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October Is Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Here Are Important Things You Need To Know
The Breast Cancer Awareness Month, marked in countries across the world every year for the full month of October. The awareness months helps to increase attention and support for not only the awareness, but early detection and treatment of this disease. There are many important things you need to know about breast cancer and early detection.
Sadly, there are approximately 458,000 deaths from breast cancer each year with Breast Cancer being the most common cancer in women worldwide.
You will be glad to hear that death rates from breast cancer have decreased over time because of heightened awareness. More women are opting for screenings and annual mammograms.
As there is still not enough information and knowledge on the causes of breast cancer, early detection remains the best way to keep breast cancer under control and surviving it.
When breast cancer is detected early, there is a good chance that it can be cured. Most times, if detected late, treatment is often no longer an option.
According to breastcancer.org, as of January 2018, there are over 3.1 million women with a history of breast cancer in the U.S.
This includes women being treated and women who have finished treatment.
Breast cancer is the most occurring cancer in women and the second most common cancer overall.
Over here in Europe, Belgium had the highest rate of breast cancer in women, followed by Luxembourg and The Netherlands.
Losing My Mom To Breast Cancer
Today I want to share with you information on breast cancer, what it is, the symptoms, and how to get help. We are all affected by this disease, directly or indirectly, so let’s inform ourselves on how to fight this battle against cancer.
My mom passed away from breast cancer in 2001. She didn’t make it to her 50th birthday, so this is a topic that’s hard to talk about, but also close to my heart.
You never think it will happen to you. Never. Not in a million years. Then it does, and the entire time, it feels like you’re stuck in the eye of a storm, a storm that changed the course of my life forever.
Her illness became known to me by accident. She didn’t sit me down to talk about her diagnosis. We were home and my mom was feeling very weak and uneasy.
She was puking and I remember the ambulance came to the house. The two paramedics were speaking to each other and to my mom, and one looked over to the other and said, “she has cancer, it’s the chemo”. My heart stopped. She has what?? The shock came over me as if I had just falling into a freezing lake. No words came out of my mouth.
The ambulance left so I went to my brother and said, “the guy just said mommy has cancer”, he looked to the ground, back up at me, nodded twice, looked me straight in the eyes and responded “I know”. It wasn’t a yeah I know what he said – it was a yes, I know she has cancer.
How Breast Cancer Affected Me
I went into a state of confusion. At the time I was in high school and knew (everyone knew), my mom loved God and church, read her bible, praised Jesus, didn’t drink and a cigarette had never touched her lips.
How could this be happening? At the time I didn’t know any better. Did not understand cancer. It was just that awful word and thing that came into the lives of other families.
The uncertainty of life frustrated me. I tried my best to repress it and push those feelings down, but the powerlessness I felt was indescribable. No family is perfect, and there were other things going on in our home and had been for a while. I was became uncertain about everything. Found it hard to make decisions. I withdrew, then became the life of the party, was happy, sad, angry, then happy again.
Lashing out and making one bad decision after another became my new normal. My anxiety levels and OCD counting went into overdrive. I was becoming an expert at hiding my panic attacks from everyone around me.
For years I was overwhelmed and exhausted. The pain of my mom’s death was crippling, and still hits me 17 years later at random moments. It is something one can never “get over”. It is important to know the sanctity of life, how precious it is, and how your whole existence can change in an instant.
So that’s the main reason I want to share this post with you today, to help increase awareness of the disease, and to provide you with valuable information.
In case you don’t already know, I am not a doctor. Information I share is based on my perspective about existing research, my personal opinion, and is not considered medical advice.
What Is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the breast. Breast tissue comprises mainly fat, glandular tissue, ducts and connective tissue. Breast tissue develops in response to hormones such as oestrogens, progesterone, insulin and growth factors. Everyone, both male and female, are born with some breast cells and tissue.
Although breast cancer can occur in men, it is rare. Less than one percent of all breast cancer cases develop in men, and only one in a thousand men will ever be diagnosed with breast cancer.
What Are The Causes Of Breast Cancer?
When women (or men) are diagnosed with breast cancer, it’s natural reaction to wonder what may caused it. As i mentioned before, there is no exact and correct answer to that question.
Don’t listen to the following myths and misconceptions about the causes for breast cancer, they are false:
- Drinking coffee
- Using a microwave oven
- Cell Phones
- Drinking milk or dairy products
- Wearing underwire bras
- If no one in your family has had cancer, you are risk-free
- Finding a lump in your breast means you have breast cancer
- If you have a family history of breast cancer, you are likely to develop breast cancer, too.
What Is The BRCA Gene?
Think of genes as working sub-units of your DNA. Genes are the small sections of genetic code for individual traits. For example, someone with naturally tight curled hair has a gene that causes his or her hair to be curly. Inherited traits are always passed down through genes.
Each parent passes down exactly half of their genes to their child, so any of your parent’s genetic traits has a 50% chance of being passed on to you. Genes also contain information that affect how the cells in your body grow, divide and die.
“BRCA” is an abbreviation for “BReast CAncer gene.” BRCA1 and BRCA2 are two different genes that have been found to impact a person’s chances of developing breast cancer. Every human has both the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. BRCA genes do not cause breast cancer. BRCA1 and BRCA2 are the best-known genes linked to breast cancer risk.
Everyone has these genes, but some people have an inherited mutation in one or both that increases the risk of breast cancer.
When a BRCA gene is mutated, it may no longer be effective at repairing broken DNA and helping to prevent breast cancer.
The Types of Tumors Associated With Cancer
Cells in the human body grow and divide to form new cells as your body needs them. When cells grow old or become damaged, they die, and new cells take their place.
