Breast Cancer- We Are All in This TogetherBy: Margaret Marshall "Approximately 1 in 9 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime,
and despite advances in medical treatments roughly 1 in 25 will die of it"
(Ouimet Et Al, page 73).

external image closeupparade.jpg
(Image Borrowed from "Indianapolis Afflilate of Susan G. Komen, and Cover Indiana).

This page was written to inform people about breast cancer and the effects it has on womens health. Breast cancer is an extremely deadly disease that is caused by abnormal cell growth. It occurs mostly in women, however rarely men are at risk of this disease as well. Breast cancer cells develops from very small cells on regions on the breast and can quickly become malignant tumors, meaning that they have the ability to metastasize rapidly and harmfully in forms of clusters. Most breast cancers begin in the cells that line the ducts, lobules, lymph nodes or other small tissues. If undiscovered or untreated they also can spread rapidly to surrounding areas in the body as well as all over the entire body.

I wanted to have a primary focus on breast cancer because my mother was diagnosed with stage four lymphatic breast cancer in 1998. As an eight year old I was never old enough to really understand the extremities the breast cancer beheld. She fought this deadly disease for ten years and went through many struggles, surgeries, false-diagnoses and constant battles. I as well have experienced many secondary battles living through her hardships and hope that through this project I can become more aware and knowledgeable myself and will as educate others by my research.

The scariest part of this illness is that anyone can be diagnosed with breast cancer, even the healthiest people with no prior health problems. This is why it is crucially important that we protect ourselves by becoming more knowledgeable about our awareness of self- examinations, yearly checkups, prevention methods, treatments, the importance of good health and our state of emotional well-being.

Changes to look for in or on the breast that may be cancerous
Changes to look for in or on the breast that may be cancerous

(Images borrowed from "Breast Awareness and Breast Self-Exam").

If you think about it, there are so many things in our daily life that easily add wear and tear to our bodies that could lead to cause cell growth abnormalities.
For example:

  1. Chemicals and pesticides- Such as the food we eat. This is why people press for organic produce.
  2. Hormones- Such as birth control and steroids.
  3. Cleansing products: Simple items such as deodorant that contains aluminum zirconium because it is absorbed in the location of your lymph nodes.
  4. Obesity- Not maintaining a healthy diet and adequate exercise.
  5. Air pollution- Can cause by many types of transportation, factories, fires etc.
  6. High stress levels- Affect your emotional mentality.
  7. Smoking tobacco and the use of alcohol

"Breast cancer is responsible for the highest number of new, invasive cancer cases among women each year and is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women in the U.S., after lung cancer" ("Cancers in Women"). In a healthy person, it is normal for cells to replace old cells with new cells because of cell growth. However, if there is a mutation or abnormal cell growth cancer may form in that area. Within the nucleus of a cell is where your genes and genetic information is stored. “About 90% of breast cancers are due to genetic abnormalities that happen as a result of the aging process. However, only 5-10% of cancers are due to an abnormality inherited from your mother or father” ("What is Breast Cancer?").

The worst thing about cancer is that if you do not catch it quickly mutated cells have the capability to easily spread throughout your body rapidly with no control. This is what causes malignant tumors to develop inside your body with potential to cause this deadly disease. The most threatening breast cancer is when your cancer cells spread into your lymph nodes (under arms) because then lymphatic system you will need to consult a doctor to observe a sample of your lymph tissue under a microscope. “There are three types of lymphatic cancer cells minimal (microscopic) being the smallest, significant (macroscopic), and extra-capsular being the largest taking over the whole node and surrounding fat” ("Lymph Node Involvment"). Once your cancer reaches your lymph nodes it becomes more aggressive and usually will spread, allowing you less chance for survival. Research studies found that having proficient levels of vitamin D is crucial when dealing with breast cancer. "Patients low in vitamin D were 94 percent more likely to see their cancer mestastasize and 73 percent more likely to die from it, compared to women with normal levels of vitamin D in their blood" ("Vitamin 'D' Deficiency Linked to Breast Cancer in New Study").


