October is breast cancer awareness month, and Carteret Health Care in Morehead City has several events planned to help those with a cancer diagnosis, as well as their family members and caregivers.
At the hospital
• Shine the Light on Breast Cancer Awareness: During the month of October, CHC is bringing attention to breast cancer awareness by lighting the exterior of the main hospital campus pink at night.
• Cancer Transitions Workshop: 11 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 10, 17 and 24. These free sessions for cancer survivors are offered by the CHC Cancer Center and Carolina Well, UNC Lineberger Survivorship Program. These are workshops to help cancer survivors transition from active treatment to post-treatment care. Expert panelists include physicians, nutritionists, social workers and fitness experts. The workshops are held in Meeting Room 1. Register by calling 252-499-6642.
• Tickled Pink-Breast Cancer Support Group: Noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday. The group meets the third Tuesday of each month in Meeting Room 3. A light lunch will be provided. For more information, call 252-499-6621.
• Living Well with Breast Cancer – A Cancer Conversation with UNC Lineberger: 11:45 a.m. Friday, Oct. 25. This is a free community workshop offering the latest information and links from those at UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. The event is hosted by CHC’s Cancer Center in Meeting Room 1. A light lunch will be served at 11:45 a.m. prior to the video conference. Register by calling 252-499-6200.
• Clinical Breast Cancer Screening: 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, Oct. 26. This free clinical breast screening is offered by CHC’s Cancer Center at the County Health Department on Bridges Street in Morehead City during October. Call 252-499-6200 for an appointment.
Breast cancer signs, symptoms
Breast cancer is a formidable foe. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 627,000 women lost their lives to breast cancer in 2018. Women and men with breast cancer are not helpless in the fight against breast cancer, as the WHO notes early detection is critical and could potentially save thousands of lives each year.
A proactive approach is a key component of protecting oneself against breast cancer. While the National Breast Cancer Foundation Inc. notes many breast cancer symptoms are invisible and not noticeable without a professional cancer screening, individuals can keep an eye out for certain signs of breast cancer they might be able to detect on their own.
Monthly self-exams can help women more easily identify changes in their breasts. During self-exams, women can look for the following signs and symptoms and are advised to report any abnormalities to their physicians immediately.
• Changes in how the breast or nipple feels: The NBCF says nipple tenderness or a lump or thickening in or near the breast or underarm could indicate the presence of breast cancer. Some women may notice changes in the skin texture or an enlargement of the pores in the skin of their breast. In many instances, skin texture has been described as being similar to the texture of an orange peel. Lumps in the breast also may indicate breast cancer, though not all lumps are cancerous.
• Change in appearance of the breast or nipple: Unexplained changes in the size or shape of the breast; dimpling anywhere on the breast; unexplained swelling or shrinking of the breast, particularly when the shrinking or swelling is exclusive to one side only; and a nipple turned slightly inward or inverted are some signs and symptoms of breast cancer that can affect the appearance of the breast or nipple. It is common for women’s breasts to be asymmetrical, but sudden asymmetry should be brought to the attention of a physician.
• Discharge from the nipple: The NBCF notes any discharge from the nipple, but particularly a clear or bloody discharge, could be a sign of breast cancer. The NBCF also advises women that a milky discharge when they are not breastfeeding is not linked to breast cancer, but should be discussed with a doctor.
Learning to recognize the signs and symptoms of breast cancer can increase the likelihood of early diagnosis, which greatly improves individuals chances of survival.
Debunking common myths associated with breast cancer
Cancer claims the lives of millions of people across the globe every year. But the fight against cancer is anything but hopeless, as the WHO notes 30-50% of all cancer cases are preventable.
Learning about cancer is one of the best ways for people to protect themselves. Researchers continue to learn more about cancer everyday and routinely discover that information once thought to be accurate is actually off-base.
