Cancer is not just one disease

Cancer is not just one disease but rather a group of diseases. All forms of cancer cause cells in the body to

change and grow out of control. Most types of cancer cells form a lump or mass called a tumor. Cells from the

tumor can break away and travel to other parts of the body. There they can continue to grow. This spreading process

is called metastasis. When cancer spreads, it is still named after the part of the body where it started. For example, if

breast cancer spreads to the lungs, it is still breast cancer, not lung cancer. Another word for cancerous is malignant.

So a cancerous tumor is called malignant. But not all tumors are cancer. A tumor that is not cancer is called benign.

Benign tumors do not grow and spread the way cancer does. They are usually not a threat to life. A few cancers,

such as blood cancers (leukemia), do not form a tumor. Most kinds of cancer are named after the part of the body

where the cancer first starts. Breast cancer begins in the breast tissue. This article refers only to breast cancer in

women. Men can also get breast cancer, although this is rare. [Women.com, pp. 6]

Inside the breasts are glands that produce and release milk after a woman has a baby. The glands that make

the milk are called lobules and the tubes that connect them to the nipple are called ducts. The breast itself is made up

of lobules; ducts; and fatty, connective, and lymphatic tissue. There are several types of breast tumors. Most are

benign; that is, they are not cancer. These lumps are often caused by fibrocystic changes. Cysts are fluid-filled sacs,

and fibrosis refers to connective tissue or scar tissue formation. Fibrocystic changes can cause breast swelling and

pain. The breasts may feel lumpy and sometimes there is a clear or slightly cloudy nipple discharge. Benign breast

tumors are abnormal growths, but they do not spread outside of the breast and they are not life-threatening.

[Lawrence, pp. 54] Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women, other than skin cancer. It is the second

leading cause of cancer death in women, after lung cancer. Many great doctors predicts that there will be

about 184,200 new cases of invasive breast cancer in the year 2000 among women in this country and about 41,200

deaths from the disease. Breast cancer also occurs among men, although much less often. Death rates from breast

cancer declined significantly during 1992 to 1996, with the largest decrease in younger women– both white and

black. This decline is probably the result of better detection and improved treatment. We do not yet know exactly

what causes breast cancer, but we do know that certain risk factors are linked to the disease. A risk factor is

something that increases a person’s chance of getting a disease. Different cancers have different risk factors. Some

risk factors, such as smoking, can be controlled. Others, like a person’s age or family history, can’t be changed.

[Lee, pp. 124] While all women are at risk for breast cancer, the factors listed below can increase the chances of

having the disease. Some studies suggest that long-term use (10 years or more) of estrogen replacement therapy,

sometimes called hormone replacement therapy, for relief of menopause symptoms may slightly increase the risk of

breast cancer. This risk applies only to current and recent users. A woman’s breast cancer risk returns to that of the

general population within 5 years of stopping ERT. Replacement therapy also lowers the risk of heart attacks and

bone fractures; therefore, women should talk to their doctors about the pros and cons of using ERT. At this time,

there is no certain way to prevent breast cancer. For now, the best strategy is to reduce risk factors whenever

possible and follow the guidelines for finding breast cancer early. A personal or family history of breast cancer may

make genetic testing an option for some women. About 50%-60% of women with certain genetic changes

(mutations) will develop breast cancer by the age of 70. They also have an increased risk of ovarian cancer. Genetic

testing can tell if a woman has these mutated genes, but it cannot predict whether a woman will get breast cancer.

Genetic testing is expensive and is not covered by some health plans. People with positive results might not be able

to get insurance, or coverage might only be available at a much higher cost. You need to weigh carefully the benefits

and the drawbacks before you proceed with testing. [cancer.com, pp. 11] The drug tamoxifen has been used for

many years as a treatment for some breast cancer. Recent studies show that women at high risk for breast cancer are

less likely to develop the disease if they take tamoxifen. Another drug, raloxifene, also blocks the effect of estrogen

on breast tissue and some studies seem to show that it lowers the risk of breast cancer. But raloxifene has not yet

been approved for this use. In some rare cases, women at very high risk might consider a preventive (prophylactic)

mastectomy. This is an operation in which one or both breasts are removed before there is any known breast cancer.

The reasons for considering this type of surgery need to be very strong. They would include one or more of the

following: inherited mutated genes, an earlier breast cancer, a strong family history of breast cancer, and diagnosis

of certain conditions such as lobular carcinoma in situ. While the operation reduces the risk of breast cancer, it does

not guarantee that cancer won’t develop in the small amount of breast tissue remaining after the operation. The

earlier breast cancer is found, the better the chances for successful treatment. Because early breast cancer does not

produce symptoms, it’s important for all women to follow the guidelines for finding breast cancer early. A

mammogram and a breast exam by a doctor or nurse (clinical breast examination) every year for women over the

age of 40. Between the ages of 20 and 39, women should have a clinical breast exam every 3 years. All women over

20 should do breast self- examination (BSE) every month. Together, these methods offer the best chance of finding

breast cancer early. Each is covered in more detail below. [Vacan, pp. 37]

This paper has covered many things that people have learned and taught. Breast cancer is a really serious

type of cancer that can be treated if caught in the early stage. I have learned many things about breast cancer such as

how to detect it, treat it, and fight it. Breast cancer is one major fear of most women in the world today.

Works Cited

Cancer.com. Cancer Facts. New York: World Wide Web, 1994: 1-16

Feigenbeum, Lawrence H. Women in the 90’s. Dallas: Jovanovich, 1999

Lee, Susan A. Women Dealing With Breast Cancer. California: Harccurt, 1962

Vacan, Juile. Cancer in Women Today. New York: Teen People, 2000: 25-37

Women.com. Women on the Web. Florida: World Wide Web, 1998: 6-9

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