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Breast Cancer AwarenessWeek 2: Stress, Cancer and Health Effects

Breast cancer is one of the most common and invasive cancers seen in females internationally. According to reports, this form of cancer accounts for up to 20% of cancer-related fatalities worldwide. Even though breast cancer is well-known and we acknowledge it in the month of October, the average individual does not have adequate knowledge about the cancer.

Today’s post is going to go over the wide range of causes and risk factors for the development of breast cancer as well as how it can impact a patient’s health and what you can do to be preventative in your daily regime.


Aging is a natural process and often a cause of breast cancer development. Malignant or cancerous cells are created when there are abnormal changes in the part of a breast cell’s DNA. This part of the cell controls the processes of cellular growth, multiplication and apoptosis. This is known as the DNA mutation and it only takes the right mutation of one breast tissue cell in order for malignancy to develop. Your cells change, grow, die and multiply every day; however, cells in a younger individual’s body have not gong through the same number of cell cycles or have been exposed to as many damaging factors as those in an older individual. This means that a younger individual’s breast tissue cells have a lot less of an overall opportunity for the DNA to mutate. The older the body is, the less capable it is of being able to repair the damage that has happened in the cell’s DNA. Once the damage is beyond repair, the immune system is supposed to take over and eliminate the cells with cancerous-like DNA; unfortunately, individuals who are older have a decreased immune defense in this area.

Hormone Replacement Therapy

Some women who use hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can develop breast cancer. Many women have used HRT while going through menopause to help with relief of symptoms like hot flashes, fatigue, loss of bone density. The type of HRT that increases your chances of breast cancer risk is called Combination HRT and it is made from estrogen and progesterone. Even if the Combination HRT is used for a short time, it can increase the risk of developing breast cancer by 75%. The risk is at its highest during the first two to three years of using Combination HRT. When a woman stops using Combination HRT it can take a minimum of two years for the risk to drop back down to an average level. The other type of HRT called estrogen-only HRT has shown to increase the chance of developing breast if they use it for over ten years. It doesn’t matter if the products used are natural, synthetic or bioidentical, the risk is still the same.


Some studies have shown that breast cancer may be the result of obesity. Anyone who has a body mass index of greater than 25% is considered to be either overweight or obese. Individuals who are obese have a greater number of fat cells in their body. These fat cells produce estrogen. The more fat cells, the increased amount of estrogen and estrogen has the ability to cause hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers to originate, develop and expand. The link between the development of breast cancer and extra fat is very complex and still being researched. It can be influenced by other factors including the location of the fat cells. Excess fat tissue around an individual’s belly can increase the risk of breast cancer more than if the excess fat cells were on the hips, thighs or back. Post-menopause women who have an increase of five units in body mass index can be linked with a 12% increase in breast cancer risk. Those who are post-menopausal and have a body mass index that is considered obese have a 40% increase in the risk of developing breast cancer.

Birth Control Pills

The use of oral contraceptives or birth control pills has also shown and increase of hormone-receptive-positive breast cancers. These medications contain hormones that are taken to prevent pregnancy. By stopping the regular ovulation cycle and stopping the sperm to pass through a woman’s cervix pregnancy can be avoided. Birth control pills that are a combination of estrogen and progesterone and are more likely to cause breast cancer than other types of birth control pills. An increased risk of developing breast cancer is also linked with the use of a triphasic type of oral contraceptive. This changes hormone doses three times during a monthly cycle. Estrogen and progesterone will stimulate the initiation, creation and expansion of certain types of breast cancer. Oral contraceptives contain synthetic forms of hormones and can make women taking them more likely to develop the hormone-receptive-positive breast cancer.

Ionizing Radiation Exposure

In some woman, breast cancer can be caused by too much ionizing radiation exposure. This is a form of radiation with energy levels that have the ability to extract an electron from a molecule or atom. Ionizing radiation is found in x-rays, neutrons, gamma rays, radon, alpha particles and beta particles. Testing or using atomic weapons, working in or near nuclear power plants can be sources to exposure to this type of high-energy radiation. Some medical imaging treatment therapy procedures may also expose women to the ionizing radiation. Some examples would be computed tomography (CT) scans, positron emission tomography (PET) scans, chest x-rays, and radiation therapy treatment. Too much exposure from this type of radiation can cause significant cell damage that could create widespread mutations of cell DNA. It is rare to have breast cancer as a result of ionizing radiation exposure, but if the mutations occur in the right section of a breast cell’s DNA, breast cancer could develop.


