Understanding Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the second leading cancer-causing death for women in the United States. The National Cancer Institute estimates that there will be 268,600 new cases of female breast cancer in 2019, and an estimated 41,760 people will die of this disease this year.

Breast Cancer at a Glance

Breast cancer can affect anyone — male or female — with no definitive age range. In simple terms, mutations or changes in DNA cause normal breast cells to become cancerous. These mutations can happen due to genetic factors, hormones, or lifestyle risk factors, such as diet, exercise, and alcohol consumption. Many of the contributing factors to breast cancer are not clearly understood by scientists and researchers. Nonetheless, early detection is the first defense for fighting breast cancer. Self-awareness of one’s breast tissue through breast self-exams — how it looks and feels — is effectual in early detection. It is important to know what changes are abnormal, and when to report them to a clinician. Routine and diagnostic screenings are also very important, and can detect cancer in its earliest stages even when self-examination doesn’t show abnormalities. These screenings include clinical breast exams, mammograms, ultrasound, and breast MRI. The American Cancer Society recommends that women with average risk, those with no personal or family history of breast cancer, begin annual mammogram screenings between the ages of forty and forty-four. Women who are at high risk should get both a mammogram and breast MRI every year starting at age thirty. High risk is defined as those who have a personal or family history of breast cancer and/or genetic breast tissue mutations (BRCA1 or BRCA2), or have had radiation therapy to the chest any time after age ten.

Signs and Symptoms

Breast cancer isn’t always found in a lump or a mass; however, that is the most common indication that something is wrong. The American Cancer Society lists other symptoms to include:

  • Swelling of all or parts of the breast
  • Dimpling of the skin (like an orange peel)
  • Discharge from the nipple (other than breast milk)
  • Pain in the breast and/or nipple
  • Retraction of the nipple (nipple turning inward)
  • Skin on the nipple or breast that is red, dry, flaking, or thickened
  • Swollen lymph nodes around the breast area, including under the arm and around the collarbone

After a Diagnosis

The diagnosis of breast cancer brings feelings of shock, disbelief, fear, and hopelessness. Its emotional symptoms can be just as frightening as the physical ones. Support shouldn’t just come from the comfort of friends and family; it should also come from the compassion, caring, and expertise of your medical team. That’s where Hamilton comes in.

Hamilton Community Health Network’s Breast Care Clinic specializes in the care of patients at high risk for the development of breast cancer, and in treating those with both malignant and benign breast disease. Hamilton’s Breast Care Clinic is run under Michigan Medicine’s Jacqueline Jeruss, MD, in conjunction with other Michigan Medicine fellowship medical doctors. Dr. Jeruss is a surgical oncologist serving as an associate professor of surgery, and director of the Breast Cancer Center, at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Under the direction of Dr. Jeruss, patients with breast health concerns and diseases will receive expert care, from diagnosis and treatment, to follow up care and support. Hamilton doesn’t just focus on the disease; they also focus on the individual. 

In conclusion, approximately 12.8% of women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime (1 in 8), and the five-year survival rate of female breast cancer is 89.9%. Chances for survival are more likely if caught in early stages. Hamilton Community Health Network is proud to provide its community with Michigan Medicine doctors who are expert in a disease that is disheartening and scary to be diagnosed with.

Hamilton’s Breast Care Clinic schedules patients the first Friday of each month from 8:00a to 12:00p. Appointments can be made by calling 810-406-4246.