October is breast cancer awareness month

Ashton Smith, Contributing Writer

Creative Commons

One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.

Oklahoma Baptist University consists of approximately 2,000 people. That means 250 OBU students could develop breast cancer, but this could be prevented.

Dr. Karen Cotter, an assistant professor of nursing, has advice about early detection of breast cancer in females.

“Early detection will allow for finding suspicious tissue growth earlier, and in some cases, allow for it to be removed before it becomes a cancerous growth, requiring more invasive and extensive treatment,” Cotter said.

“Cancerous cells that are found early are more likely to result in complete removal and cure of that individual’s disease.”

Early detection could help save someone’s life, so it is recommended to start early especially if you are noticing any strange or unnatural changes.

“Performing self-exams is a way to detect changes,” Cotter said.

“American Cancer Society (ACS) has excellent resources online for screening and detecting cancer at an early stage.”

These resources could be valuable for young women, as breast cancer in young patients is generally more aggressive.

In a story from the “Detroit Free Press,” a woman struggled with getting her diagnoses early on because it is so rare for young ladies to have breast cancer in their 20’s.

The doctors wouldn’t listen to her pleas and dismissed her as being “too dramatic” over the situation.

They wouldn’t biopsy her, and once they finally diagnosed her, she literally had to stop everything in her life.

“She dropped all of her classes and scheduled treatment that would include chemotherapy, a double mastectomy and the removal of 19 lymph nodes along with radiation,” a friend said.

The article further explains how late detection is a common situation for many young women and how they are left floundering as they seek treatment and coverage.

Megan Nikolich, a youth program manager at Gilda’s Club of Metro Detroit, and a nonprofit Royal Oak-based cancer support organization further explained what these women have to go through.

“What if you are not even in a serious relationship, and you have to decide right now if you might want a family in the future because your treatment plan might involve a hysterectomy or infertility,” Nikolich asked in the article.

“That is just something that many women in their 20s are not ready to be thinking about.”

Unfortunately, young patients often fail to get diagnosed at all because they fall in a medical gap of sorts; they are too old for regular pediatric check-ups but too young for annual mammograms.

This means so much of the first diagnosis relies in self exams and awareness.

There are many factors to watch out for when it comes to breast cancer, but there are some false theories.

“The ACS prides itself on providing the most up-to-date, accurate information about cancer-related issues, research and news,” the ACS website said.

The ACS warns that many cancer-related email messages heighten fears about issues.

Another false idea is that breast cancer is passed down generationally without fail.

“There is a known genetic likelihood for breast cancer, but it is not a guarantee that if a family member has breast cancer that it would happen to the next generation,” Cotter said.

“Causes of Cancer are multifactorial; however, if one of your family members has been diagnosed with breast cancer, you should be wary.”

Cotter said women older than 40-years old should have an annual mammogram screening.

“If an individual finds something suspicious on a breast self-exam, or a health care provider assesses something abnormal upon a clinical breast exam, then a routinely performed mammogram may be warranted earlier than age 40,” Cotter said.

If you do know a loved one or a friend who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, there is so much that you can do for them.

“Support groups and support persons are a great intervention for anyone experiencing a disease process,” Cotter said.

There are many ways you can reach out to your loved one.

Cotter suggests doing research on your own and find support groups.

“Learn about the treatment prescribed,” Cotter said.

“Send notes of encouragement.”

Knowing about the treatment and reactions to treatment can be beneficial.

“Know that often the treatment for cancer involves effecting the immune system of the individual,” Cotter said.

“You must be careful not to expose them to individuals who are sick.”

Simply just loving and supporting your loved one can help.

“Support the individual,” Cotter said.

“Make sure to ask lots of questions.”

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