October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month
October 2018 is the 33rd annual Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a national campaign sponsored in part by the American Cancer Society. The mission of this campaign is to raise awareness of this often-deadly condition and help those affected through early detection, education, and support services.
What is Breast Cancer?
There are over 100 forms of cancer that affect various parts of the body. Breast cancer is a condition that occurs when the cells in the breast begin to divide uncontrollably, forming lumps that eventually turn into a malignant tumor. A malignant tumor is one that is cancerous and, if not detected and treated early, can metastasize and spread beyond the original tumor to other parts of the body.
Breast cancer is caused by a genetic abnormality that results in the cells dividing without control or order. About 5-10% of the time, these abnormalities are hereditary. About 85-90% of the time, they are the result of aging and general lifestyle choices.
There are several different types of breast cancer, the two most common are:
- Invasive Ductal Carcinoma: Cancer cells that grow outside the ducts (the tubes that carry milk to the nipple) and spread into other parts of the breast tissue. The cells can eventually metastasize and spread to other parts of the body.
- Invasive Lobular Carcinoma: Cancer cells that spread from the lobules (the glands that produce milk) and to the nearby breast tissues. These cells can also metastasize and spread to other areas of the body.
Facts About Breast CancerEach year, breast cancer claims the lives of hundreds of thousands of women throughout the world, and this condition impacts countries of all levels of modernization. The World Health Organization reports that breast cancer is the most common cancer among women worldwide.
In the United States:
- Breast cancer is the second-leading cause of death among women;
- More than 250,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year;
- More than 40,000 women die from breast cancer each year;
- 1 out of 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetimes;
- There are currently more than 3.3 million breast cancer survivors living in the U.S.
Breast Cancer Affects Men Too
Breast cancer is not entirely exclusive to the female gender, men can also develop this condition. Men have a small amount of breast tissue, which makes it possible for them to develop cancerous cells in this area of the body. Breast cancer in men is very rare, especially among younger men. The chances go up as men age, with most occurrences happening between the ages of 60 and 70. Other factors that may contribute to men developing breast cancer include:
- Having a close female relative that also has breast cancer;
- Taking estrogen;
- Severe liver disease;
- Testicular injuries;
- Breasts that become enlarged from drugs or hormone treatments;
- A rare genetic condition known as Klinefelter’s Syndrome.
Medical professionals used to believe that men tended to develop more severe forms of breast cancer. This belief has changed over time. Today, the prevailing opinion is that the condition is roughly the same in severity, it just tends to be diagnosed later.
This is partially because men are less likely to be suspicious about this type of cancer. Another major reason is that most men have a much smaller amount of breast tissue, making it harder to detect problems in this area, especially when they are in their early stages.
How You Can Get Involved
Here are just a few ways you can help raise awareness about breast cancer this month:
- Encourage your loved ones (especially the women in your life) to get screened for breast cancer;
- Update your social media profiles with a breast cancer awareness meme like this one;
- Shop for pink clothing and gifts to help show your support;
- Make a donation to help support breast cancer research;
- Host a fundraiser in your community to help raise awareness and fight breast cancer.
Breast cancer is a condition that affects millions of women and some men as well. With that many people affected by this condition, chances are someone close to you (or at least someone you know) has it. For this reason, it is incumbent upon all of us to do our part to put an end to this deadly disease.