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A Letter from a Breast Cancer Patient

So, a few weeks ago, my family and I relocated to a quiet part of the city. The new house had a really large basement and I decided to move my library down there because the library in the house was really small. Unfortunately, the basement had not been used in years so it was filled with dust, crazy crawling insects and a whole lot of papers. I had to clean up! While cleaning, I came across a letter written by an old friend of the former owner of the house. The letter talked about a whole lot of realities regarding breast cancer; especially the signs, treatments, and preventions. I found the letter really informative and I thought it would be really nice to share it with you. Here we go!

The Letter

My dear friend, some weeks ago, I wrote to you; telling you that I have been diagnosed with breast cancer and had commenced treatment. In addition, I asked you if you had been going for regular breast examinations.  However, I was very surprised when you wrote back; stating that you really had no idea of what breast cancer is or why you even needed to examine your breasts regularly.  Apparently, you have not really changed from the conservative woman I have known all these while. Well, I decided to write this letter to explain to you what breast cancer is. I have also attached some images to the letter so you can really understand what I am saying. Let’s get talking!

Why the Fuss?

You may be wondering why I am really interested in making you understand the realities of breast cancer. Well, it is because breast cancer is a medical condition that affects a whole lot of women even before they know it. In fact, it is the second main cause of death in women after lung cancer. Pretty scary, right? Now you know why I am so worried.  In addition, 1 in every 37 women in the United States is likely to die from the disease every year. That is a 2.7% death rate.

Just Women?

A lot of people think that breast cancer is just a women’s stuff and the men are totally free. Well, this is definitely not the case. My husband also goes for breast examinations since he found out that he could also have the disease. Although the condition is more common in women, men can also have breast cancer. After all, they have breasts too.

So, what Exactly is Breast Cancer?

I have mentioned this phrase a lot in the cause of writing and I am sure you want to know what the disease is. It is the uncontrollable growth of malignant cells in the breast tissues of an individual. It is cancer that forms in the cells of the breast and there are different types of it. Inflammatory breast cancer, Ductal Carcinoma, and Angiosarcoma are common types. I was diagnosed with Ductal Carcinoma which is the presence of abnormal cells in the milk duct of the breasts.

How Did I Find Out?

After I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I joined the breast cancer support group in my community. Every week, we have outreach programs to teach women about breast cancer. Many times, the young women we talk to want to know how I found out that I had breast cancer. I’ll share some of the things I tell them.

Breast Lump

breast lumpThis is the most common symptom of breast cancer. In fact, it was the first sign that something was wrong with my breasts. I began to feel a sort of thickening that was quite different from the other surrounding tissues in my breasts. This was when I knew that something was wrong. I was able to detect this because I knew how to do a self- examination of my breasts. You can visit your local health provider to know how to examine your breasts. It is important that you see a doctor immediately you notice this sort of lump in your breasts. Usually, many of these lumps are not cancerous but because you can never know which one isn’t without proper examination, it is necessary that you visit your doctor if you notice these sorts of changes.

Changes

After the lump, the next thing I noticed was that my breast was changing in its general appearance and shape. My nipple too became a bit inverted in shape plus I had these really ugly rashes around it.

Redness of the Breast

The skin of my breast became just like the skin of an orange. It was pretty red. This condition, I later learned, is called pitting. In addition, I began to experience occasional blood-like discharge from my nipple.

When these symptoms persisted, I visited the health center for proper diagnosis. Usually, the health center should carry out a series of tests including a physical examination. A common test done is mammography which should produce images that can help detect lumps and any other abnormalities in your breast.  Next, I went through an ultrasound scan which helped to reveal whether the lumps were solid masses of fluid-filled cysts.  They also carried out an MRI scan. This involves injecting a dye into the patient in order to find out how far the cancer has spread.

After all of these, the doctors carried out a Biopsy. They removed a sample of the lump tissue surgically and carried out a laboratory diagnosis on it to determine the stage of cancer.

Why Did I even have Breast Cancer?

This question began resonating in my head immediately the doctor told me that I had breast cancer. I wanted to know why the cells in my breasts would start growing uncontrollably all of a sudden. Was it something I had eaten or my lifestyle that caused it? I asked the doctor and she told me that breast cancer was the result of a combination of a number of genetic and environmental factors. Usually, the condition resulted from genetic mutations that occur in the DNA of the breast cells. Unfortunately, it was not clear why those mutations occur. However, she shared a number of breast cancer risk factors with me. I will tell you three of them.

Genes

genesGenes play a major role in determining whether you would have breast cancer or not. For some women, their families have a breast cancer history. If a close relative has or has had breast cancer, it is most likely that you would have breast cancer. This is because these genes can be inherited. Research states that women who have the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes have a greater possibility of developing breast cancer or other cancers like ovarian cancer.

 The Older you Get; the Higher the Risks!

elderly womanAs weird as this sounds, old age is one of the risk factors for breast cancer. This means that once you are getting older, you are at higher risks of having breast cancer. The benchmark is usually 40 and it is highest for women in their 70s. Research shows that at 20, a girl has a 0.2% chance of having breast cancer. At 40, however, this increases to nearly 3.8%. As you know, I am well over 40 years of age. This may be why I have the disease.

Lifestyle

drinkingThere are a number of things that we do which put us at risk. Excessive alcohol intake is one of the things that increase your chances of having breast cancer. In addition, women who are overweight; especially after menopause, may develop breast cancer. This is because after menopause; women generally have higher estrogen levels. Also, increased sugar intake after menopause may also increase your chances of having breast cancer. Other factors like exposure to radiation plus high hormone levels can also put you at risk.

Treatment

surgeonsThe treatment options for cancer vary based on the stage of cancer and the type. Popular options include Surgery, Chemotherapy, Radiation therapy and other forms of biological treatment. The efficacy of these methods usually depends on the stage of the cancer tumor. Persons with stage one cancer have almost a 100% chance of surviving the condition. It is important that you discuss with your physician to know the best treatment option for you. I opted for a Lumpectomy and I am due for the operation in two weeks. A lumpectomy is a type of surgery that helps to prevent the spread of cancer to other healthy tissues. It involves removing the tumor and a small part of the healthy breast tissue.

Preventing Breast Cancer

I don’t want to have breast cancer. What should I do? This is a question many women ask at the outreach sessions. Sadly, there is no definite way of preventing breast cancer but there are a number of things you can do, lifestyle-wise. Eating healthy, reducing alcohol intake and exercising regularly are some things that you can do to reduce your risk of breast cancer. You may also have a preventive surgery if you are absolutely sure that your chances of having breast cancer are high.

Dear friend, these are the most important things I think you should know about my condition. I should visit after my surgery but before then; ensure that you visit the clinic to know the state of your breasts. You will be glad you did!

Best Regards with Love.

Final Words

I was glad that I cleaned up that basement. It helped me learn more about breast cancer and the letter became one of the most important collections in my library. I keep it with all my classic novels. Breast cancer is a serious medical condition and the best way to beat it is through early detection. Why not visit the health clinic today? It could just be the best decision you have ever taken with regards to your health.