Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

1 October is the beginning of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and since this is one of the three illnesses that I hold near and dear to my heart I decided to write about it.

I have lost family and friends to cancer, however two people, Tia 6-28-03(Breast) and my Aunt Stephanie 7-26-07(Lung & Breast), affected me the most; both were diagnosed with Breast Cancer, both left behind children and loved ones, both made me more aware of my body.

Tia, 23 when she died, had a lot to look forward to, a life to live, children she will never see grow, graduate from elementary, middle, high school, or college; will never see her children get married and have children of their own. While Stephanie seen her children grow into adults she still had a life to live, time to travel, and more laughs to share.

So for them I write, for them I share, for them I AM AWARE!

All information below are facts and can be found at one of the cites listed below.

Cancer is a term used for diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control and are able to invade other tissues. Cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body through the blood and lymph systems. Cancer is not just one disease but many diseases. There are more than 100 different types of cancer. Most cancers are named for the organ or type of cell in which they start

According to the American Cancer Society in 2007 178,480 women in the United States will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, 40,460 women will die from the disease this year.

Breast cancer is a malignant tumor that grows in one or both breast; it is the second leading cause of cancer death in women after lung cancer. The most alarming fact is that black women after the age of 40 have a lower rate of cancer than white women. However, black women are more likely to die from breast cancer at every age.

This type of cancer has been divided into two categories: Non-invasive and Invasive
Non-invasive breast cancer cells are found only in the milk duct of the breast.
Invasive breast cancer penetrates through normal breast tissue or invades surrounding areas.

There are different stages to breast cancer based on size of tumor and if the cancer has spread, which makes them different in each person. The stage grouping is as followed:

Stage 0- early stage of cancer that is confirmed to ducts or the lobules. It has not gone into the tissue in the breast or spread to other organs in the body
Stage I- is an early stage of invasive breast cancer, cancer cells have not spread beyond the breast and the tumor is no more than 2 centimeters.
Stage II- can be one of the following
Tumor in the breast is the breast is no more than 2 centimeters across. Cancer HAS spread to the Lymph nodes under the arm.

Tumor is between 2 & 5 centimeters. Cancer MAY HAVE spread to the lymph nodes under the arm.

Tumor is larger than 5 centimeters. Cancer has NOT spread to the lymph nodes under the arm..
Stage III- may be a large tumor, but cancer has not spread beyond the breast and lymph nodes. However it is an advance cancer.
Stage IIIA is one of the following
Tumor in the breast is smaller than 5 centimeters. Cancer has spread to underarm lymph nodes that are attached to each other or to other structures.
Tumor is more than 5 centimeters across and has spread to the underarm lymph nodes.
Stage IIIB is defined as:
Tumor has grown into chest wall or the skin of the breast.
Cancer has spread to lymph nodes behind the breastbone.
Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare type of Stage IIIB where the breast appears red and swollen because cancer cells block the lymph vessels in the skin of the breast.
Stage IIIC is a tumor of any size and has spread in one of the following ways:
Cancer has spread to the lymph nodes behind the breastbone and under the arm
Cancer has spread to the lymph nodes under or above the collarbone.
Stage IV distant metastatic cancer, the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
Recurrent Cancer is cancer that has come back after of time of no detection. It may recur in the breast or chest wall as another primary cancer or other part of the body such as bone, liver, or lungs.

BSE( Breast Self-Exam) DO IT!

My phone like many others contain important dates and REMINDERS( 4:15am), this is a reminder that every women should put somewhere. Place it on the bathroom mirror, in your phone, sign up for a monthly reminder at or grab a Sistafriend and get to know yourself better.

Remind yourself 6 days after your cycle starts if you don’t know how to perform the exam here are the instructions.

Do it in the shower, while your body is wet and soapy. Use the pads of 3 fingers to check each breast for lumps. Move your fingers in a row pattern. Up and down all the way across one breast and then another.

Areas to check:
1. Outside: armpit to collar bone, and below breast 2. Middle: the breast itself 3. Inside: the nipple area
Things to look for after you shower:
1. Liquid coming from nipples2. Puckering of the skin3. Redness or swelling4. Change in size or shape
We prefer the shower but you can also do a BSE lying down in bed. Do it in a place that is most comfortable and effective for you. The important thing is that you do it.
If you feel any lumps or changes, call your doctor. Remember most lumps are not cancer. It's not about finding cancer, it's about knowing what is normal for your breasts. If something does not feel normal, call your doctor.
* Monthly breast self-exam beginning by age 20.* Clinical breast exam at least every 3 years beginning at age 20, and annually from age 40 on.* Annual screening mammograms beginning at age 40.
Women with a family history of breast cancer or other concerns about their personal risk should consult with a health care provider. Screening tests may need to be done more often and/or started earlier than usual.
As part of a total approach to breast health, women should become familiar with own bodies, play an active role in their health, and develop a close partnership with their health care providers.

I was once told that if you wait until you are no longer afraid you will wait forever, although I’m still afraid to do something’s I am no longer afraid to check talk to my doctor when things are not normal.

National Caner Institute: