WHY WOMEN SHOULD BE AWARE
In the United States this year 180,200 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and 43,900 women will die from the disease (Glazer 555). ?Breast cancer affects more American women than any other type of cancer? (All 1). Breast cancer is one of the top three cancers of all women above the age of 15; therefore, women need to commit themselves and watch for signs of cancer, or we will always have a problem with this life-threatening disease.
Breast cancer needs to be explained before you can fully understand the disease.
Breast cancer is a group of cells that have proliferated outside the framework of the normal growth pattern. Normally, healthy cells interact together in a coordinated fashion t o assemble themselves into tissues and organs. Thought the lifetime of an organism, healthy cells live for a time, die and are replaced by new healthy cells according to instructions from the DNA, which is comprised of thousands of genes and is located in the nucleus of all cells. If the gene or genes responsible for forming particular cells is damaged or faulty in some way, then the incredibly precise process of cell growth and division spins out of control and cancer cells arise instead of healthy ones. As these cells rapidly proliferate, they pay little attention to the healthy cells. In this way the cancer cells form tumors. (Davies 26)
Hereditary breast cancer can only account for five percent of breast cancer cases (Glazer 570). Well known risk factors include family history of cancer, DNA, high levels of estrogen, having an abortion, and diet.
At the most basic level, scientists agree that breast cancer is a genetic disease. Recently genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 have been thought as a cause of cancer. The genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 have been heavily researched and are now linked with the breast cancer disease. A defect in either the BRCA1 gene or the BRCA2 gene presents the development of breast cancer. Mutations in BRCA1 may account for at least 80 percent of the families with inherited breast cancer (DeFazio 1). According to a study, a woman who receives a mutated BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene has a 56 percent chance of developing breast cancer (571). Stratton (Institute of Cancer Research, UK) described the risk profile of BRCA2 as being similar to the BRCA1 gene. Both the BRCA1 and the BRCA2 genes have more than 100 distinct mutations, with the ratio of breast cancer depending on the site of the mutation (DeFazio 1). Even thorough there are over 100 mutations, the same mutations have been found in different women, but they behave differently depending on the woman (Glazer 572).
Hormone imbalance is an important factor in promoting breast cancer. The hormones that promote breast cancer are increased levels of estrogen and progesterone (Davies 29). A 1995 study found that women that had high levels of estrogen or progesterone had a high incidence of breast cancer (Glazer 559). Lesbians and nuns are in the highest risk of getting breast cancer. The cause of this is because they usually never have children and their estrogen levels stay high during their lifetime (Davies 31).
Dr. Susan Love, a breast surgeon, has begun a counter campaign to stop doctors giving women hormones after menopause. She is worried that the increase risk of breast cancer is greater than the studies that show the hormones reduce the risk of heart disease (Glazer 559). A study published in June 1997 found that the chance of dying was 37 percent lower among women who did not use hormones. The study also found a 43 percent increase in deaths from breast cancer in women who used hormones for 10 or more years (558).
Research so far has also lead to believe that the risk of breast cancer following an abortion is greater than that of women that had never been pregnant at all. A study found that the risk of breast cancer among women who had an abortion was 20 percent greater than those who had gone through their full term pregnancy. The study also found that the risk went to 40 percent for those women that had induced abortions than women who had never been pregnant at all. The study suggests that the increased risk is only linked with induced abortions up to nine-week pregnancies (Weisberg 1).
There is a direct correlation in women that eat high fat diets and breast cancer (Davies 35). Diets high in fat and alcohol appear to increase the risk of breast cancer, because the fat tissue in your body makes estrogen, and alcohol increases the production of the hormone. American women have a rate of six times greater of breast cancer occurrence than that of women in Japan (Glazer 571). The Asian diet is lower in fat than the American diet, therefore reducing their risk.
As women are being told to be on a lower fat diet to reduce their risk of breast cancer, they should also know that the diet would prevent another occurrence of the disease if they should have breast cancer. A study done with women who have breast cancer, and are eating a high fat diet before and after treatment have a greater chance of reoccurrence, than that of women who switch to a low fat diet (Davies 36).
Women that have diets that incorporate a high intake of fruits and vegetables cut their risk for breast cancer in half, than those who have a low consumption rate of these types of foods. Reductions in the risk of breast cancer were also associated with high fiber intake (Baghurst 2). Scientist also points out that fruits and vegetables that include vitamin A, C, and E are also a source of dietary fiber. Scientist believes that vitamins A, C, and E reduce damage to the body’s DNA (Mantel 761). Since the vitamins reduce the risk of damage to the body’s DNA, it reduces the risk that mutations will occur in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.
Today increasing numbers of women have friends of their own age diagnosed with breast cancer, the impression gathers that there is a new epidemic of breast cancer. Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for women in their 40s (Glazer 568). A woman’s age is the most important factor in determining her breast cancer risk. Breast cancer is women below 30 is often rare, although breast cancer among women over the age of 50 is common (Davies 24). The older a women gets, the more likely she will be diagnosed with breast cancer. One in eight women over the age of 85 will be diagnosed with breast cancer (24). Breast cancer is more aggressive in younger women, and they usually have a smaller survival rate from the disease (27).
