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brest cancer awareness - oct2012

altChances are you know at least one person who has suffered from breast cancer or is currently fighting the disease. With almost 200,000 women being diagnosed with breast cancer each year, it is important to celebrate October’s National Breast Cancer Awareness Month where we all can further educate ourselves on the deadly disease. After all, knowledge is power!

Breast Cancer Signs/Symptoms

Dr. William Owens, MD, breast surgeon at Aurora BayCare Medical Center, says the most common sign or symptom of breast cancer is finding an abnormal lump in the breast, whether it is found by oneself or by a practitioner during a physical exam.

“When a patient feels something in a breast that catches her attention, the first thing she should do is feel the mirror image in the opposite breast,” Dr. Owens advises. “If she does not feel the same thing there, she should alert her provider.”

According to Dr. Owens, these lumps feel distinctly different from the normal tissue in the breast. He describes them as firm and also says they can appear “sticky” to the tissue around them, not being freely moveable. Other symptoms of breast cancer can be spontaneous nipple discharge or change in the breast skin and/or nipple shape. Marble-like lumps found in the armpit could also be a possible sign, however not all these signs and symptoms definitely mean breast cancer and they may not be cause for alarm.

“Women should know that most breast complaints actually arise from benign issues,” he explains. “But all should be taken seriously and reported to a provider.”

Dr. Owens says approximately 45 percent of breast cancers are found by the patient, not by their medical provider, which is why self-exams are so important and should be performed on a regular basis.

Causes and Preventative Measures

Breast cancer occurs when the chromosomes of a breast cell divide abnormally. Dr. Owens explains that these abnormal cells can die on their own because our body sees them as foreign and our immune system will get rid of them naturally. Other times, repair genes can correct these abnormal cells. When these “bad cells” bypass the body’s safety mechanisms, it can result in more cancerous cells being created.

The following are certain risk factors that could increase the chances of these cell accidents, which could possibly lead to breast cancer:

• Obesity and/or a fatty diet

• Sedentary lifestyle

• Heavy drinking

• Exposure to chemicals or radiation

• Long-term hormone replacement therapy

• Family history of breast or other

cancers such as ovarian cancer

Many of these factors relate to an increased level of estrogen in the body. There are other ways of being exposed to a higher level of estrogen that many people may not even be aware of, such as harmful chemicals.

“Environmental exposures may play a greater role than has been appreciated to date,” Dr. Owens says. “Many chemical solvents and plastics have estrogen-like effects on our bodies.”

Dr. Carrie Thoms, MD, of Prevea Health in Green Bay says it is important to avoid any exposure of chemicals that have been known to cause cancer, such as cigarettes and other items.

“I recommend the use of a water filter,” she says. “Clean water is always a good health drink!”

By making a change in your lifestyle to avoid these harmful factors, you can possibly improve your chances of not getting breast cancer; however, doctors always stress the importance of regular self breast exams as a way to be proactive.

“Know that early detection is the key to long-term survival,” Dr. Thoms states. “Don’t ignore the self breast exam and seek your doctor’s advice if you find a new problem.”

In addition to self exams, regular mammograms are extremely important because they can detect something that you might not be able to. Again, the earlier breast cancer is detected, the better chance you have of beating the disease.

“Mammograms save lives by finding many breast cancers that can be cured,” Dr. Thoms says.

Treatment Options

Dr. Thoms explains that the treatment chosen is reflected upon the stage and biology of the breast cancer.

“Each breast cancer is as unique as the man or woman who is afflicted by it,” she says. “The extent of the breast cancer, the patient’s personal and family medical history and the patient’s preferences guide treatment of the breast.”

Depending upon the stage of breast cancer, there are four primary treatment types: surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and hormone therapy.

Dr. Owens says that the lumpectomy surgery is the most common first choice, but it definitely depends on the level of advancement of the cancer.

“The earlier a breast cancer is detected, the more likely it can be cured with less aggressive treatment,” Dr. Owens says. “It is imperative that women follow their provider’s plan for them with regular exams in the office and regular mammograms.”

While this month is dedicated to breast cancer awareness, we must not forget to remember the severity of the issue the other 11 months of the year. Conduct regular self-exams, follow a healthy lifestyle and contact your doctor immediately if anything seems out of the ordinary. Remember, most breast cancers can be cured if found early!

Upcoming Events

Thursday, October 4, 2012

2012 Fall Fashion Event Grapevine Café, Green Bay, 6 – 9 p.m. Fashions from Lady Savannah; event supports the local Boland Family Great Lakes Run Foundation. lsboutique.com.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Pink Pumpkin Candlelight Service St. John Lutheran Church, De Pere, 6 – 8 p.m. This candlelight service honors those affected by cancer. bcff.org.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

5th Annual Pink Pumpkin Walk/Run St. John Lutheran Church, De Pere, 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. The Breast Cancer Family Foundation uses this annual fundraiser to present cancer awareness and prevention classes to the community. bcff.org.

Save 2nd Base sponsored by The Bar The Bar locations in Appleton, Oshkosh, Green Bay, 4 p.m. The walk benefits healthcare providers in Appleton, Oshkosh, Green Bay and Wausau. meetatthebar.com/cancer_walk.html.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Lambeau Field, Green Bay, and Memorial Park, Neenah, 9 a.m. Countless communities are joining in the walk to end breast cancer. cancer.org/stridesonline.

3rd Annual Pink Park Breast Cancer Foundation GALA Hollanders Pub and Grill, Little Chute, 10:30 a.m. Celebrate life while helping local breast cancer patients. pinkparty1.com.

Miles of Memories 5k Run/Walk Anytime Fitness, Winneconne, 10 a.m. Proceeds from the walk/run benefit the Miriam B. White Foundation. mbwfoundation.org.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

2012 TREK Breast Cancer Awareness Ride Wheel & Sprocket, Appleton, 10 a.m. Choose the 10 or 25-mile bike ride to increase breast cancer awareness; money goes to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation. wheelandsprocket.com.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Annual Breast Cancer Match Barney Williams Park, Howard, 1 p.m. Green Bay Celtics Rugby Football Club holds their annual match with raffle and events to benefit local organizations. Viewing is free.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Hair Battle for Hope – Hair Show and Competition Fox Cities Performing Arts Center, Appleton, 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. Beauty professionals battle it out; proceeds benefit The American Cancer Society and The Medical Prosthesis Outreach Foundation. hairbattleforhope.com.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Bras Across the Fox College Avenue Bridge, Appleton, and Ray Nitschke Bridge, Green Bay, 6 – 10 a.m. Bring a bra, hang it up and send a message of hope. Doug and Mary from 95.9 KISS FM are helping raise money for breast cancer research and awareness. 959kissfm.com.

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