By Yoli Bell

You are considered a cancer survivor the day you are diagnosed.  I am a 19 year breast cancer survivor.  Ladies! Celebrate your life in the present and what is to come in the future; we have been renewed.

In a meeting several weeks ago, breast cancer was mentioned in conversation.  The lack of knowledge women have about the types of breast cancer that exist took me back.  “It is just a breast cancer “ was the typical response.  Women need to know there are numerous types of cancers that you should be knowledgeable in. I hear comments from women who do not have a handle on their type of breast cancer, the stage nor the various terms used when preparing for treatments.  They are already overwhelmed and do not think to ask.  Some do not seek understanding about what to expect.  These factors are important because to understand usually means to find calm and direction.  It is your body and you are the ones who know it best and the ones to recognize if any abnormality exists. In order to minimize your time and stress make sure you have all your questions written down on a piece of paper – ready to present them to your doctor(s).

Women ages 45 to 54 should have a mammogram each year and those 55 years and over should continue getting mammograms every 1 to 2 years. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends mammograms for women between the ages of 50 and 74 every two years.

Get that mammogram.  Comments, such as, “It doesn’t run in my family”, “My home life is too busy”, “I cannot afford it”, “I work and cannot take time off”, “I’m scared they might find something”, to “I hear it’s too painful” are all invalid excuses.  The discomfort only lasts a couple of minutes and can give you great peace of mind knowing you are fine.  It can also be the difference between early detection or preventing something that could become much more serious.” 

 Men get breast cancer, also.  About 1 percent of all breast cancer cases in the U.S. are related to men.  It may seem like a small number, but that is still more than 2,000 new cases anticipated each year.


Breast Cancer Types

Ductal Carcinoma in Situ:  Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS; also known as intra-ductal carcinoma) is considered non-invasive or pre-invasive breast cancer. DCIS means that cells that lined the ducts have changed to look like cancer cells. The difference between DCIS and invasive cancer is that the cells have not spread (invaded) through the walls of the ducts into the diagnosed at this early stage of breast cancer can be cured.

 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma: This is the most common type of breast cancer. Invasive (or infiltrating) ductal carcinoma (IDC) starts in a milk duct of the breast, breaks through the wall of the duct, and grows into the fatty tissue of the breast. At this point, it may be able to spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body through the lymphatic system and bloodstream. About 8 of 10 invasive breast cancers are infiltrating ductal carcinomas.

 Invasive Lobular Carcinoma:  Invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC) starts in the milk-producing glands (lobules). Like IDC, it can spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body.  About 1 in 10 invasive breast cancers is an ILC. Invasive lobular carcinoma may be harder to detect by a mammogram than invasive ductal carcinoma.

 Less common types of breast cancer:   Inflammatory Breast Cancer  This type of invasive breast cancer accounts for about 1% to 3% of all breast cancers. Usually there is no single lump or tumor.  Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) makes the skin on the breast look red and feel warm. It also may give the breast skin a thick, pitted appearance that looks a lot like an orange peel. Doctors now know that these changes are not caused by inflammation or infection, but by cancer cells blocking lymph vessels in the skin. The breast may become larger or firmer, tender, or itchy.

In its early stages, inflammatory breast cancer is often mistaken for an infection in the breast (called mastitis) and treated as an infection with antibiotics. If symptoms are caused by cancer, they will not improve, and a biopsy will find cancer cells. Because there is no actual lump, it might not show up on a mammogram, which can make it even harder to find it early. This breast cancer tends to have a higher chance of spreading and a worse outlook (prognosis) than typical invasive ductal or lobular cancer.

Paget Disease of the Nipple:  This type of breast cancer starts in the breast ducts and spreads to the skin of the     nipple and then to the areola (the dark circle around the nipple). It is rare, accounting for about 1% of all cases of breast cancer. The skin of the nipple and areola often appears crusted, scaly, and red, with areas of bleeding or oozing. A woman may notice burning or itching.  Paget is almost always associated with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) or infiltrating ductal carcinoma.

Treatment often requires mastectomy. If no lump can be felt in the breast tissue, and the biopsy shows DCIS but no invasive cancer, the outlook (prognosis) is excellent. If invasive cancer is present, the prognosis is not as good, and the cancer will need to be staged and treated like any other invasive cancer.

Resource: ACS through Mesquite Cancer HELP Society