In the 1890’s a procedure had been devised to remove the tumor and the surrounding tissue, including the lymph nodes and chest-wall muscles, now known as a radical mastectomy (Glazer 565). The mastectomy usually requires removal of the breast, and is usually used when the disease has spread to the chest muscles (Treatment 2). This procedure is not common today, because the breast cancer disease can spread to different parts of the body before being detected, making this procedure not very practical. Today doctors use a modified radical mastectomy, where they take the breast, some of the lymph nodes in the armpit, and the lining over the chest muscles (2).
Chemotherapy is another form of treatment used for breast cancer. Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill the cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be taken orally or injected by a needle in a vein or muscle. Chemotherapy is a treatment that works not only in the breast, but throughout the whole body as well (Treatment 2). Chemotherapy is also used to shrink tumors and is followed by surgery or radiation therapy (5).
Radiation has changed the surgical approach to breast cancer. Radiation is the only treatment for breast cancer that is encouraging to women who have early stages of breast cancer. The procedure allows women to keep their breast. The breast is then treated with radiation until the tumors are gone (Mantel762). This option is very favorable to women because they do not have to have surgery or have their breast removed, like in the mastectomy.
There is evidence that oestrogen, a hormone, takes part in the progression of breast cancer. Breast cancer is more prominent in postmenopausal women when levels of oestrogen are low. Oestrogen levels in breast tissues are usually high in postmenopausal women. The oestrogen agonist tamoxifen has caused more than 75 percent of its test to shrink in both postmenopausal and pre-menopausal women. The drug is effective in patients whose tumors have developed tamoxifen resistance and produces a high remission rate with very few side effects (Dixon 1).
Women need to examine themselves regularly to ensure that tumors are not present in their breast. The best time for a woman to examine herself is three days after her period, or on the first day of the month, if she no longer has periods. She should use the fingers applying light, medium, and deep pressure to check breasts for lumps. She should move her fingers in a circular pattern or in rows so that the entire breast is examined. She should check the armpit to collar bone and below breast to make sure that no tumors are forming in the area around the breast or lymph nodes (All 3).
Continuing the prevention process includes receiving mammograms. It is proven that 30 percent fewer deaths occur from breast cancer in women who received regular mammograms in there 50s than that of women who did not. Although mammography machines remain an imperfect tool for finding cancer, it detects a tumor that has often been growing for five years, spreading cancer throughout the body. Once the tumor is found something can be done about the cancer (Glazer 556). The treatments that do exist for breast cancer often have horrible side effects, but remission rate for the cancer is great (557).
The National Cancer Advisory Board recommended that women ages 40-49 to get mammograms every one to two years if they are at average risk for breast cancer, meaning that there is no past history of breast cancer in their family, or that they have been diagnosed with breast cancer. The board also recommended that women with above average risk for breast cancer should seek expert medical advice about beginning mammography before the age of 40 (Glazer 557). The board looked at studies and it showed that there was a benefit for screening women in there 40s, early detection. Detecting the disease earlier is more easily treatable with a better outcome (558).
Breast cancer is a disease that is feared by every woman. If we wanted to find the woman with the highest risk for breast cancer, it would be as follows:
A 51 year old, fat, hypothyroid Caucasian nun living in a cold climate in the Western Hemisphere, with a wet type of cerumen and a prolonged menopausal history, whose mother and sister had pre-menopausal bilateral breast cancer, who was nursed by a mother who had a B viral particles in her milk, who has had endmetrial cancer and a cancer in one breast, whose random biopsy of the other breast showed a pre-cancerous mastophaty, who has a low estiol fraction, who is immuno-deficient, who received heavy radiation exposure during treatment for tuberculosis by repeated fluoroscopes, and who has a high dietary fat intake. (Davies 23)
Although it is impossible to find that type of person, it is not impossible for your wife, daughter, mother, sister, or co-worker to be diagnosed with the disease. The disease is deadly and no cure has been found yet. If women are aware of how to prevent their chance in getting breast cancer, they can prolong their life and their chance in survival if they are diagnosed with the disease. Prevention is the key to the disease. Researchers are looking for a cure, but like the AIDS virus we have not yet found that ?Magic Bullet? to stop the further growth of the cancer cells.
—. All About Breast Cancer. Internet. 2 May 1998. http://www.lbl.gov/Education/ELSI/Cancer-breast1.html
Baghurst, Peter, Sally Record and Julie Syrette. Diet and Breast Cancer. Newsletter of the NHMRC, Spring 1997. Internet. 2 May 1998. http://www.nbcc.org.au/pages/info.html
Davies, Kevin, and Michael White. Breakthrough: The Race to Find the Breast Cancer Gene. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1995.
DeFazio, Anna. New Evidence on the Function of BRCA1 and BRCA2. Newsletter of the NHMRC, Summer 1997-98. Internet. 2 May 1998. http://www.nbcc.org.au/pages/info.html
Dixon, Michael. Hormone Treatments for Breast Cancer. Newsletter of the NHMRC, Autumn 1997. Internet. 2 May 1998. http://www.nbcc.org.au/pages/info.html
Glazer, Sarah. Breast Cancer; The Issues. CQ Researcher, 1997: 555-572
Mantel, Barbara. Advances in Cancer Research. CQ Researcher, 1995: 755-768.
—. Treatment Options. Internet. 2 May 1998. http://www.cancer.net.nci.nih.gov/NCISC/Treatment.html
Weisberg, Edith. The Risk of Breast Cancer Following an Abortion. Newsletter of the NHMRC, Spring 1997. Internet. 2 May 1998. http://www.nbcc.org.au/pages/info.html