in this stage is usually larger than 5 centimeters, forming clumps of breast cells in the lymph nodes. During stage IIIB of breast cancer, the tumor reaches the skin of the individual’s breast or chest wall. About 9 lymph nodes might appear under the arms or near the breastbone. Stage IIIC experiences can differ vastly. For example, lymph nodes above or below the collarbone, or the axillary bones may contain the cancer. Furthermore, 10 or more lymph nodes will be touched by the cancer. Stage IV is the highest and most severe stage of breast cancer.
During this stage, the “cancer has spread beyond the breast and lymph nodes to other areas in the body” (Everyday Health, 1996). There is currently no cure Stage IV breast cancer, however, there are numerous therapy options that can help the individual live their life to the fullest. According to Everyday Health, “more than 154,000 women are estimated to be living with stage IV breast cancer right now.” Although breast cancer can be daunting, rates of survival have been increasing over the past decade.
Tumor grades are especially important to consider while reviewing a breast screening. Tumor grades help determine how abnormal the cancer cells are. In grade one, the cells inside the tumor usually look normal and spread at a slow rate. Much like stage IV, grade three cells are the most dangerous of the cells. These cells grow extremely fast and are very abnormal. Grade two cells tend to fall in between grades one and three. Both tumor grades and the stages are crucial factors in determining the outcomes for the individual. Furthermore, another key aspect in determining an individual’s prognosis is the type of cancer they have. The most common type of breast cancer is Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. This type of cancer generally affects around 80% of those who are diagnosed (Everyday Health, 1996). Invasive Ductal Carcinoma begins in the ducts of the breast, and eventually grows more rapidly; as it spreads to surrounding tissues, making it an invasive type of cancer.
Treatment options vary among different individuals. Often times, more than one treatment option is needed. The two most common types of treatment are radiation and chemotherapy. The radiation is similar to that of an X-Ray machine. This type of treatment involves high doses of radiation. The radiation helps to kill off cancer cells and shrink the tumors. One of the most well-known treatments; chemotherapy, works throughout the entire body. Chemotherapy involves the use of medicine to kill and shrink the tumors. The most common form of chemotherapy is administered through the veins.
However, pills could also be taken. After receiving chemotherapy, it is normal to experience nausea and vomiting. Hair loss is also a common side effect of chemotherapy treatments. The physical toll of chemotherapy has a mental health cost as well, leading to body issues and even depression. It is important for those undergoing chemotherapy to be reassured that once they beat the disease, their hair will grow back. The type of cancer one has and the severity of the cancer are both key factors in determining in how long the chemotherapy treatments are required.
Most of the drugs administered during chemo treatment causes your body to weaken. Therefore, it is harder to fight off infections. It is important to keep away from those who are sick while undergoing chemotherapy. Chemotherapy can last for a few minutes to a few hours depending on how much you need. Often times, the individual will receive treatments in a hospital or an infusion center. It is also possible for the treatments to be administered in one’s home, however this is an uncommon practice.
Although it is not commonly heard or talked about, men can and do develop breast cancer. Men have a very small amount of breast tissue; making the risk of developing breast cancer slightly decrease, but not by much. The main reason men have a lower risk of developing breast cancer is due to the fact that they have low levels of female hormones and very few lobules. According to the American Cancer Society, there are ten main risk factors for breast cancer in men. These include; aging, family history, inherited gene mutations, Klinefelter disease, radiation exposure, alcohol, liver disease, estrogen treatment, obesity, and testicular conditions (American Cancer Society, 1913).
Men who experience a defect in the BRCA2 gene have about a 6 in 100 chance of developing breast cancer. Klinefelter syndrome refers to males having more than one X chromosome at birth. Those who suffer from Klinefelter syndrome also have small testicles, resulting in infertility and more estrogen. Due to the increase in estrogen, the risk for breast cancer increases as well. “Since the cause of most breast cancers is not known, there is no known way to prevent them” (American Cancer Society, 1913). However, there are key steps that can be taken to keep men healthy. These include; maintaining an ideal weight, restricting alcohol consumption, having screenings in order to find early detections, and having quick treatment options. It is extremely important for men to get genetic testing if they believe there is a possibility of a genetic mutation.
There are numerous differences between breast cancer in men and women when it comes to detecting it early. Due to the small amount of breast tissue in men, it is much easier to feel for lumps and other abnormalities in the tissue. Despite having little breast tissue, breast cancer in men can actually spread easier because they don’t need to grow far in order to reach the nipple, muscles under the breast, and the skin that covers the breast. Determining how far the cancer has spread can help with the prognosis of the disease. Another key difference between breast cancer in men and women is the awareness. Many men lack awareness because it is so rare for them to develop this cancer type and many men don’t believe they are actually able to develop the disease. Many males tend to disregard breast lumps.
This can prolong the diagnosis and minimize the chances and successes for treatment. There is a negative cultural stigma surrounding the relationship between men and breast cancer. It is common for men to be embarrassed when finding a lump in their breast due to the impact this may have on the perception of their masculinity. Aside, from the differences in breast cancer between men and women, there are also some similarities. Signs and symptoms of breast cancer in men are very close to those in women. Symptoms include; a usually painless lump, skin dimpling, nipple retraction, redness and scaling of the nipple or breast, or discharge from the nipple. In order to test for breast cancer in men, mammograms may also be used.
