By ANDY VELEZ | La Mesa Courier
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and throughout it, various health care providers around the world advocate their services and the importance of following up with your doctor each year. For the most part, the advocation for October is focused on women getting a mammogram, but women are not the only ones affected by breast cancer as it was in the case of La Mesa resident David Smyle.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, regardless of ethnic background. It is reported that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer throughout their life, but for men, 1 in a 1,000 are said to be affected by breast cancer throughout their life.
After noticing an awkward lump and an inversion of his left nipple, Smyle decided to seek medical attention and it was in July of 2015 when he was diagnosed with breast cancer. Afterward, Smyle underwent a double mastectomy, radiation therapy, chemo, and has taken tamoxifen (a drug used to help prevent and reduce the risk of breast cancer) for five years.
“I was not shocked or surprised, was not upset or in panic mode. My overall health was good and I assumed I would beat it. No one said I had six months to live,” Smyle said. “I was initially stage 2 and ended up stage 3 — much better than stage 4. My attitude was, ‘What do we need to do to fix it?’”
About breast cancer
The female breast is composed of three different parts: Lobules, ducts, and connective tissue. Lobules are glands where breast milk is produced, ducts help carry milk to the nipple, and connective tissue is what holds the breast together. The male breast has the same components as the female one, the only difference is that males do not produce as many lobules or ducts in their breast.
For men and women, important signs and symptoms to look out for are rash, a lump or lumps around the breast region, inversion of the nipple, or even a discharge from the nipple. One specific to women is a change to the size of their breasts.
Breast cancer can arise from different parts of the breast, but the two most commonly reported are ducts or lobules breast cancer. This occurs when carcinomas (cancer cells) begin to replicate out of control, which further leads to the development of cancer.
Cancer affects people emotionally, physically, and economically. Preparing to battle cancer is not something people do, but with proper guidance and treatment, one can overcome and recuperate much faster.
Breast cancer is determined through a screening process, and a goal of October’s monthlong awareness campaign is to remind women and men, especially women over 40, to get screened for breast cancer. When breast cancer is not diagnosed on time, cancer cells grow out of control and can metastasize (travel) to other parts of the body. What once started as breast cancer can later result in a different type of cancer, all for not diagnosing it on time.
Education, detection and beating cancer
Education is key to not only detecting but preventing diseases much faster.
“Every opportunity I get, I take advantage of spreading awareness whether it is at the gym or from people I meet,” Smyle said. “I also attend a monthly men’s cancer support group at Grossmont Hospital Cancer Center the second Wednesday of each month from 5:30 to 7 p.m. to help other cancer patients with questions and support.”
It is important to educate the community so that people are aware of what can come into their lives, but more importantly, people must utilize this information to help themselves, like the top 10 signs and symptoms of breast cancer. In doing so, they can identify an abnormality on their body.
One disease that is linked to breast cancer is known as ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) — this is the presence of abnormal cells inside the lobules gland. This cancer is a non-invasive, meaning that it does not affect you because the abnormal cells are found around the lining of the breast, not yet attacking you. It is highly treatable if detected on time, but if left untreated, the abnormal cells can further spread and develop into breast cancer.
“Beating cancer is 50% attitude. It can be scary and some cancers are worse than others but you must go into treatment with a positive attitude for both yourself and loved ones around you,” Smyle said. “The more positive you are, the easier it will be for you and family members and others to not worry.”
October may be the month for breast cancer awareness, but health awareness in general is year-round. It is important to educate, identify, and prevent diseases.
Susan G. Komen San Diego Race for the Cure
Thousands of San Diegans will join together for a 5K walk in Balboa Park to show support and solidarity for those in San Diego County affected by breast cancer. All of the money raised is directed back to resources in the San Diego community. Participating in the race is a great way for San Diegans looking to support a local organization and local residents affected by breast cancer.
— Andy Velez is a San Diego-based freelance reporter.