Breast cancer is an uncontrolled growth of breast cells. Understanding breast cancer helps you understand how any cancer can develop.
Mutations or abnormal changes in the genes responsible for regulating the growth of cells and keeping them healthy results to cancer. The genes are in each cell’s nucleus which acts as the “control room” of each cell. Normally, the cells in our bodies replace themselves through an orderly process of cell growth: healthy new cells take over as old ones die out. But over time, mutations can “turn on” certain genes and “turn off” others in a cell. That changed cell gains the ability to keep dividing without control or order, producing more cells just like it and forming a tumour.
Usually breast cancer either begins in the cells of the lobules which are the milk-producing glands or the ducts, the passages that drain milk from the lobules to the nipple. Less commonly, breast cancer can begin in the stromal tissues which include the fatty and fibrous connective tissues of the breast.
Breast cancer can begin in different areas of the breast such as the ducts, the lobules, or in some cases, the tissue in between. The are different types of breast cancer which are non-invasive, invasive, recurrent, and metastatic breast cancers. There are also intrinsic or molecular subtypes of breast cancer.
The symptoms of breast cancer vary widely from lumps to swelling to skin changes and many breast cancers have no typical symptoms at all. Symptoms that are similar to those of breast cancer may be the result of non-cancerous conditions like infection or a cyst.
Breast Cancer Overview
The first sign of breast cancer often is a breast lump or an abnormal mammogram. Breast cancer stages range from early curable breast cancer to metastatic breast cancer with a variety of breast cancer treatments. Male breast cancer is not uncommon and must be taken seriously.
Breast Cancer: Sex and Intimacy
It is incontrovertible that the sexual side effects of breast cancer can linger on after treatment is over but there is sex after breast cancer.
Having a serious illness almost always takes some kind of toll on your sex life. But breast cancer can bring all thoughts of intimacy and sexuality to a halt.
Treatments of breast cancer can bring about temporary — and sometimes permanent — premature menopause, making sexual intercourse painful. Chemotherapy and radiation often lead to crushing fatigue. The medications you take and the emotional effects of the disease can result to depression. And of course breast cancer can have a devastating effect on your body image and your ability to feel sexy due to the changes wrought by surgery to the hair loss and puffiness of chemotherapy.
5 Things Young Women Must Know About Breast Cancer
Know Your Breasts. Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in young women. Consult your doctor about the pros and cons of breast self-exams. If you have decided to do breast self exams, your doctor can review how to do them with you. If you know how your breasts “should” feel, you’ll know when there’s a significant change that means you should consult your doctor.
Be Persistent. If you think you feel “something,” and family or doctors dismiss your concerns because they feel you’re “too young for breast cancer,” it might be tempting to believe them and not seek further answers. But learn to be your own advocate. “The youngest breast cancer patient I’ve seen was 18 when she felt the mass, and 22 when she was found to have stage IV breast cancer. She kept telling doctors that she felt something and was worried about it, but they dismissed it claiming she was ‘too young.’”
Shop for a good doctor. Don’t automatically go with the first doctor you see. “Most breast cancers are not like other cancers where you have to begin treatment immediately,”. “You need a treatment team you’re comfortable with and that is aware of all the newer approaches, such as genetics, neoadjuvant therapy (chemotherapy before surgery) and looking at molecular markers of your tumour to figure out your individual risk.
Make research about Your Options. “Learn about things like stage and grade and their meaning to your treatment options” . “No question is stupid. Every question is important.” Good online sources for information include breastcancer.org, the Young Survival Coalition (www.youngsurvival.org) and Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE, www.facingourrisk.org) for women at genetically higher risk of developing cancer.
Network with Other Young Women. You can be isolated if you have breast cancer in your 20s, 30s, and even 40s. “Search online and ask your doctor for connections with other women of your age. Women with breast cancer are amazing — women who’ve never met are connected by a doctor or a friend and they’ll visit each other at home or pick someone up and take them to chemo. It isn’t a group you’d ever sign up for but it’s a group that can make dealing with cancer as a young woman so much less lonely and difficult.”