HOPKINS COUNTY, Ky. (10/31/13) – The month of October is known as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which means it is an annual campaign to increase awareness of the disease has been in the works.
Even though most people may be aware of breast cancer, many people tend to forget the steps it takes to detect the disease in the early stages. A Hopkins County woman has founded a breast cancer support group to help bring more awareness to prevention.
“All women should know their bodies at a young age. If something doesn't feel right, only you know. A doctor cannot tell you how you feel and scans don't always reveal the truth,” said Stephanie Oakley, creator of the Pink Ribbon Bosom Buddies Breast Cancer Support Group at Baptist Health. “You are paying that doctor so they can help you, and the fact is this, breast cancer has a 98 percent survival rate if caught in its early stages. You cannot argue with that number.”
Currently, breast cancer is the second leading cause of death among women and each year an estimated more than 220,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer (one in eight), and more than 40,000 will die from it.
Even though breast cancer in men is very rare, they are diagnosed each year and many still die from it, all people are born with the same breast cells and tissues that can possibly develop into cancer.
“Women aren't the only ones who can get breast cancer, nearly 2,200 men are diagnosed with breast cancer yearly, and out of those 2,200, nearly 400 will die,” said RN-BSN, Amanda Lewis. “Men carry a higher mortality rate from breast cancer than women because breast cancer in men goes mostly undetected because the acuity for awareness isn't high.”
Breast cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the breasts. Although, most people who develop breast cancer can never truly pinpoint exactly what caused it. However, scientists have learned over the years of research about different risk factors that may indicate a stronger odds for cancer.
According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, breast cancer tumors can be categorized by size, type of cells and the characteristics that fuel the growth. Research has also indicated that cancer spreads in three important ways: Damaged cells replicate, which creates more damaged cells and causes tumor growth. The body’s hormones and chemicals can accelerate tumor growth, and, both lymph nodes and blood vessels can carry cancer to other parts of the body.
When healthy cells stop being able to form the basic building blocks it was pre-wired to do, they become damaged and our DNA then produces mutated cells that rapidly begin to reproduce without following the pre-wired code. More aggressive cell growth can form a tumor and will not function properly, these cells are abnormal and known as breast cancer.
“Always seek a second opinion if something doesn't feel right. I know most of us don't go to the doctor to find out bad news. We want doctors to tell us good news,” said Oakley. “So when one gives us their opinion and it's good, we like to stop there. But if something still does not feel right, denying will not help the situation. The quicker you have a problem revealed, the quicker your healing comes.”
The growth and spreading can be difficult to understand because cancer cell growth is often fueled by normal healthy chemicals in the body such as estrogen, progesterone and a growth hormone (HER2/neu). Even though these body chemicals serve as important healthy body function, when a cell becomes cancerous, these chemicals can accelerate the growth of breast cancer tumors.
“You hear a lot of rumors about what can cause breast cancer, for the most part take those old wives tales and throw them in the trash,” said Lewis. “Microwaves, cell phones, deodorant, and caffeine do not cause breast cancer. Sure there are other risk factors such as over consumption of alcohol, smoking, etc, but most often breast cancer is an inherited gene.”
When breast cancer is detected early on and at a localized stage, the survival rate is 98 percent. Early detection includes doing a self-examination every month and scheduling regular clinical breast exams and mammograms.
“You should do monthly self-breast exams. Look on the internet or any women's health journal and you will find the procedure for self- breast exams,” Lewis said. “Look for changes in the skin of the breast, around the breast, and the nipple, check for differences in texture, discharge coming from the nipple, particularly if it is clear or bloody. If you notice any of these signs, you need to see your physician immediately.”
Oakley encouraged breast cancer survivors, no matter the length of time since cancer, to offer their wisdom and support to others.
“Don’t let your pain or struggle be wasted,” she said. “Someone out there needs your support. Hopkins County is a community that just does not talk about cancer, period. And that is a dangerous place to be for its residents.”
Pink Ribbon Bosom Buddies Breast Cancer Support Group will be having its next meeting at 6 p.m. on Nov. 18 on the second floor conference room of the Women’s Center at Baptist Health.
“Remember as with any disease prevention, be safe, be smart, don't delay seeing a physician if you notice something that isn't normal,” said Lewis. “Make an early detection plan and stick to it. I mean, after all, you could only be saving your own life.”
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