These are the eight stages of breast cancer:

Stage 0
Cancer cells remain inside the breast duct, without invasion into normal adjacent breast tissue.
Stage I
Cancer is 2 centimeters or less and is confined to the breast (lymph nodes are clear).
Stage IIA
No tumor can be found in the breast, but cancer cells are found in the axillary lymph nodes (the lymph nodes under the arm)
the tumor measures 2 centimeters or smaller and has spread to the axillary lymph nodes
the tumor is larger than 2 but no larger than 5 centimeters and has not spread to the axillary lymph nodes.

Stage IIB
The tumor is larger than 2 but no larger than 5 centimeters and has spread to the axillary lymph nodes
the tumor is larger than 5 centimeters but has not spread to the axillary lymph nodes.

Stage IIIA
No tumor is found in the breast. Cancer is found in axillary lymph nodes that are sticking together or to other structures, or cancer may be found in lymph nodes near the breastbone
the tumor is any size. Cancer has spread to the axillary lymph nodes, which are sticking together or to other structures, or cancer may be found in lymph nodes near the breastbone.

Stage IIIB
The tumor may be any size and has spread to the chest wall and/or skin of the breast
may have spread to axillary lymph nodes that are clumped together or sticking to other structures, or cancer may have spread to lymph nodes near the breastbone.

Inflammatory breast cancer is considered at least stage IIIB.

Stage IIIC
There may either be no sign of cancer in the breast or a tumor may be any size and may have spread to the chest wall and/or the skin of the breast
the cancer has spread to lymph nodes either above or below the collarbone
the cancer may have spread to axillary lymph nodes or to lymph nodes near the breastbone.

Stage IV
The cancer has spread — or metastasized — to other parts of the body.
(Chart borrowed from "What is Breast Cancer?")

Treatment and Screening:
Everyday new research is being looked over discovered towards finding a cure for cancer. Today there is still no definate cure for breast cancer however, genetic testing can be a way to trace future cancer and after detection there are treatments that may rid of it, supress it or improve its conditions. Some examples of these treatments are hormone therapy, chemotherapy and radiation screening.

Genetic testing is a way for pathologist to detect early abnormalities a person may carry in their genetic DNA by performing a biopsy. "The task for the pathologist is to accurately classify lesions in what may be limited or disrupted material, with many potential diagnostic pitfalls" (Provenzano, page 3). The decision for someone to recieve genetic testing can be very scary and needs to be well thought over. If a mutated gene is detected, lifelong changes will need to be looked at and changed, such as the removal of a breast or lymph nodes. That is why it is necessary one is mentally prepared to have a positive detection.

A form of treatment after detection is hormone treatment. A study found that "PAM50 gene assay is highly prognostic for gene receptor (ER)-positive, tamoxifen-treated, breast cancer" (Printz, page 543). Tamoxifen is a hormone treatment that is used to inhibit breast cancer proliferation in estrogen-positive cancers. My mother actually used it and it supressed her cancer for almost two years, in other words it stabilized her cancer. However, typically hormone treatments are not lifelong lasting but can work for a streched period of time.

Another form of treatment is chemotherapy which can be very effective yet very harmful to the body short and long-term. Chemotherapy treatment is a method to kill all mutated cancerous cells anywhere in the body, however it as well kills all the healthy cells as well causing hair and nail loss. "Breast cancer studies found that chemotherapy treatment was associated with declines in cognitive functioning, particularly in areas of language, short-term memory,and spatial abilities.Working
and long-term memory, processing speed, and motor abilities were also affected" (Ouimet Et Al, page 74). Therefore, even if it does rid of the cancer a person who undergoes chemotherapy will forever have lasting-negative effects on their health and during the process will have a very weak immune system. "Today, as survival rates have increased, and quality of life for survivors is now becoming an important treatment-related consideration, the phenomenon that has been coined “chemo-brain” or “chemo-fog,”—that is, chronic memory and attention problems posttreatment—is receiving more attention" (Ouimet Et Al, page 74).

