10 truths about breast cancer

  1. While family history of breast cancer may increase one’s risk, most women with breast cancer do not have such a history.
  2. Two common forms of breast cancer include ductal, originating in the ducts, and lobular, originating in the lobules (milk-producing glands).
  3. Another form of breast cancer is inflammatory. It is rare, it is very aggressive, and it often occurs in women who are premenopausal. When inflammatory breast cancer is diagnosed, it is already at either stage III or IV.
  4. Inflammatory breast cancer is difficult to detect by mammogram; instead of a lump the skin of the breast shows changes that can include redness, warmth to the touch or dimpling.
  5. Lobular breast cancer is also elusive to mammogram detection; instead of a lump the tumor tissue is more of a thickenening or fullness.
  6. Breast cancer has five stages: zero, I, II, III and IV. Stages II and III include, respectively, two and three subdivisions. Stage IV is terminal.
  7. Although mammograms are effective in finding breast cancer in women who are postmenopausal, they are less effective in detection for younger women whose breast tissue is characteristically more dense than after menopause.
  8. BRCA1 and BRCA2 are tumor suppressor genes. A woman with either gene mutation has an increased risk of developing premenopausal breast cancer. Cases of mutated genes are usually found in families with a history of early breast or ovarian cancer or with Ashknazi Jewish background. This rare gene mutation increases risk to five times a woman’s otherwise average risk (12 percent).
  9. After successful treatment of primary breast cancer, the precise description is not that it has been cured but that the disease has gone into remission. If it remains in remission after five years, it is considered long-term remission. Some cancers are considered cured after five years of remission. With breast cancer, however, it is not uncommon for it to recur after many years, say 15 and even 20. Typically a recurrence is terminal, or stage IV.
  10. Despite the hype about success rates of early detection and improved treatments that prolong life for stage IV (terminal), breast cancer does not have a cure.

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© 2004–2011 Donna Peach. All rights reserved.

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