When cancer develops, there is a breakdown in the process that your body is used to. Your body can recognize that your cells are abnormal, but in this case, old or damaged cells survive when they should die, and new cells form even though they are not needed. These extra cells continue to divide without stopping and form growths called tumors.
Solid tumors are masses of tissue.
Benign tumors are not generally aggressive toward surrounding tissue. On the other hand, malignant tumors are cancerous and aggressive because they invade and damage surrounding tissue.
Lifestyle Risk Factors That MAY Increase Your Risk Of Breast Cancer
- A poor diet
- Lack of physical activity
- Combined hormone replacement therapy
- Being overweight or obese
- Drinking alcohol
6 Most Common Ways Of Detecting Tumors
- Lab Test
– Only about 20% of all breast tumors are cancerous.
– Most cancerous tumors are highly treatable.
Knowing What Kind Of Surgery Is Right For You
Your doctor or oncologist will best advise you on the surgery options available to you to consider based on the specific information about your breast cancer. Everyone’s diagnosis is different. Make sure to discuss and compare the benefits and risks of each and all options.
He or she will give you the best information about the essential things you need to know about breast cancer, and should be a person you can trust and talk to. Many women are afraid of asking too many questions, or questions that might be considered irrelevant. It’s your body, and your surgery, therefore, you need to ask questions.
When battling breast cancer, it is important for you to feel and know that you are in safe hands.
A lumpectomy removes the cancerous tumor along with healthy tissue around it without removing the entire breast. This procedure is also called a partial mastectomy.
This surgery option removes the entire breast or as much of the breast tissue as possible.
Plastic surgery to rebuild the shape of the breast. You can opt for this at the same time as the surgery or at a later date.
What To Do If You Are Diagnosed With Breast Cancer
Being diagnosed with cancer is a real shock to anybody. Thoughts, feelings and emotions are likely to overwhelm you. At least at the beginning. This is a perfectly normal reaction to such news.
It is alright to be emotional about it, who wouldn’t be? You can’t help your mind going into overdrive. Your oncologist will give you a treatment plan and let you know what will happen next.
Unfortunately there is an awful lot of waiting with this process so, if you can, try not to think too far ahead, just take things one step at a time. Remember the things you need to know about breast cancer, and educate yourself as much as possible. Easier said than done.
Supporting Friends and Family After News of a Diagnosis
It is hard to hear a loved one, friend, family, or loved-one has been diagnosed with cancer. Being a friend or a supporter of a cancer patient is the work of a team. One person cannot solely help and support this person.
Those battling cancer will need a support team that will be available, supportive and non-judgmental. Remember, your loved one will be going through an emotional roller coaster that may come with lowered self-confidence, anxiety and mood swings.
Friends and loved ones often take on the task of researching the diagnosis or treatment options, which can be very helpful.
Always remember to educate yourself about cancer, and support your loved one’s treatment decisions. Give advice only when you are asked.
Have you beat cancer or know someone who has? Share as much as you are comfortable doing with me in the comments section below.
We’ve lost so many good women to breast cancer and I do my best to raise awareness on this too. It’s good that we have a month to help spread the word about how to prevent or fight breast cancer. I’m sorry about your loss.
I”m sorry to hear about your loss. I lost my grandma to cancer (Ovarian). I miss her every day.
I just had a friend get diagnosed a little while ago and she is SO young (32!) It’s so important for everyone to know the details and to remain vigilant and check themselves!
I really like all the information to help women that you share. Again this post will help women a lot. Thanks so much.
Thank you for this very comprehensive article about breast cancer. I think it will help so many people! It’s inspiring me to make a check-up appointment. It’s heartbreaking to think you lost your mom at such a young age. She’d probably be very proud of you doing all this outreach to help other people!
Hi Sheri — First, I’m so sorry to read about your mom. I can’t imagine how difficult that was for you. Thank you for such a heartfelt post. I had my first mammogram 2 years ago, and as someone with very dense breasts, every mammogram is scary. I should be better about self-exams too, and this post was just the reminder I need!
This is really a very important topic and in all honesty i had no idea about a lot of these things. THANK YOU SO MUCH.
Having a mother who has just been operated on from cancer I can say for certain that prevention is as important as talking about these things.
I am always trying to check on a daily basis and I love that you are always sharing information to help women. October is awareness month, but this post will help women all year around.
Dearest Sheri, this post is not only inspirational and informative but so vulnerable and from the heart. Thank you for showing the courage to share about your mom and to reach out to help all the people that read your blog. You are amazing and I wish you nothing but happiness and great health always. Blessings from the other side of the pond. Marge
Thank you so much Marge. I hope to continue to raise awareness on Breast Cancer and the importance of checking and early detection. Have a great day.
Hi Sheri, So sad to hear about the loss of your mom. No matter how long ago it has been it is something I cannot imagine you would ever get over. This is a great tribute to her memory, so keep fighting against breast cancer. Best wishes, Brooke
I got my first mammogram done at the beginning of the month. It was a very scary experience but definitely worth it. Being proactive in dealing with your health is very important.
Oh yes, I totally agree. It is a very scary experience but most definitely worth it. I feel more comfortable getting a mammogram now because I am familiar with the process, and it is always better to know than not to. xoxo S.
It is so important for all women to do their breast checks regularly, as you can never be too sure.
Everyone should get their examination done today! It is SO very important. I did mine a few weeks back and encourage all to do the same.
Anything to raise cancer awareness is so important for all of us. I have had two family members with breast cancer and one with colon cancer. I’m all for supporting the cause.
This is such an important topic, my mother had breast cancer and it is very scary and real. I try my best to do self-breast exams once a month, at least.