The last form of treatment that I will mention is radio therapy. Radiation is typically following chemotherapy and uses radio active, isotonic or ultraviolet rays to kill cancerous cells. "Radioactive therapy is a well-established method of reducing the incidence of local and regional recurrence after sugery for breast cancer" (Harris, page 29). "In breast cancer treatment, the tissues targeted for full-dose radiation include the whole breat and underlying chest wall (Harris, page 29). The method doctors use to radiate an entire breast is called a tangent beam. Another horrible problem involved with radiation are its extremely harmful effects on the human body such as long term cardiac and respiratory effects after treatments.

"Recent evidence suggests that women with breast cancer continue to experience significant levels of psychological distress, anxiety, hostility, and depression which interrupt daily life and diminish quality of life. Women deal with radiotherapy side effects and feelings of vulnerability during the treatment period, which can last for years after treatment. Greater physical symptoms during treatment predict future cancer-related distress, intrusive thoughts, and general emotional distress" (Matthews & Cook, page 716). Women who are fighting this deadly are constantly needed to be influenced by positive energy and reminded of their importance, love and strength. Without support and love their want to continue their treatments and survive will be reduced or diminished. Imagine yourself in this situation, guarenteed that you would need this optimism too!
Your Health: Guardianship
Your Health: Guardianship
(Image borrowed by Baker).

Literature Cited:
“Breast Awareness and Breast Self-Exam.” Self Breast Examination. 17 May 2010. Web. 17 May 2010.

Baker, Beth. "Who Guards the Guardians of the Vulnerable Elderly?" AARP Daily News & Articles: Health, Money, Social Security, Medicare, Politics & Financial Planning - AARP Bulletin Today. AARP Bulletin Today, 21 Apr. 2008. Web. 17 May 2010. <>.

"Cancers in Women — Disease Specific-Research: Breast Cancer." Office of Women's Health, National Cancer Institute. National Cancer Institute Office of Women's Health, Aug. 2007. Web. 15 May 2010. <>

Harris, Eleanor E. R. "Long-Term Cardiac Effects of Radiation Treatment for Breast Cancer." Current Medical Literature: Breast Cancer 19.2 (2007): 29-36. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 17 May 2010.

“Indianapolis Affiliate of Susan G. Komen, and Cover Indiana." Redwall LIVE : Experiential Marketing. Apparatus, 15 Feb. 2010. Web. 11 May 2010. <>.

"Lymph Node Involvement." - Breast Cancer Treatment Information and Pictures., 24 July 2008. Web. 13 May 2010.

Matthews, Ellyn E., & Paul F. Cook. "Relationships among optimism, well-being, self-transcendence, coping, and social support in women during treatment for breast cancer." Psycho-Oncology 18.7 (2009): 716-726. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 17 May 2010.

Ouimet, L. A., et al. "Measuring neuropsychological change following breast cancer treatment: An analysis of statistical models." Journal of Clinical & Experimental Neuropsychology 31.1 (2009): 73-89. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 17 May 2010.

Printz, C. "Detection and treatment key topics at annual Breast Cancer Symposium." Cancer 116.3 (2010): 543-543.

Provenzano, E.
"Pre-operative diagnosis of breast cancer in screening: problems and pitfalls." Pathology 41.1 (2009): 3-17.

"Vitamin ‘D’ Deficiency Linked to Breast Cancer in New Study." Women Magazine of Bangladesh. Bangladeshi Female Magazine, 15 July 2008. Web. 14 May 2010.

“What Is Breast Cancer?" - Breast Cancer Symptoms and Diagnosis., 25 November 2008. Web. 13 May 2010. <>.