Breast Cancer

It is estimated that 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer.  There is nothing funny about that.  Get your mammogram and/or tell the women you love to get theirs.  Early detection makes all the difference.  When caught early, the 5 year survival rate is about 90%.  When diagnosed in the latest stage, the 5 year survival rate is about 15%.  I’m no mathematician but …  Being ever the eternal optimist, I am going on the premise that I am going to get cancer; it is simply a matter of time.  I hope that when it happens, I can nip that little sucker in the bud and live long enough to annoy my great grandchildren.  I am going to take full advantage of modern medicine and have my boobs squished and mutilated every year!

Facts about Breast Cancer.

1.  It is estimated that over 260,000 cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed this year.  Almost 40,000 women are expected to die from their breast cancer in 2010.  It is the most common type of cancer in women (men can get it too but it is very rare) after non-melanoma skin cancer.

2.  The two most common types are named from the part of the breast where they start: ductal and lobular.  Both have a high treatment success rate with lumpectomy if they are caught before they invade surrounding tissue.

3.  Symptoms of breast cancer include:
– changes in how the breast subjectively feels including nipple tenderness.  Only very rarely, does breast cancer present with pain but if you are at all concerned about pain in your breast, see your doctor.
– changes in how the breast tangibly feels including lumps in the breast or armpit or thickening of the skin or tissue
– changes in how the breast looks including change in its shape or size; a change in the skinthat may appear red, swollen, scaly, or have pitting like the skin of an orange; changes in the nipple or areola including those same skin changes; nipple discharge.
(I have been pregnant, I have breast-fed, I know that it is not fun to take a good hard look at your own breasts but toughen up and stand in front of a mirror every so often.)

4.Factors that have been shown to increase your risk of breast cancer:
– hormone replacement therapy
– family history of breast cancer — while having a 1st degree relative with breast cancer doubles your individual risk,  70-80% of women who are diagnosed have no family history of breast       cancer
– having had chest radiation
– increasing age — >75% of women diagnosed with breast cancer are over the age of 50.  There is a 1:229 risk of developing it before the age of 30 and the incidence then rises steadily with age.
– recent use of birth control pills seems to increase risk slightly
– obesity
– alcohol use –  I know, I know, I’m sorry.  Don’t shoot the messenger.

5.  Factors that decrease your risk of breast cancer:
– multiple pregnancies, pregnancy at an early age (maybe those teen moms who are all over the newsstand are onto something)
– breastfeeding
– physical activity
Based on my own extensive, exhausting research, if you are looking to use any of the above to decrease your risk, try exercise.
For more information, I like either the American Cancer Society website or the Susan G. Komen website. Arm yourself with information and THINK PINK!
Tomorrow: colon cancer.

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