October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Breast cancer is the second most common kind of cancer in women. The good news is that most women can survive breast cancer if it’s detected and treated early. And it’s not always women. Men can get breast cancer too.
Proving that early detection and treatment of breast cancer can help you be just as happy and active as before detection and treatment, is Brady’s own Sue Lubke. Sue and her daughter have both survived breast cancer and last October we saw them participate in the Brady/McCulloch County Chamber of Commerce’s fun Hogtoberfest wild hog wrestling contest, sporting pink T-shirts to support our local Hope from the Heart organization that raises funds for McCulloch County cancer victims. The 3rd Annual Hogtoberfest will again be held at Brady’s G.Rollie White Complex October 28-29.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS
Knowing how your breasts normally look and feel is key because nobody knows your body as well as you do. But knowing what to look for does not take the place of having regular mammograms and other screening tests, which can help find breast cancer in its early stages, even before any symptoms appear.
According to the American Cancer Society site on breast cancer:
The most common symptom of breast cancer is a new lump or mass.
A painless, hard mass that has irregular edges is more likely to be cancer, but breast cancers can also be tender, soft, or rounded and can even be painful. For this reason, it’s important to have any new breast mass or lump or breast change checked by a health care provider experienced in diagnosing breast diseases.
Other possible symptoms of breast cancer include:
- Swelling of all or part of a breast (even if no distinct lump is felt)
- Skin irritation or dimpling
- Breast or nipple pain
- Nipple retraction (turning inward)
- Redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
- Nipple discharge (other than breast milk)
Sometimes a breast cancer can spread to lymph nodes under the arm or around the collar bone and cause a lump or swelling there, even before the original tumor in the breast tissue is large enough to be felt. Swollen lymph nodes should also be checked.
All leading breast cancer awareness organizations highly recommend routine self-examination of your own breasts. www.BreastCancer.org has posted an easy to follow 5 step routine.
Some of it you can do in front of a mirror, some lying down, and some while in the shower.
Step 1: Checking in a mirror for any visible changes while standing straight, arms down
Step 2: Checking in a mirror for visible changes with arms raised
Step 3: Checking in a mirror for any signs of fluid discharge
Step 4: Checking for lumps while lying down
Step 5: Checking for lumps while showering
For more details on exactly how to do these 5 steps, and what to look for, you can visit: http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/testing/types/self_exam/bse_steps.
If you detect any changes at all, see your doctor ASAP. We can’t stress enough the wisdom of early detection.
Mammograms are now the well-known tool for early detection and we’re fortunate to have a modern digital mammogram machine right here in Brady at the Heart of Texas Healthcare System’s hospital. The machine was purchased recently with financial help from Hope from the Heart. That wonderful local 501c3 organization is directly affiliated with the hospital.
The only question in the medical community is how often to be tested and at what age testing should begin. The American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Radiology, the American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute, and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network all have issued guidelines saying that:
All women should be eligible for screening mammograms starting at age 40.
Trust your primary care physician to order what he or she feels is best for you. You can also find more information at www.womenshealth.com.
We’re hearing more and more about “the gene.” Genetic counseling and testing can indeed help you understand your risk for cancer and genetic tests help doctors look for mutations (changes) in certain genes. Keep in mind, however, that the process of genetic testing to estimate your risk may prompt many emotional and psychological reactions. This Mayo Clinic link helps you sort through the questions of whether you should be tested for “the gene” or not: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/breast-cancer/in-depth/genetic-testing/art-20047563?p=1
Breast cancer is unfortunately, a common disease. Each year, approximately 200,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with breast cancer. However, hereditary breast cancer, which is caused by a mutant gene passed from parents to their children, is actually fairly rare.
If testing indicated that you have a mutation in the BRCA1 gene or the BRCA2 gene, you are, in fact, more likely to develop breast or ovarian cancer. Here’s the latest in gnome progress from the National Institute of Health: https://www.genome.gov/10000507/
Talk with your doctor about genetic testing for breast and ovarian cancer if:
- Two or more close family members (parents, siblings, or children) have had breast or ovarian cancer
- A close family member had breast cancer before age 50
- A close family member has had cancer in both breasts
- A family member has had both breast and ovarian cancer
- You are of a particular Eastern European heritage
If you decide to talk to your doctor about genetic testing, here are some excellent tips on questions to ask.
If you or a loved one has already been diagnosed with breast cancer (or any cancer) and that person lives in McCulloch County, financial help is available if financial constraints for treatment are pressing on the pocket book, contact Hope from the Heart. Helping local cancer victims with financial aid is what they’re all about. All it takes is a note from the cancer patient’s doctor (even if it’s just on a prescription slip) that confirms that the cancer patient is actively fighting cancer. The contact is Michele Young Derrick at Young’s Jewelry, 325-597-0493 or 325-456-1126.
You may notice that Brady, Texas is “turning pink” to help promote cancer awareness. The Brady/McCulloch County Fire Department is “Fired Up About Saving Lives.” They’re not only wearing pink helmets these days, they’re selling very cool pink t-shirts as a fundraiser for Hope from the Heart, which are available all over town. City Drug has been a supporter of Hope from the Heart since it’s inception.
If you have basic questions and concerns about breast cancer, come in and talk to Albert, or one of our other pharmacists who can steer you in the right direction. Be smart; stay aware; stay healthy.