Q. What is breast cancer?
A. Breast cancer is a serious disease in which some cells in your breast become abnormal (unhealthy), multiply out of control, and can damage healthy parts of your body. Breast cancer can be in one or both breasts, and spread to other parts of your body. Many women get breast cancer every year. Women have the best chance of getting better when the disease is found early. Here are important things to know about breast cancer.
- You do not get breast cancer from other people. It is not like a cold or the flu.
- Breast cancer is not caused by stress or your breast getting hurt.
- Most women who get breast cancer do not have a family history of the disease.
- You do not make yourself get breast cancer.
Q. I am worried about getting breast cancer. What can I do to take care of myself?
A. Here are three steps you can take.
- Check your breasts and under your arms each month. This is called breast self-examination. Have your doctor or nurse show you how to check for breast lumps. Pick a time each month after your period to check your breasts. Over 70% of breast cancers are found by women themselves!
- Get a breast exam from your doctor each year.
- Get a mammogram every one to two years if you are over 40. Talk to your doctor about how often you need a mammogram.
Q. What is a mammogram and why do I need one?
A. A mammogram is an x-ray picture of the breast. It can find breast cancer that is too small for you, your doctor, or nurse to feel. Finding and treating breast cancer early means that you have better chances of surviving the disease and more choices for how to treat the disease.
Q. Isn’t breast cancer an older woman’s disease?
A. No! About 20% of all breast cancers take place in women under 50. About 80% of breast cancers are found in women ages 50 and older. This is why it is so important for all women to check their breasts and see their doctors for breast exams every year.
Q. What are my chances of getting breast cancer?
A. One out of eight women will get breast cancer during her lifetime.
Q. Why are some women more likely to get breast cancer than other women?
A. Any woman can get breast cancer, especially as she gets older. However, doctors know from studies that you have more chance of getting breast cancer if you are over 50, have a family history of breast cancer, have never had children, had your first child after age 30, started your period before age 12, went through menopause (the change of life) after age 55, are a heavy drinker, or are obese.
Q. What are the treatments for breast cancer?
A. The treatment you get depends on the size, kind, and location of the cancer; your age; and your health. Doctors may use one or many of these treatments to fight your breast cancer.
- Surgery – taking out the cancer in an operation.
- Radiation therapy – using high-dose x-rays to kill cancer cells.
- Chemotherapy – using medicine to kill cancer cells.
- Hormone therapy – using hormones to stop the cells from growing.
- Biological therapy (using the body’s immune system to fight cancer) and bone marrow transplantation (BMT) are being tested in clinical trials to see how well they fight breast cancer. Bone Marrow is the soft spongey matter found inside bones. During BMT, the bone marrow is first destroyed with chemotherapy or radiation to kill the cancer cells, then it is replaced with healthy marrow from a donor.