Breast Cancer Awareness Month
By Dr. Desirea D. Caucci, PT, DPT, OCS
October represents an important celebration month for me because it is National Physical Therapy Month, but it also happens to be another important month–National Breast Cancer Awareness month. This is another topic near and dear to me as my own mother is now close to being a 10-year breast cancer survivor. I know many of you can relate as breast cancer is plaguing approximately 185,000+ women per year.
For more than 20 years, National Breast Cancer awareness month has heightened our awareness of the disease and how to be proactive in detection, diagnosis and treatment. All women over 40 need to have annual mammograms, and those at increased risk need to begin even sooner. Mammography screenings can significantly improve a woman’s chance of survival. Women of all ages also need to be taking charge of their own breast health by performing regular self-breast exams. Equally important, survivors and patients need to maintain their prescribed treatments.
Like all cancers, breast cancer develops when the normal cell growth and proliferation is disrupted, leading to an uncontrolled spread of abnormal cells. These abnormal cells invade and destroy normal tissue. Breast cancer is usually a slow growing cancer that can spread microscopically many years before it is detected. Taking a sample of the tissue through biopsy will test any questionable lumps or thickening of tissue for cancer.
Stages of breast cancer are determined by the tumor size, lymphatic involvement or metastatic lesions (cancer that has spread to other parts of the body). Stage I represents tumors 2 centimeters or smaller without lymph node or metastasis. Stage II represents tumors 2-5 centimeters with one or more lymph nodes involved. Stage III represents tumors over 5 centimeters or a large number of lymph nodes involved. Stage IV is the most involved stage as it represents metastatic disease.
Treatment possibilities include removal of the tumor (lumpectomy) or the entire breast (mastectomy) and possibly the surrounding musculature and lymph nodes, radiation, chemotherapy, bone marrow transplant, stem cell transplant, and/or hormonal therapy. We all know of the possible common treatment side effects including hair loss, weight changes, nausea and vomiting, and there are other side effects including fatigue, decreased white blood cells, liver problems and lymphedema.
Lymphedema is one complication in which physical therapists can facilitate recovery. Lymphedema can occur whenever lymph nodes are removed and the normal circulation of lymph fluid is impaired. Fluid then pools in the limb involved. There are very specific ways to treat this with wrapping, pumps, lymph massage and gentle exercise. For anyone needing lymphedema treatment, I recommend going to a certified lymphedema physical therapist because of the specialized care it requires.
Ladies, remember your self breast exams and schedule your annual mammograms so you can enjoy many more healthy Octobers to come.
This article was brought to you by Dr. Desirea D. Caucci, PT, DPT, OCS of Conshohocken Physical Therapy. Keep up with all the latest health tips and information by following their blogs at http://conshypt.com/blog.