Breast cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the breast.
Breast cancer is considered a heterogeneous disease—differing by individual, age group, and even the kinds of cells within the tumors themselves.
Women in the United States get breast cancer more than any other type of cancer except for skin cancer. It is second only to lung cancer as a cause of cancer death in women.
A breast cancer diagnosis doesn’t always mean an end. It can be the beginning of learning how to fight, getting the facts, and finding hope.
Figure 1. Female Breast Cancer - Incidence and Mortality Rates by Age and Race, US, 2000-2004 Data sources: Incidence - Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program, SEER 17 Registries, 2000-2004, Division of Cancer Control and Population Science, National Cancer Institute, 2007. Mortality - National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2007. American Cancer Society, Surveillance Research, 2007
Top 10 Breast Cancer Myths and Misconceptions Source: www.breastcancer.org
Breast Cancer Myth #1 If you have a risk factor for breast cancer you’re likely to get the disease. No one risk factor means you are going to get breast cancer. Talk to a Health Services Physician or Nurse Practitioner to learn about your risk factors and how to decrease your risk. Source: www.breastcancer.org
Breast Cancer Myth #2 Breast cancer only affects older women. Any woman can get breast cancer. Growing older is a risk factor for breast cancer. Source: www.breastcancer.org
Breast Cancer Myth #3 If breast cancer doesn’t run in your family, you won’t get it. 80% of women who get breast cancer have no known family history. Source: www.breastcancer.org
Breast Cancer Myth #4 Only your mother’s family history of breast cancer can affect your risk.
Your mother and father’s family history is equally important to understanding your risk or getting breast cancer.
Men and Women can get breast cancer. Each year:
240,000 women get breast cancer, 40,000 will die
Breast Cancer Myth #10 Being overweight won’t increase your risk of breast cancer. Being overweight has been found to increase one’s risk of getting breast cancer. Getting to and staying with a healthy weight is important to reducing your risk of breast cancer. Make an appointment with a Health Services Physician, Nurse Practitioner or Nutrition Counselor to determine what an ideal and healthy weight for you is. Source: www.breastcancer.org
Women Who Have Fought Breast Cancer: First Lady Betty Ford "Maybe if I as First Lady could talk about it candidly and without embarrassment, many other people would be able to as well.” - First Lady Betty Ford First Lady Betty Ford, the wife of U.S. President Gerald Ford, was one of the first high-profile American women to discuss her mastectomy publicly. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1974 at the age of 56, just weeks after her husband's inauguration. She is now 89. Source: Reuters, 2007
Women Who Have Fought Breast Cancer: Sheryl Crow I can safely say my life has changed in every way. I feel keenly aware of how precious and fleeting life is and I hope I will never forget what the experience has taught me...who I am, who I want to be, who I can never be again" - Sheryl Crow Grammy-winning rock star Sheryl Crow, 45, was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer in February 2006 after a routine mammogram and underwent radiation. She campaigns for women aged over 35 to have annual mammograms. Source: Reuters, 2007
Women Who Have Fought Breast Cancer: Robin Roberts “That very night when I went to bed, I did a self breast exam and found something that women everywhere fear: I found a lump." - Robin Roberts Robin Roberts is co-host of Good Morning America. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 and completed chemotherapy and radiation in 2008. She has since returned to her job. Source: New York Post
Women Who Have Fought Breast Cancer: Elizabeth Edwards "I don't expect my life to be significantly different," she told reporters. "You can see I don't look sickly, I don't feel sickly, I'm as ready as any person can be for that.“ - Elizabeth Edwards Elizabeth Edwards, 58, the wife of U.S. Senator John Edwards, was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2004. In March, shortly after John Edwards declared himself a 2008 Democratic Party presidential contender, she announced that her cancer had returned. It is not curable but is treatable. Source: Reuters, 2007
Women Who Have Fought Breast Cancer: Audre Lorde "When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid." - Audre Lorde Audre Lorde (1934-1992), poet, won the Walt Whitman Citation of Merit in 1991 just a year before her death from breast cancer. Her chronicles of her battle with the disease, The Cancer Journals, is just one of her many powerful works. She wrote about finding identity and strength in difference.
Women Who Have Fought Breast Cancer: Christina Applegate “I love living, and I really love my life…Yeah, I'll face challenges, but you can't get any darker than where I've been. So knowing that in my soul gave me the strength to just say, `I have to get out there and make this a positive.'" - Christina Applegate In 2008 Christina Applegate was diagnosed with cancer at age 36. The cancer was detected early and she had a double mastectomy. She is now cancer free. Source: Huffington Post, 2008
5 Steps of a Breast Self Exam Step 2 Now, raise your arms and look for the same changes. Step 3 While you're at the mirror, gently squeeze each nipple between your finger and thumb and check for nipple discharge (this could be a milky or yellow fluid or blood).
Feel your breasts while lying down, using your right hand to feel your left breast and then your left hand to feel your right breast. Use the first few fingers of your hand, keeping the fingers flat and together.
Cover the entire breast from top to bottom, side to side—from your collarbone to the top of your abdomen, and from your armpit to your cleavage.
You can begin at the nipple, moving in larger and larger circles until you reach the outer edge of the breast. You can also move your fingers up and down vertically, in rows, as if you were mowing a lawn. Be sure to feel all the breast tissue.
Begin examining each area with a very soft touch, and
then increase pressure so that you can feel the deeper tissue, down to your ribcage.
5 Steps of a Breast Self Exam Step 5 Finally, feel your breasts while you are standing or sitting. Many women find that the easiest way to feel their breasts is when their skin is wet and slippery, so they like to do this step in the shower. Cover your entire breast, using the same hand movements described in Step 4. Bring to the attention of a Health Services Physician or Nurse Practitioner any changes in your breast that last over a full months cycle or seem to get worse or more obvious over time.
Women in their 20s and 30s should get a clinical breast exam every 3 years. Source: American Cancer Society
Breast Health Resources at Health Services Get a clinical breast exam by calling Health Services at (603) 862-2856 to make an appointment with a medical clinician in the Women’s Health Department. To learn more about breast cancer, call (603) 862-3823 or visit Health Services, Room 249 to speak to our Community Health Nurse.