October is just around the corner, and that means it’s almost Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Every year approximately 240,000 women and 2,100 men are diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States alone. This disease does not discriminate, affecting people of all ages and backgrounds.
Given these startling statistics, it’s never too early to start learning about breast cancer and watching for the signs, whether or not breast cancer runs in your family. Early detection increases the chances of successful treatment and survival in breast cancer cases.
At Klingensmith’s, we’re dedicated to keeping our community members safe – and that starts with spreading awareness. Let’s delve further into what breast cancer is and things you can do to stay safe.
Understanding Breast Cancer
Cancer is a disease where abnormal cells spread rapidly and damage your body’s tissue. In breast cancer cases, this process starts in the breast tissue, although it can spread to other parts of the body.
As the cells grow, they form a tumor that presents as a lump in the breast tissue. When left untreated, the cancerous cells may invade nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body in a process called metastasis.
Who is the Most At-Risk for Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer occurs in both men and women, although it is most common in women. Less than 1% of breast cancer cases occur in men.
There are other risk factors linked to the development of breast cancer. A family history of breast cancer means that you’re more likely to develop it as well, particularly if you have genetic mutations like BRCA1 and BRCA2 that have been linked to breast cancer. Other common breast cancer risk factors include high levels of estrogen, obesity, alcohol consumption, and aging.
The Stages of Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is split into four stages based on the size of the tumor and the extent to which it has spread. Doctors use these breast cancer stages to develop appropriate treatment plans and give an accurate prognosis for patients.
- Stage 0: Early-stage breast cancer is localized to the breast and has not spread.
- Stage I: The cancer is in early invasive stages, with the tumor measuring up to 2 cm.
- Stage II: The tumor is either 2-5 cm in size and spread to 1-3 lymph nodes, or the tumor is over 5 cm but has not yet spread to lymph nodes.
- Stage III: The tumor has grown and has spread to 4 or more nearby lymph nodes.
- Stage IV: The cancer has metastasized, or spread, to other organs or distant lymph nodes.
When breast cancer is caught in the early stages, it is much easier to treat (successfully). Right now, there are also more treatment options available for early-stage breast cancer.
How to Detect Breast Cancer Early
Understanding the signs and symptoms of breast cancer helps immensely with early detection. There are various ways to detect breast cancer early, both with the help of your healthcare providers and with your own vigilance.
The first step is regular breast self-examinations (BSEs). These can easily be done at home and will alert patients to potential changes in their breast tissue. During these examinations, look for a change in size, shape, or color externally, and manually feel for lumps by massaging in circles. You should also look for abnormal swelling, redness, or fluid.
Note that changes in your breasts don’t necessarily mean that you have breast cancer. However, if you notice a significant difference during a self-examination, it’s worth speaking to a healthcare provider for further guidance.
Your healthcare provider will also offer in-office screenings to detect early-stage breast cancer. The first is a clinical breast examination, or CBE, where your provider manually checks for breast abnormalities. The second is a mammogram screening, which uses X-ray technology to check your breasts for lumps.
Signs of Breast Cancer to Watch For
The most common symptom of breast cancer is a lump in the breast tissue. However, this is not the only symptom to watch out for.
Other symptoms include:
- Swelling in the breasts
- Irritation or abnormal dimpling on the skin of the breasts
- Redness or flaky skin, especially in the nipple area
- Nipple discharge (other than breast milk)
The Impact of Early Detection on Survival Rates
There is a stark difference in survival rates between people with breast cancer that was detected early and people with breast cancer that goes undetected until later stages. The five-year survival rate for cancer that hasn’t spread outside the breast is 99%, but that rate drops to 86% for regional spread and a disheartening 30% for distant spread.
As a result, it’s vital that you visit your doctor for regular screenings and conduct self-examinations. Timely detection means more treatment options become available, and in most cases, less extensive surgery is required.
Resources for Catching Breast Cancer Early
The prospect of monitoring your health for breast cancer may seem daunting, particularly if it runs in your family.
Fortunately, there are many organizations that focus on breast cancer education, support, and treatment assistance. These include the American Cancer Society, Susan G. Komen Foundation, and the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
Your local healthcare providers and pharmacies are also an invaluable source of information and guidance. Don’t hesitate to reach out to them for more personalized assistance and resources, as well as guidance on organizing and taking medications.
At Klingensmith’s Pharmacy, we are always here to answer your questions and support your early detection efforts. If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to breast cancer detection or treatment, your local pharmacist can point you in the right direction.
Join Kligensmith’s in the Fight Against Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is devastating, but awareness is the first step in fighting it.
Early diagnosis is crucial and significantly increases the chances of successful treatment and survival. If you have questions about early-stage breast cancer or need help finding treatment options, reach out to your local doctors and pharmacists for support. You’re not in this alone.
At Klingensmith’s, we’re strongly committed to the fight against breast cancer. Every year, we proudly participate in the American Cancer Society’s Men Wear Pink fundraising efforts, and we encourage you to join us.
Contact your local Klingensmith’s today to see how you can get involved and donate to the cause.