Today’s breast cancer treatments are more successful than ever, and awareness of the importance of breast exams, mammograms, and early detection is high. Yet women are still dying of this highly curable disease. Dennis Citrin, MB, ChB, PhD, medical oncologist at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) in Zion, Illinois, answers three questions that everyone should know about breast cancer.
Q. What is breast cancer?
A. Breast cancer is not one disease but many. Understanding the biology of breast cancer is critical to making any treatment decisions. Most breast cancers originate from the cells that line the milk ducts in the breast. There is a wide spectrum of breast cancers that range from very slow-growing cancers, which are easily treated and pose little threat to the patient’s life if properly treated, to highly malignant, very aggressive and fast-growing cancers.
Q. What are some of the risk factors for developing breast cancer?
A. Unfortunately, there is no single factor identified as the cause of breast cancer, but there are some factors that do increase the risk for developing breast cancer. These include gene mutations (BRCA and others); family history of breast or ovarian cancer, previous history of breast cancer, reproductive factors (early onset of periods, late menopause, no full-term pregnancies), estrogen therapy, previous radiation to neck or chest as child or young adult (e.g. for Hodgkin’s Disease), fibro-cystic disease of the breast with abnormal cells present (doctors refer to this as atypical ductal hyperplasia or ADH) and lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS).
Q. What three things should women diagnosed with breast cancer know?
A. First, it’s natural that every woman who is told that she has breast cancer will be fearful, but it’s important to remember that breast cancer is a highly treatable disease and most patients diagnosed with early stage breast cancer can confidently expect to be totally cured. Second, don’t delay seeking medical advice if you feel a lump in your breast or have any other concerns about your breast. Third, if you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, follow your doctors’ recommendations and complete your treatment plan. source