10 Facts About Breast Cancer Every Woman Over 40 Should Know About

10 Facts About Breast Cancer Every Woman Over 40 Should Know About

1. The statistics for breast cancer are startling. In the US one woman in nine will develop breast cancer. The figures for most other countries are about the same. We all know someone who has been a victim. Breast cancer is probably one of the scariest, most dreaded diseases that women worry about. Being aware could prevent you becoming another victim – another statistic.

2. Modern technology and new drugs are, thankfully, taking a lot of the pain and suffering and trauma out of actual as well as suspected breast cancer. The secret is to diagnose it early – before it takes hold. Every woman, especially those older than 40, must face the responsibility herself of having regular check-ups – doctors recommend every year!

3. Do not shrug off possible symptoms. Rather let a doctor decide. Surely with something like breast cancer it is heaps better to be safe than sorry! The most common symptoms are: – A lump anywhere in the breast – Pain or tenderness in the breast; swelling or redness – Enlarged lymph nodes (these are the filters along the lymphatic system which circulate a clear fluid through your arteries, cleansing them and keeping your breasts firm.) You should examine your breasts very carefully every month. Even diarise it so you don’t skip a month (then two, or three or four!) Many women discover lumps this way but remember, not all lumps are cause for alarm: some oncologists maintain that up to 80% of lumps are non-cancerous. Check with your doctor to make sure you are not part of the remaining 20%.

4. What then? Your doctor will have examined dozens of lumps in many breasts and will almost certainly be able to reassure you immediately. However, he/she may want you to have a mammogram. The American Cancer Society recommends annual mammograms once women reach 40. Many women are as worried about mammograms as they are about the lumps they have discovered – but modern methods have reduced the discomfort of this diagnostic procedure. Also, new technology, like digital breast imaging, MRI and CAT scans, PET scans and breast ultrasounds, offer a more comfortable way for women to have screening mammograms. Speak to your doctor about the breast cancer dipstick test. In more serious cases, he might prefer to perform a biopsy which involves cutting a tiny sample of tissue from the suspect breast-lump and sending it away for analysis. He might even want to perform an axillary dissection. This involves removing fat layers because body fat might be concealing the nodes and they are unable to determine if there are cancer cells present and, if there are, the extent of the cancer cell’s spread. If the cancer has spread to your lymph nodes he will generally remove between five and twenty-five nodes during a conventional axillary dissection.

5. Most women worry that, if cancer cells are discovered, they will automatically have to have the breast removed. Because of the perceived disfigurement that results from a mastectomy, it is a very real nightmare that every woman hopes never to have to face. You can take comfort from the fact that lumpectomy (the removal of just the lump and some of the normal tissue that surrounds it,) radiation treatment and prescription drugs are effective alternatives and that usually, a mastectomy is the last resort.

6. The oncologist might prescribe chemotherapy which involves ” a chemical substance used for the treatment of infectious diseases or the prevention of diseases.” This includes SERMs, aromatase inhibitors, and progestins. Wikipedia describes chemotherapy, in the most simple sense, as the treatment of an ailment by chemicals especially by killing micro-organisms or cancerous cells.

7. Newer anti-cancer drugs act directly against abnormal proteins in cancer cells; this is termed targeted therapy.

8. In summary, women over 40 should not become paranoid about getting breast cancer but should respect the fact that the ailment is more common after the age of 40. This means more care and attention should be given to your regular monthly self-examination routine and that any abnormality in your breasts should be taken seriously.

9. Do not try to self-diagnose. Do not shrug off a small lump as “probably nothing serious.” Treat tenderness, swelling, redness or pain as symptoms of something – not necessarily breast cancer but something worth a doctor’s expert diagnosis. The earlier you treat breast cancer the better the chances of a total recovery. The longer you leave things, the greater the problem becomes.

10. Playing safe is far, far better than losing a breast. Even if it is only a tiny lump or a seemingly trivial symptom, let you doctor have a look at it. He or she will admire you for not taking any chances.

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