Understanding Breast Cancer

8 Mar

The medical terminology for breast cancer is breast carcinoma and this disease affects one in eight women at some point during their life. Breast cancer has the second highest death rate in the United States for women, with lung cancer ranking at number one.

While no-one has been able to determine why some women get the disease and others don’t. There are certain risk factors that come into play including:

  • Your age – as you get older your chances increase
  • Genes – if your mother had breast or ovarian cancer your risks are higher
  • Early periods – starting your period before the age of 12
  • Late menopause – going through this after the age of 55

Additional things that can put you at risk include being overweight, using birth control pills, drinking alcohol, using hormone replacement therapies and not having a child until after the age of 35.

While everyone has heard of breast cancer what you may not be aware of is that there are different kinds of breast cancer. It depends on where in your breast the cancer starts.

The most common kind of breast cancer is the one that starts in your cells which line your milk ducts. This type of cancer is known as Ductal carcinoma.

Lobular carcinoma is the type that begins in the lobes of the breast, which is the area responsible for making milk. In other words where your milk glands are.

It is possible to get screened for breast cancer and it is recommended that you do so. The most usual way is for a woman to have a mammogram and this is the easiest way for breast cancer to be detected. Depending upon your risk factors you should start having regular mammograms done anywhere from the age of 40 and up. Most woman normally wait until the age of 50 and then get screened every two years.

Your doctor can do a quick exam in their office and check for lumps as well. Plus you should also learn how to do a self breast exam at home. It is normally best to do this in the shower.

Other tests that are sometimes used include performing a breast ultrasound or sometimes an MRI may be required. This is a more detailed scan and the last test is usually a biopsy where tissue or fluid is removed and then tested.

When it comes to treatment for breast cancer you have several choices including:

  • Surgery
  • Hormonal therapy
  • Radiation treatment
  • Biologic therapy

The above procedures are all specialized and performed by different surgeons. So you can easily end up seeing more than one type of surgeon while being treated. Your doctor can help you decide which course of treatment is best for you. He will discuss the procedures along with possible side effects.