Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Breast Cancer: Facts, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatments, Prevention

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month! Many women are diagnosed annually with breast cancer, however, men also have a chance of developing it. This article will explain what breast cancer is, what it does, how it is treated, and ways readers can take preparation to lower their chances of developing the cancer.

What is breast cancer and what does it do?

Breast cancer happens when cells in the breast form a group of cancerous cells which can end up invading the surrounding tissue or spread to other areas of the body. There are times the cell growth goes awry and creates new cells that the body does not need as well as old and damaged cells not going away as they should. As a result, cells build up causing lumps. Breast cancer occurs when a cancerous tumor emerges. 

What are the symptoms or early signs that I may have breast cancer?

  • Breast tenderness or notice of lumps
  • Larger pores in the skin of the breast or a change in texture of skin
  • Non explainable change in size or shape
  • Swelling of breast
  • Unexplained shrinkage
  • Discharge

Naturally, with any of the symptoms, it is a good idea to take a trip to the doctors office. 1 in 8 women are diagnosed to have breast cancer. Odds are 10% more likely if there is a family history.

What happens during the diagnosis?

In order to get diagnosed, there are typically five different ways or steps that the doctor may take. One is a mammogram, which is an x-ray taken to see if there is anything strange going on in the tissue. Another method is taking an ultrasound. This uses sound waves that do not damage the tissue and cannot be heard by human ears. A third method is an MRI. For an MRI, tissue is scanned which makes detailed pictures of activity in areas of the breast. A biopsy can also be done. During a biopsy for breast cancer, tissue is removed and sometimes fluid as well. This is done for examination of the infected cells and are sent for testing. Lastly, additional lab tests may be order for further verification. 

What treatments exist for breast cancer?

The treatments that currently exist for breast cancer are surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy (uses drugs to block growth of cancer cells), and lastly is nutrition as well as physical therapy. It is very important to get follow up care after treatment. This helps the doctor to determine if treatment worked as it should have, or if the patient needs more care.

How can I prevent breast cancer?

There is no definite way to prevent breast cancer. However, there is speculation that you can take steps early to hopefully prevent it. Whether or not these are true or false remains to be proven. Ways that are speculated to help are:

  • Limit alcohol use, as research says the more you drink, the more you increase your chances
  • Do not smoke - evidence shows there is a strong link between breast cancer risk and smoking
  • Weight control - researches say being overweight and obese increases chances
  • Be physically active - a healthy way is said to prevent risk of breast cancer
  • Breast feeding is also speculated to play a role in the prevention of breast cancer
  • Limiting dosage and duration of hormone therapy
  • Avoiding exposure to radiation and pollution caused by the environment

For even greater information about breast cancer as well as myths and FAQs, visit the following link:

As always, stay safe and have a fantastic October!

Author: Beth Jeffries, MHC Healthcare Volunteer

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Zika Virus Awareness

The Zika virus is a virus that is rapidly growing. The main carriers for the virus are infected mosquitoes. While these mosquitoes can be active at night, they are primarily out during the day which is why it is important to wear bug spray and find out ways to ward off those pesky insects.

What is the Zika virus exactly?

The Zika virus is known for causing birth defects. As mentioned above, the virus was originally spread by mosquitoes who would pass it on through aggressive biting. Once someone is infected, they can also pass it on to their partner through sex. The virus causes birth defects by entering the fetus and infecting it. It is also associated with other pregnancy issues.

What are the symptoms?

If someone is infected, statistics show one in five with the virus will actually show symptoms. Symptoms associated with the virus include fever, rash, joint pain, and can also show red marks in the white part of the eye. The virus can cause flu-symptoms as well which typically last a few days up to a little over a week. Unfortunately, there are currently no treatments for the virus. Researchers are currently testing vaccines, but they are not yet obtainable.

For babies who are affected with the virus, they will have a stunted head growth which can cause tremendous brain damage and has a good chance resulting in a still birth or a miscarriage. As a result, there are quite a few countries telling pregnant women they should not travel to other countries known to have the virus. Researchers say that as of September 15, 2016, 750 women in the U.S. had confirmed they had the virus. As of September 21, 2016, more than 3,300 travelers had cases of the ZIKA virus. A very small handful was sexually transmitted. 

How can I protect myself and help to spread awareness?
  • Use insect repellent that is EPA-registered
  • Protect your skin by using long sleeved clothing and long pants
  • Staying in places that have air conditioning as well as windows and doors with screens is safe
  • Do not keep standing water in or around the home
  • Share this information with people you know 
  • If you have been to any of the countries known to have the virus, get a checkup with your doctor

The following link will hopefully be useful and shows all the countries currently battling the virus:

For those traveling, stay safe and be sure to carry insect repellent! The virus is said to spread even more this upcoming year.

Learn more about the Zika Virus here:

Author: Beth Jeffries, MHC Healthcare Volunteer