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Each year, more and more women are being diagnosed with breast cancer. In Sampson County alone, more than 65 women are being given the diagnosis and local health care officials are working hard to spread awareness of this disease that many women face.
According to Dr. Samer Kasbari, physician with Southeastern Medical Oncology Center, knowing the facts about breast cancer are vitally important in fighting the battle with the disease.
There are five stages of breast cancer, with the stage of breast cancer presentation describing the size of a tumor and how much local or distant spread has occurred. In general terms, Stage I is small cancer and usually very treatable. When breast cancer enters Stage II, the cancer is larger. Stage III are cancers with local spreading to the lymph nodes and Stage IV cancer has spread into other organs. Stages IV cancers are terminal and untreatable with surgery, chemotherapy or radiation.
“Treatment of breast cancer is complicated and depends on many factors that include the cellular make up of the cancer cells and the staging of the cancer,” Kasbari said. “Treatment will most likely include a surgical resection, followed with possible chemotherapy, radiation and anti-estrogen pills.”
Any abnormal growths are referred to has a tumor. Benign tumors are not cancerous, while a malignant tumor is and has the ability to metastasize or travel to other organs in the body and potentially cause organ failure.
“Any abnormalities in the breast that include a mass, nipple discharge, red skin, change in the skin texture, are signs that need to be addressed promptly,” Kasbari said. “Other signs include fullness under the arm, which may indicate lymph node spread. Systemic symptoms may include worsening fatigue, weight loss, new pain or possible neurological problems.”
According to Luke Smith, public health educator with the Sampson County Health Department, early detection is an important key in women’s breast health and the BCCCP program helps aide women in early detection.
“Early detection is the best protection,” she attested. “Breast cancer screenings (mammograms) lead to early treatment and increased survival rates. The program is very beneficial to women. The program is for women that have little or no health insurance and if not for the program, these women may not get screened due to the cost.”
Smith advised that women should receive regular screenings and encouraged all women to get screened. She said BCCCP services are extremely important for early detection and that the earlier cancer is found and treated, the better the outcome.
“Risk factors for breast cancer include, but are not limited to, just being a woman, age (your risk increases as you get older), family history, and race or ethnicity,” Smith advised.
According to Smith, African Americans, Hispanics and Asians are at a higher risk for breast cancer.
“While these are factors that we cannot change, there are other risk factors that we can change,” Smith said. “For example being overweight, smoking, eating unhealthy… By educating women on breast cancer facts, risks, and screenings, we want to make sure the risk of getting breast cancer is as low as possible.”
Kasbari echoed Smith’s warnings. According to the oncologist, women should avoid tobacco, alcohol and being obese to help reduce the likelihood of developing cancer. More importantly, she added, women should undergo mammograms annually after the age of 40 and perform monthly self examinations.
“Anytime a woman detects any abnormality in the breast, she needs to address the issue with a physician,” Kasbari shared. “Also, women with strong family history need to discuss the matter with their physicians. Lastly, male breast cancer makes up one percent of all breast cancer and males need to be aware that they can also develop such cancer.”
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.