We love October, not just for the changing weather but because along with it comes Halloween and all those pink ribbons as a reminder for our women to have their breast exams. At this time we remember all of the men and women that have had breast cancer; we also happily acknowledge those who have fought breast cancer and won! This is both a time for remembrance and a time for confident strides in the medical field so that we can reduce the number of people plagued with breast cancer. At Southern California Center for Surgical Arts, Dr. Elias shares any tips he can about breast cancer awareness and offers some in clinic exams before performing any type of breast surgery.
The Importance of Early Screenings
For most women, 80% of women to be exact, breast cancer is inherited, meaning that it is present in their family history. So it’s important to know your history and ask questions as early as you can. On average, women in their 40’s should begin having mammograms, but if you know it’s prevalent in your family then earlier is better. No matter if you have breast cancer in your family or not, you should have a mammogram on schedule and at the recommended time to avoid any complications later. If we can catch breast cancer in its earliest stages, the better we can prepare to combat it. Don’t fall into the habit of avoiding something like breast cancer and thinking it won’t effect you.
At Home Self-Exams
Performing your own self-examinations throughout your lifetime is one of the best ways to stay mindful of your body and to detect anything early enough to make that appointment. A physician will, of course, be able to help you define any big-ticket concerns, but you know your body best. The most important thing is to feel your breasts once in a while to check in with them, think about it in the shower or before you head off to sleep. Any small check in helps you identify when any change in the texture of your breasts is off by any degree.
Men Can Get Breast Cancer, But It’s Uncommon
If you plan to perform these small self-check-in exams at home first, you should be aware of the nipple and any rashes or skin changes that occur; if any larger lumps feel out of place or if you experience any pain in the breasts. Remember that the average age is about 40 years old, but there could be an abnormality earlier in life. According to the National Breast Cancer Society, only 1% of men in the world will get breast cancer, so the number is small, but men should still check on any changes as well. For men, these breast cancer signs are found in the nipple area.
Women are usually the ones affected by breast cancer, but for any men out there in that 1% statistic, there are specific treatment options for all. The first round of treatment is an aggressive form of surgery to remove the area in the breast tissue where these cancerous cells live, and the other common therapy is radiation treatment. Radiation treatment is a way to target these cancerous cells without removing the tissue directly; multiple treatment sessions can reduce the immune system to break down these cells and this too is aggressive but known to get rid of these cancer cells efficiently. Depending on the radiation approach, there are external or internal applications of the radiation therapy.
Further down the road, there may be options of chemotherapy which is a chemically induced expulsion of cancer cells; chemotherapy is a next step treatment since it moves throughout the body when cancer cells are well on their way throughout the blood stream, so it’s not specific to the breasts, but everywhere. Hormone and targeted therapy as well which involves hormone blockers introduced to the body that targets estrogen involved in the growth of particular types of cancer cells. Your oncologist will prescribe or administer medications that will help your body control the amount of estrogen synthesized. Targeted therapy is like chemo in a way, but it doesn’t work on the entire body and an all-cell inclusive type treatment. These targeted therapies in breast cancer treatments focus on a specific type of cancer cell and go after it with similar chemotherapy drugs. Talk to your doctor about your best chance and options of beating breast cancer.
For women and men that have gone through breast cancer treatments and have gone into remission, it’s a victory, but it’s a fight that is life-long. First things first, we celebrate but then move on to a post-treatment game plan. When you’ve been through breast cancer and have survived, you know what it’s like so from this point on you’re aware. Have regular exams, mammograms, bone density tests and blood tests. Stay on top of your post-treatment progress so that your body is monitored. When you’ve been through chemo and radiation therapies, you’ve been through the ringer, so rehabilitation for your weakened immune system is a must; your oncologist will help you work on a plan for nutritional improvement and emotional support.
Every patient needs something different and depending on your situation, there will be educated recommendations made for your best options. The earlier we can find the cells causing cancer, the faster can get go after it. For more information on the best options and how to stick to your self-tests check out cancer.org or contact our office at (818) 616-6685.