(BREAST) CANCER GUIDE: Realities, Causes, Prevention and Silver Linings…

I am writing this cancer guide in memory of my late and amazing MADRE, Martha Lorins. I miss and love her OH SO MUCH! Although it is written with a breast cancer theme, it is applicable to ALL TYPES OF CANCER. This article has required a bit of effort, but I hope that it will go a long way in helping people better deal with all forms of cancers and live to tell survival stories. I also hope that it will encourage others to pursue cancer-fighting endeavors.

WOW! Please allow me to say/type/utter/scream the following word…

DAMN!

First of all, this topic is one that is very personal to me as Breast Cancer (BC) killed the three most influential women, GIANTS and elders of my life, namely, my late Mother, Martha Lorins, my late Aunt (Mother’s sister) Marie-Rose Jacques-Charles, and my extended Aunt, Paulina (Madame Michel) Laurince.

Again, DAMN! I do not wish BC on anyone, not even my worst enemy (if I have any of such people out there).

My mother raised me until the age of 14, Aunt Marie rescued me from a chaotic and disastrous post-Duvalier Haiti, and Madam Michel Lorins, provided me with a safe haven during a period of hiatus between the other two giants. MAY THESE THREE GIANTS and TRULY UNIQUE AND SPECIAL HUMAN-BEINGS rest in peace! I miss them so much.

I can remember every issue, question, and challenge that concerned my late Mother (after she became breast-cancer stricken) and to say that it confusing, frustrating, and frightening would have been an understatement. While the death of the Mother of a lady friend of mine (i.e,, Christina P.) might have prepared me for my ordeal 10 years prior to the experience, it certainly did not prepare me for the emotional aftermath of it all.

Okay, now that I have gotten the emotional part out of the way, let us have a chat about the realities, types, myths, causes and preventions that relate to ‘BC’. In an attempt to simplify and provide meaningful information in a nutshell, I will make mention of two books that were written by Sherman (2000) a very special medical doctor (MD) and Jacobs (2014), a rather special oncology (cancer) nurse. However, I will synthesize some of my observations via my own experience and understanding while contextualizing with their observations and conclusions. My hunch is that this is going to me an amazing article for those who truly want to debunk the myths behind breast cancer.

Thus, here I am writing about it because I understand its consequences, and felt its sting, and trained my mind to do so emotionally/spiritually and intellectually/scientifically.

SO – BREAST CANCER (IN WOMEN) – What the Heck Is it All About?

I specified ‘in women’ here because for the most part, breast cancer is more prevalent among women (i.e., it affects women the most).

The HUMAN BODY (organism) is made of CELLS (which are the smallest living units of the organism). These cells come in different types (specializations), which allow them to play different roles apart of their main roles of biochemically creating a form of energy current that scientist call Adenosine Tri-Phosphate (ATP) through metabolizing fuel (typically using glucose generating from ingested food, unless the body is breaking down existing stored structures like fats when it’s being starved (i.e.,, when no food is being ingested from which glucose can be produced)). The latter can have adverse impacts on the body (e.g., acidosis, which means excess acid or too much acid).

One can get a PhD in Cell Biology itself, but the purpose of this article is to shed light on some key points in order to shed lights on the big picture, which is to have both the structural part of the body (anatomy) and the functional part of the body (physiology) work hand-in-hand in order to achieve optimal balance, which in “medicalese” is called HOMEOSTASIS.

In a nutshell, each cell reproduces itself (makes two copies of itself) except the brain cells (neurons), which essentially die, which is the reason why the brain itself shrinks (atrophies) as we get older, and since the brain cells are specialized cells that allow specialized electrical conduction and hormonal release, with structures that create the gray and white matters of the brain, and interconnections that create our memory structure, as we get older our memories tend to also diminish as does the processing speed of the brain. As to non-brain cells, while they don’t diminish, the copies of the copies experience both decrease in quality, and become more prone to error messages and thus mutations, which can thus induce the “C” word… YUP, CANCER! However, cancer can come into play because of genetics and nature-vs-nurture argument. Cancer itself occurs when there is tissue degeneration or uncontrollable cell proliferation or simply when cells start misbehaving due to some genetic, environmental or even nutritional factor or a combination of any of those factors.

Specialized group of cells create TISSUES and a group of the latter creates ORGANS (e.g., heart, and skin); and a group of organs is called an ORGAN SYSTEM of which there are eleven (e.g., musculo-skeletal system, and cardiovascular system); and a group of organ systems constitute the WHOLE ORGANISM (HUMAN-BEING). By the way, the degradation in quality as cells die and create copies of themselves is what makes one obvious thing more apparent to us… YUP, our SKIN (organ) WRINKLES/AGES as we get older. And technically, we are all a BRAND NEW PERSON after every SEVEN-YEAR PERIOD.

So, BACK TO BREAST CANCER… BTW, I do apologize for the brief necessary distraction… I just wanted to draw the big picture quickly…

According to Jacobs (2014), the oncology/cancer nurse who was diagnosed with breast cancer herself, a person who has breast cancer will eventually feel LOST and OVERWHELMED. And even when considering the silver linings, they don’t take away the PAIN, NAUSEA, MOUTH SORES, and CONSTIPATION that can come with a cancer. Not to mention the fact that there are many different types of breast cancer, which can all happen at different stages. I will not entertain the thought of discussing the different types of breast cancer in an article as the depth and breadth would have been too extensive.

