Breast cancer affects one in every nine women in Britain, 45,000 women every year are diagnosed with it in some form or stage of development. Life style and cognitive interventions, i.e. counselling and psychotherapy can play an important part in how the patient deals with cancer in their lives and how they recover.
Our genes regulate cell growth and cancer occurs due to abnormal changes in these genes. Genes are in each cell's nucleus and control the cells growth in relation to our genetic make up. The cells grow and replace themselves in a natural formal replacement process.
Over time, mutations can occur within our genes, these mutated genes change the cell and how it grows, the mutated cells carry on the normal process but multiply and divide uncontrollably producing many mutated cells. The mutated cells form a cluster (tumour) which develops a means to nourish itself from the hosts blood supply.
There are two main types of tumour; benign and malignant, benign tumours are generally not seen as dangerous to health or life threatening and they grow very slowly with the cells being close to normal in behaviour and growth. On the other hand malignant tumours are cancerous and if left untreated can continue to multiply and spread to other parts of the body through blood circulation and the lymphatic system.
Cancer cells usually develop in the milk producing glands and ducts of the breasts, about 90% of all breast cancers are due to genetic abnormalities that are the result of ageing and normal wear and tear of life. If these cells are left unchecked they can spread to healthy surrounding tissue, and if they reach the under arm they can then attack the lymph nodes and through the lymphatic system reach other sites where the growth and multiplication of bad cells can begin again producing tumours in different sites. The lymph nodes are an important part of the bodies defence and immune system and are part of the lymphatic system which acts as a blood filter helping combat infection.
The exact reasons why people develop this disease are still not clearly defined, but what is known is that lifestyle, inherited gene mutations and environmental factors can put the individual at a higher risk of developing breast cancer. Also certain links have been found between high oestrogen levels (female sex hormone) and the development of breast cancer). A more aggressive type of breast cancer is inflammatory breast cancer (IBC), which grows in sheets or groups of cells that attack the skin and look like a rash. In its advanced stage breast cancer is called Metastatic breast cancer, where the cancer has spread beyond the original site and lymph nodes to other organs and bones. Symptoms
The usual symptom for breast cancer is a lump found in the breast or an armpit. Symptoms that can be felt or are visible are:
Swelling or lump in the breast.
Swelling in the armpit or lymph nodes.
Pain in the nipples.
Scaly or pitted skin.
Changes in shape or size.
There are five standard treatments for breast cancer;
Surgery, Radiation, Chemotherapy, Hormonal Therapy and Biologic Therapies (Drugs).
Each of the above treatments have debilitating side effects, some of these are physical, some visible and a large amount are psychological. The psychological effects of chemotherapy for instance have been shown to be feared as much as the onset of cancer. This was the results of the largest survey ever undertaken on behalf of the Oncology Nursing Society by Roper Starch Worldwide (1999). Of the 500 patients in the survey 68% confirmed that there biggest concern was the side effects of Chemotherapy and not the cancer. The revelation was that the patient's perceptions and actual physical and psychological well-being could be greatly improved...