FYI: Knowing The Terms Associated With Breast Cancer



One breast cancer survivor is Luciana, a middle aged mom. She had noticed a tiny pimple on her breast, close to a year before her diagnosis and ignored it, until she noticed that the pimple was growing and was now a visible lump on her breast.

Luciana knew about breast cancer, but that was all she knew. Even with the lump, she still did not go to a doctor, on the premise that she wasn’t in any pain. Her husband had taken a look but since she said she wasn’t in pain, then the lump would disappear the same way it came, at least he thought so.

Months later, the pain she was expecting came and that was when she headed to the hospital. There, the doctor told her, after some investigations, that she had breast cancer and that it was spreading, and in order to curtail further spread, then she had to have a mastectomy as soon as was possible.

With further discussion, she realised she knew nothing about breast cancer, just that it was a cancer. Then, it dawned on her that the pimple she had seen on her breast nearly a year ago, could have saved her if she had been educated about breast cancer.

Because, it had become part of her life history, Luciana set out to educate herself on all things breast cancer, especially for the sake of her daughter, who was getting unduly scared about her own cancer risk.

If Luciana had the excuse of age for not being aware of basic breast cancer terms, Seyi had no such reason, except it just did not occur to her that breast cancer could happen to her. It happened to other people, she pitied them and sometimes prayed that God would see them through it all, but she simply circled her snapped fingers over her head and said Tufiakwa, whenever it was mentioned in connection with her.

When she was diagnosed, she took it badly, recalled that she had gone off sugar, stayed off carbs, exercised religiously, so how come cancer found her?

That is one question that I don’t have an answer to, neither does she, but she has become very versatile with the terms on breast cancer.

With two women already learning about breast cancer, all it entails and more importanty, so that this month of breast cancer awareness counts for me, I decided to learn more about breast cancer and the terms associated with it. Ladies, let’s do this if not for their sake, then for the sake of a sister, a daughter, a friend or even a stranger.

Below are my findings.

BRCA Gene: If you test positive for an abnormal BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene, then you are at elevated risks of suffering breast cancer. BRCA genes are DNA contents of one’s cells, and their presence indicates that one is almost assured they will suffer from breast cancer at some point in their lives. Remember, Angelina Jolie? Those genes are present in her, hence her decision to get a double mastectomy.


Benign Breast Conditions (Benign Breast Disease): Non-cancerous conditions of the breast that can result in lumps or other abnormalities. Examples include cysts and fibroadenomas.


Cancer Stages: The type and extent of treatment doctors prescribe is usually hinged on the stage of the cancer in the affected breast tissues. Cancer stages are usually expressed as a number on a scale of 0 through to 4. At stage 0, the cancer is none invasive and largely remains localized. A stage 4, cancer cells on the other hand are invasive and have spread outside the breast to other parts of the body.


Carcinogen: This is any substance associated with growth of cancer. For example, tobacco smoke, alcohol, and certain chemical compounds, have been determined to increase chances of one contracting cancer.


Carcinoma: When cancer occurs in cells that make up the top membranes that cover or line many organs or organ systems, it is called carcinoma.  Carcinomas occur when the DNA of a cell is damaged or altered and the cell begins to grow uncontrollably and become malignant


Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy (often shortened to chemo) is cancer treatment that utilises certain medicines (drugs) to destroy or control the growth of cancer cells. Chemotherapy can also harm healthy cells that divide quickly, such as those that line your mouth and intestines or hair follicles, hence the baldness often experienced by cancer patients.


Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA): The procedure is diagnostic; done by doctors to pick small tissues from a suspected mass or lump, which could possibly be cancerous. A thin needle is inserted into an area of abnormal-appearing tissue or body fluid and samples are picked for further testing.


DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ) An early type of breast cancer where the cells have not yet developed the ability to spread out of the ducts into surrounding breast tissue or to other parts of the body. Sometimes called pre-invasive, intraductal or non-invasive cancer.


Inflammatory breast cancer: Is a rare type of breast cancer where the skin of the breast looks red, and may feel warm and tender (‘inflamed’).


Lumpectomy: An operation to remove an area of breast tissue with or without a margin of healthy tissue. In breast cancer may also be called wide local excision or breast-conserving surgery.


MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan: Uses magnetic fields and radio waves to produce a series of images of the inside of the breast or another part of the body.


Occult breast cancer: Breast cancer that can’t be felt or seen on imaging (for example, mammogram or ultrasound). It’s usually diagnosed when someone is being investigated for symptoms elsewhere in the body, for example enlarged lymph nodes. Sometimes a biopsy in another part of the body shows cells that look like secondary breast cancer cells, indicating there is a primary cancer in the breast, even though it can’t be seen.


Secondary breast cancer: When cancer cells from the breast have spread to other parts of the body such as the bones, lungs, liver or brain. Also called metastases, advanced breast cancer, secondaries or stage 4 breast cancer.


Hope this helps someone.




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