Some other tests men may undergo are; breast ultrasounds, nipple discharge tests, and a breast biopsy. Breast ultrasounds are quite similar to mammograms besides the fact that they do not produce radiation. They are also able to look at abnormal changes found in mammograms. Nipple tests require a collection of the fluid emerging from the nipple, however, this test is not always helpful in detecting breast cancer. A breast biopsy is the main test to determine whether or not one may have cancer. Cells are observed from an area of the breast to see if cancer cells are present.
Breast cancer in men can be classified in multiple ways. They can either be classified from a biopsy or surgery. “Breast cancer is given a type, based on the type of cells it started from; a grade, based on how the cells look and how quickly they grow; and other classifications based on the results of tests for different hormone receptors or genes in the cancer cells” (American Cancer Society, 1913). There are also different tests that help classify breast cancer. These tests include both estrogen receptor (ER) and progesterone receptor (PR) testing.
Checking for these receptors is important for the treatment of one’s cancer. If these receptors attach to hormones, the cancer could end up spreading and growing, resulting in a more severe stage. The other test often used is called the HER2/neu status. Cancer cells that contain too much of HER2 protein usually grow and spread rapidly. The treatment options for men diagnosed with breast cancer can vary. Drugs can be used which are taken by mouth or they can be put directly into the bloodstream. A more common type of treatment is the usual chemotherapy. Chemo is typically given in cycles. The American Cancer Society states, “chemo begins on the first day of each cycle, but the schedule varies depending on the drugs used” (American Cancer Society, 1913). Some possible side effects of chemotherapy include; hair loss, mouth sores, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, and low blood cell counts. Other forms of treatment that can be beneficial to men are hormone therapy and targeted therapy.
According to Oncology Times, “both transgender men and transgender women had an increased risk in breast cancer compared with a male, but not a female, reference population” (Oncology Times, 2015). Unfortunately, many transgender people do not receive regular screenings for breast cancer. It is common for transgender people to not receive the same proper care that others may receive. This can be due to the stigma surrounding transgender people, discrimination, or a lack of knowledge among medical professionals when trying to help transgender people with their recovery. Often times, transgender individuals who transition from a man to a woman, tend to receive an increase in their estrogen levels.
An increase in estrogen can result in an increased risk of breast cancer development in the individual because of the increase in breast tissue; therefore, it is important to keep this is mind when undergoing this decision. As stated by Applied Radiology, it was recommended that “radiology departments and imaging centers modify their intake forms to allow patients to identify themselves as transgender, to note their preferred gender, and to make it easy to provide hormonal and surgical history relevant to radiological interpretation” (Applied Radiology, 2018). It is also believed that transgender women who receive hormone treatments for a prolonged period of time should be tested regularly because this can cause in increased risk of breast cancer development.
It may not be something that is discussed very often, however, race and ethnicity can play a big role in the development and severity of breast cancer. As stated by the Breast Cancer Organization, “white women are slightly more likely to develop breast cancer than African American, Hispanic, and Asian women” (Breast Cancer Organization, 2019). On the other hand, African American women are more at risk of developing more aggressive and higher staged breast cancer than white women. They are also more likely to die as a result of breast cancer.
A likely cause of these differences in outcomes could be “due to less access to mammography and lower quality medical care, as well as various lifestyle patterns (eating habits and weight issues for example) that are more common in some ethnic groups than others” (Breast Cancer Organization, 2019). These differences in lifestyle patterns can be improved. For example, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, and limiting alcohol are just some of the many choices you can take to help protect yourself. Nevertheless, severe and aggressive breast cancer such as; triple-negative, is extremely common in African American women. There are various new treatments being studied for triple-negative breast cancer.
Unfortunately, African American women are diminished in clinical trials and possess less access to many of the future therapies being studied. You can’t change your ethnicity, but you can work on getting better quality healthcare, as well as better access to “early detection tools” (Breast Cancer Organization, 2019). Even though African American women are at such a high risk for developing aggressive cancer, this doesn’t mean we should lose hope. In fact, there are many breast cancer support groups in various towns. Attending these support groups can be helpful in finding doctors. There is also the option of going to your local hospital to see if they offer low-cost mammograms. Although it may be a tough situation, there are some positive factors to look at.
Surprisingly, due to an early onset of menstruation in women, the risk of breast cancer increases. Many women had their first period at the age of 12 of even younger. Starting puberty at a younger age causes breast development. Sometimes, breast development even occurs before the onset of a females first menstrual period. This can be issue because “the earlier your breasts form, the sooner they’re ready to interact with hormones inside and outside your body, as well as with chemicals in products that are hormone disruptors” (Breast Cancer Organization, 2019). A longer interaction with hormones and hormone disrupters actually increase the risk of developing breast cancer. In fact, when females begin menstruating at a young age, “the time between breast development and a first full-term pregnancy is usually longer than when menstruation happens later” (Breast Cancer Organization, 2019). Interestingly, breast tissue during this time tends to be immature, overactive, and sensitive to hormones.
As I conclude my research paper, I have come to the realization that breast cancer is way more complex than people actually think it is. I am a true example of this myself. When I would hear about someone being diagnosed with breast cancer, I automatically assumed it was just a tumor found in a woman’s breast. I never knew how far in depth it truly went. It is an extremely complicated disease, with various stages and factors that play into the progression and severity of it. Even though I knew that men could develop breast cancer, I never knew the extent and severity of it. It was shocking to me that men are encouraged to also perform self-examinations on themselves. There doesn’t seem to be much awareness for breast cancer in men and I think that needs to change.