Despite researchers’ best efforts, some myths about cancer still prevail. Some of these myths are about cancer in general, while others refer to specific cancers, including breast cancer. Myths about breast cancer can be as harmful as accurate information is helpful, so learning the truth and debunking those myths can be an important part of a preventative approach to breast cancer.
• Myth: Drinking milk increases your risk for breast cancer. The American Cancer Society notes early studies raised concerns that drinking milk from cows treated with hormones could increase a person’s risk for breast cancer. However, ensuing research failed to find a clear link between the two. In fact, a 2002 study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology found no significant association between dairy fluid intake and breast cancer risk.
• Myth: Lumps indicate breast cancer. The NBCF says only a small percentage of breast lumps turn out to be cancer. However, abnormalities or changes in breast tissue should always be brought to the attention of a physician.
• Myth: Mammograms cause breast cancer to spread. This myth is rooted in the incorrect notion that breast compression causes the cancer to spread. However, the NBCF insists that cannot happen. In fact, the National Cancer Institute touts the benefits of mammograms while the ACS recommends women between the ages of 45 and 54 get mammograms every year. For additional breast cancer screening guidelines, visit cancer.org.
• Myth: Women with a family history of breast cancer are likely to develop breast cancer, too. This myth is dangerous because, if taken at face value, it can give women with no family history of breast cancer a false sense of security. However, the NBCF notes that only about 10% of individuals diagnosed with breast cancer have a family history of the disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports a woman’s risk for breast cancer is higher if she has a first-degree relative, including a mother, sister, daughter or a male family member who has had the disease. Breast cancer can affect anyone, regardless of their family history.
Potential treatment options after a breast cancer diagnosis
A breast cancer diagnosis is something no one wants to receive, but the burden of breast cancer is substantial. In fact, the WHO notes breast cancer is the most commonly occurring cancer in women worldwide.
Thankfully, breast cancer survival rates are high in many parts of the world, particularly in developed countries, such as the U.S., Canada and Japan. While survival rates are lower in developing countries, it is encouraging to know the average five-year survival rates are as high as 90% in some nations.
That suggests the strategies used to successfully fight breast cancer in developed nations may one day prove as effective in developing nations, potentially leading to a sharp decline in global breast cancer deaths.
Upon being diagnosed with breast cancer, patients will be educated about a host of potential treatment options. The CDC notes that breast cancer is treated in several ways, and the course of treatment a doctor recommends will depend on the kind of breast cancer and how far it has spread. In addition, according to Breastcancer.org, breast cancer is made up of many different kinds of cancer cells, which often necessitates the use of various types of treatments to get rid of the cancer.
The following are some treatment options doctors may discuss with breast cancer patients.
• Surgery: Breastcancer.org notes surgery is typically the first line of attack against breast cancer. The CDC says the goal of surgery is to cut out cancerous tissue. Some common breast cancer surgeries include lumpectomy, in which the tumor and a small amount of surrounding tissue is removed, and mastectomy, in which all breast tissue is removed.
• Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is used to treat various types of cancer and involves administration of special medicines to shrink or kill cancer cells. Breastcancer.org notes that chemotherapy is sometimes scheduled before surgery to attempt shrinking the cancer.
• Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy aims to kill cancer cells using high-energy rays that are similar to X-rays. Sometimes referred to as “radiotherapy,” radiation therapy is overseen by a radiation oncologist who specializes in this type of treatment.
• Hormonal therapy: Estrogen makes hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers grow, and hormonal therapy, which may be referred to as “anti-estrogen” therapy, aims to reduce the amount of estrogen in the body and block its action on breast cancer cells.
• Targeted therapies: These therapies, which Breastcancer.org notes are generally less likely than chemotherapy to harm normal, healthy cells, target specific characteristics of the cancer cells. Cancer cells can have many characteristics, so there are various types of targeted therapies.
Breast cancer treatments can be highly effective in the fight against breast cancer, particularly when the disease is caught in its early stages, according to health officials.
Content and images are provided
by Metro Creative Connections.