There is a seemingly limitless number of diseases and conditions that cause undue harm and wellness in the world. Few are as well-known and impactful as cancer.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which happens every October, provides an opportunity to educate, understand, and raise awareness of this devastating disease. Although breast cancer is not exclusive to women, it is significantly more common among them. It is estimated that one in eight women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their life. Furthermore, this condition is the most common form of cancer in women. With so many currently experiencing and likely to develop breast cancer it is critical that we be well-educated on the fundamentals of breast cancer, means of identifying it, and methods to reduce one’s risk of developing it.
Breast Cancer Basics
Cancer is a broad category containing a variety of different conditions all hinging on cellular health and mutation. The condition is identified as harmful or abnormal cell growth that ultimately attacks or invades other healthy cells. This results in dysfunction and harm spreading from cancerous areas and reaching throughout the body.
Cells are necessary for constructing tissue, which makes up the majority of the body including areas such as the breast, brain, and thyroid. These are common areas for cancer to develop and proliferate. Cancerous cells are produced if a cell’s DNA has been damaged or mutated in some way. It is still unclear as to how cellular DNA becomes damaged but it is likely that genetic or environmental factors influence it.
As cells begin acting abnormally they may commence unnecessary production, refuse to expire at the appropriate time, or be constructed improperly. These occurrences can result in poor cell structure and function. In the case of breast cancer, cancerous tissue in the breast frequently causes a lump or growth in the impacted area. Abnormal cells and tissue may also pervade into other areas of the body causing greater dysfunction and spread of mutated cells. Preventing this proliferation is critical to resolve cancer.
Growth and Proliferation
Cancer is notoriously difficult to contain and stop. Part of the reason it is so challenging to treat is because of its effective modes of operation and prolific movement through the body. When a cell’s DNA is damaged (becomes cancerous) it begins producing at an accelerated rate resulting in greater prevalence of the damaged or mutated cell. As the presence of cancerous cells increases their growth rises exponentially. For this reason, early recognition and treatment is critical.
Unfortunately, mutated cells may benefit from many hormones that are normally healthy and beneficial when maintained at the proper levels. Various hormones can accelerate growth of mutated cells resulting in breast cancer tumors. Being well-aware of the impact of certain hormones and understanding the need to appropriately balance them is critical to preventing and treating breast cancer.
Another way breast cancer utilizes a normally beneficial element of the body is through abuse of the lymph system. This interconnected highway is a major component of the immune system and helps deliver protective substances while preventing the transport of harmful ones. Normally the lymph system has no trouble differentiating and rejecting malicious materials. Unfortunately, cancerous breast cells are able to slip past this defensive measure by entering blood or lymph vessels. This allows cancer cells to utilize the lymph system for transport resulting in a metastasis. Secondary cancer developments and growths apart from the source of origin are a result of metastasis. Because cancer, specifically breast cancer, can have a widespread bodily impact it is important to identify signs of development and act appropriately.
Identifying Breast Cancer
There are multiple signs and indicators that can suggest a person has developed cancer of the breast. Even though not all people with breast cancer present symptoms it is critical to be aware of them. The following symptoms primarily relate to female breast cancer but men may also experience a small selection.
- Inverted nipple
- Pain located in or around the nipple
- Nipple discharge
- Swelling or lump around the underarm
- Discomfort and/or pain within the breast
- Abnormal lump or mass on the breast
- Swollen or reddening lymph nodes
- Irritation of the skin, particularly around or on the breast
Properly identifying the above symptoms as cancer-related can make all the difference. Regularly checking oneself and following a prescribed routine of mammograms and check-ups is a good way to bolster breast cancer recognition for oneself.
Prevention Before Diagnosis
The best method for combatting breast cancer is to prevent it before it develops. A significant influencer of breast cancer development is hormone imbalance. Women experiencing late onset menopause or perimenopause are more likely to develop breast cancer. This group is the most likely to develop cancer possibly due to significantly reduced estrogen and progestin levels. Other important anti-aging and protective hormones such as melatonin, thyroid, testosterone, estriol, and DHEA, are also notably reduced among those with late onset menopause. As these levels decline so does immune function. This confluence of events raises the risk of developing breast cancer.
Resolving hormonal imbalance can help combat various bodily issues and safeguard against multiple cancers. Increased prevalence of certain hormones such as estriol and natural progesterone have been shown to provide protective benefits. Among women, these substances appear in greater number during pregnancy and studies have found that women who have gone through multiple pregnancies are the least likely to develop breast cancer. Being active in maintaining one’s hormone levels and function helps keep the body working at its best and may reduce the risk of developing breast cancer.
Beating Back Breast Cancer
Because breast cancer is so common in the United States it is critical that awareness and prevention practices increase. Thanks in part to greater medical efforts and measures to raise awareness there are over 2.8 million breast cancer survivors currently living in the United States. By taking proper action to prevent breast cancer and optimizing hormone balance and function hopefully that number will increase in the future.