Family history of certain diseases increases an individual’s risk factor for that disease. This is why genetics has been researched for so many different diseases and cancers. If a female has at least one close relative who developed breast cancer or ovarian cancer they will have a higher risk of developing either disease. Breast cancer is a common type, but majorities are not hereditary. Two family members could develop the disease, but it doesn’t mean that they share the same genes that made them more susceptible to developing the cancer. For example, BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes can be inherited and those women who carry those genes are more likely to develop cancer within their lifetime. It is important for anyone in a family who develops breast cancer to find out if they have the BRCA gene. My mother found out she didn’t have the gene and it was a “fluke” that she got the cancer in her breast. Her mother passed from ovarian cancer, so we have been very diligent about our screenings and testing every year.

The Start of Breast Cancer

Most breast cancer starts in the interior lining of the milk ducts or the lobules. When the cancer develops in the lobules it is called a lobular carcinoma. When the cancer forms in the milk ducts it is known as ductal carcinoma. The initial results of breast cancer are masses or lumps that can be felt within the breast. Some lumps can feel firm and be painful or immobile. The tumors grow without help from any connective tissue which could cause in visible changes in the breast’s surface. A common symptom of breast cancer is discharge from the nipples since the tumors will disrupt the ducts that lead to the nipple.

The Spread of Breast Cancer

A malignant tumor can spread to other parts of the body. Breast cancer is known to spread to lungs, liver and bones. When breast cancer is detected in the lungs it is known as metastasis. When other tissues in the body are affected you can see multiple health issues. Lung issues can lead to difficulty in breathing, needing oxygen or getting pneumonia. Issues with the liver can produce a jaundice look or issues with blood clotting. Bone issues can lead to falling, fractures and longer healing times.

Treatment and Your Options

There are several stages of treatment for breast cancer. There is a team to help you and they consist of a surgeon, radiologist, dietitian and psychologist. Each individual will have a specific plan for them depending on the type of breast cancer that has been detected. Treatments are determined by the following: If the cancer is invasive or non-invasive; the stage of the cancer; the patient’s general health; the patient’s age; if the cells are sensitive to hormones or not. Primary treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy and biological treatment. There are side effects linked to the treatments and most frequently patients will see sudden weight loss, nausea, fatigue, vomiting, hair loss, lower immunity, a sore mouth.

Surgery can involve removing only the tumor or removing the breast or a double mastectomy, taking both breasts. Radiation therapy is used to control the levels of radiation directed at the tumor to destroy as many of the cancerous cells as possible. Chemotherapy is medication prescribed to slow down or stop the growth of the cancerous cells. Hormone therapy is used after most surgeries for cancers that are sensitive to hormones and can prevent cancer recurrence. The biological treatment is a monoclonal antibody that can target and destroy cancer cells. With early detection and treatment there is so much more hope for anyone currently diagnosed with breast cancer. There are holistic and homeopathic resources as well to help you decide what treatment is the best for you.

Risk Factors

One in 10 women diagnosed with breast cancer are under the age of 45. Do you know your risk factors? Some risk factors put young women at a higher risk for getting breast cancer.

If you are under 45, you may be at higher risk for breast cancer if you have any of the following:

· A close family member diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 45 or ovarian cancer at any age. This risk goes up especially if more than one relative has been diagnosed or if a male relative had breast cancer.

· You have close relatives with changes in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.

· You have Ashkenazi Jewish heritage.

· You have been told you have dense breast tissue on a mammogram.

· You received radiation therapy to the breast or chest during childhood or early adulthood.

· You have had breast cancer or other breast health issues like atypical ductal hyperplasia or atypical lobular hyperplasia.

If any of these characteristics describe you talk with your doctor let them know your concerns. Stay tuned for the next in the series of what to do to stay ahead of the cancer.


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