By Jasminee Sahoye
Many believe that breast cancer affects only older women but statistics show that four per cent of breast cancers in Canada occurred in women under the age of 40, which is approximately 1,055 cases.
And according to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation (CBCF) of Ontario, 18% of all new breast cancer cases in Canada are diagnosed in women under age 50.
There are different kinds of breast cancer: ductal, lobular, in situ and invasive. Ductal cancer occurs when the cancer is formed in a breast duct and is the most common type, the foundation says.
Lobular cancer is formed in a breast lobule. Sometimes, breast cancer has features of ductal and lobular cancer.
In situ means the cancer cells have grown and stayed inside the duct or lobule, while invasive is when the cells have multiplied and broken through either the ductal or lobular wall. This may also be called infiltrating.
If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, there are many resources available. It`s not the end of your life as many patients live normal lives if treated early and follow guidelines provided by their health care professionals.
Regular mammograms help to determine cancers when they are still small and can be successfully treated, according to a booklet titled Guiding Women Through a Breast Cancer Diagnosis.
“Technology and expertise have also improved, so that cancers can be found while they are still contained within the duct or lobule of the breast,” the foundation says.
A breast cancer diagnosis can be very traumatic. The booklet gives you guidance as to how to disclose the news. “Be prepared for people reacting differently to hearing about your diagnosis. Some will be extremely understanding and supportive, while others may be uncomfortable and not know what to say to you. Although concerned for you, some people may fear for their own health and even stay away from you.”
It adds that you should expect to answer questions when you tell others. Be prepared ahead of time with the information you would like to share. Plan and practice how and what you will say.
There are two types of surgery that doctors recommend. Mastectomy or lumpectomy will give you an equal chance of living a long full life.
The booklet shares the story of Linda, a 43-year-old mother of two girls, ages seven and nine who had an infiltrating carcinoma in her left breast. “I decided that I was going to fight back and worked hard to remain positive and hopeful. I still felt sad and tearful at times but for the most part, my plan worked.
“The difference this made in how I felt physically and emotionally was amazing to me. I read a lot and asked many questions. I learned how to navigate my way during several months of chemotheraphy and radiation. When my treatment was over, I even hosted a celebration party for all my family and friends.”
Breast cancer risk does increase with age. The foundation says one in nine Canadian women is expected to develop breast cancer in her lifetime (by age 90) and 80% of breast cancer cases occur in women over 50.
Is it possible for the daughter of a woman with breast cancer to be at risk? “Your daughter would be at greater risk than other women only if you have a mutation to a breast cancer gene that could have been passed on to her when she was born. This happened in about 5-10% of all breast cancers diagnosed,” the CBCF says in the booklet.
To learn if you have a mutation to a breast cancer gene you need to have genetic testing, which is because:
• A male family member has been diagnosed with breast cancer;
• A family member has been diagnosed with both breast and ovarian cancer;
• You have been diagnosed with breast cancer in both breasts.
For more information, visit www.cbcf.org.