Yet, one has to find the SILVER LINING…

My silver lining in the case of my mother was when, after 30 years away from each other, we got to spend at times 8 hours next to each other either at home or the hospital chatting about the memories and wisdom-filled conversation that only A WISE MOTHER could have shared to a wise son. She reminded me of my childhood medical doctor aspirations and took me to her young physician to tell me that she could see me doing the same… A MOTHER’S GIFT for sure.

As Jacobs (2014) wrote – regarding THE SILVER LINING:

“When inexplicable tragedy creates an opportunity to take righteous anger and sadness and turn them into a force to find the positives in life. NO, it is not easy. I would never suggest otherwise. What I do know for sure is that dumbfounding circumstances can be channeled into an action that yields POSITIVE OUTCOMES.”

In my Mother’s case, it was a reconnection with me, and an acceptance of her condition, and inducing me to get into medicine and dying peacefully and happily. In my case, it was finding a new cause, envisioning the creation of a research institute, and pursuing the amazing field of medicine despite all odds.

KEY UNDERSTANDINGS

OUTLINE OF KEY UNDERSTANDINGS

  1. Tests

  2. Diagnosis

  3. Bad News Communication

  4. Treatment Plan (chemo, radiation)

TESTS

You will probably be subjected to a mammogram and a handheld-ultrasound at some radiology center. Although there are crazy mammogram stories out there (e.g., breasts being practically battered), with the right technician, the mammogram can be rather painless or at least uneventful, especially if s/he is kind and gentle. By the way, a breast ultra-sound is typically recommended when either when a mass is palpable by hand or when a screening mammogram has shown something suspicious.

ULTRASOUND

It is important that a BC patient takes a journal with her to every test and doctor appointment as to document what is said by whom and when. Digitally recording information is another viable way to remember what is being told (Jacobs, 2014).

Should the results of the mammogram and ultrasound reveal tumors/lesions, then a BIOPSY and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (“MRI”) test will be ordered in order to gather more information about an area in the breast that is suspicious, check the breast for other possible cancers, and evaluate the other breast. It is important to note that an MRI involves no radiation. The BIOPSY is a procedure to remove and evaluate a tissue sample for the presence of cancer. If cancer is present, the pathologist can look at the cancer’s characteristics (e.g., size, level of invasion, speed of spread, grade and hormone receptors to name a few).

Typically, for the biopsy, a fine-needle aspiration (FNA) is done from any non-palpable tumors, and a large-core biopsy is done from larger palpable lesions/tumors. The tumor locations can be referred to in terms of a CLOCK (e.g., the smaller tumors requiring the FNA can be at 1 O’clock and the larger ones at 9 O’clock). By the way, “O’clock” means “On the Clock” (Smile). If the patient has a fear of needles, she should look AWAY when the biopsy is being performed because she will hear BB-gun like popping sounds and feel some pressure (Jacobs, 2014).

Regarding the MRI, if a patient is claustrophobic (i.e., have a fear of being enclosed alone), then she should consider taking some physician-prescribed anxiety medication in order to ease the anxiety of being rolled into the teeny-tiny MRI tube. But s/he should not plan on driving after taking such medications though (Jacobs, 2014).

DIAGNOSIS

So, by the time the BIOPSY and MRI help the surgeon conclude that a patient has breast cancer, she (the patient) will probably read the physician utter words along the following:

“As I suspected, you do actually have breast cancer”…

Although most patients who hear these words will tend to make rash decisions, they should rather breathe and think that a diagnosis is not an emergency in of itself and that a second opinion can reached and should be sought. The physician will proceed to discuss one’s specific cancer type since there are many (e.g., infiltrating ductal carcinoma, ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)). For instance, infiltrating ductal carcinoma is the type of cancer that begins in the milk ducts but has grown into the surrounding normal breast tissue. On the other hand, DCIS is the type that stays inside the milk ducts without spreading into any normal surrounding breast tissue. Infiltrating or invasive ductal carcinoma for 80% of the more than two-hundred thousand breast cancer diagnoses (Jacobs, 2014).

If you’re a breast cancer patient reading this article or know someone with whom you will share this article, please remember to stop the conversation with your physician to ask questions whenever you don’t understand what is being said to you. Even if the doctor seems to be in a hurry, please ensure that you slow things down. After all, this is about your body/life. Moreover, from your first appointment begin to accumulate your medical records (putting them in chronological order) and take them with you everywhere. Be sure to include all test results and reports. Don’t’ give this personal chart away, but do offer to show it to physicians or nurses with whom you meet. The latter will help keep every involved health care professional synergistically aligned (Jacobs, 2014).

BAD NEWS COMMUNICATION

It’s hard enough for a cancer-stricken patient to get out of a state of denial, not to mention the thought of sharing such a new with others.

Please keep in mind that you are the author of the decision about IF, HOW, and WHEN you would like to tell people about your diagnosis. In an uncontrollable situation (like BC), this is something that you can control, thus use it to your advantage.

Since many, including the patient, will wonder the following, please use the latter wisely:

WHY?

WHY YOU or WHY ME?

HOW IS IT THAT SOMEONE WHO IS AS HEALTHY, FIT and HAPPY AS YOU ARE GETS DIAGNOSED WITH BREAST CANCER?

TREATMENT PLAN

I will keep this section short because most people know that the treatment plan for cancer typically constitutes of killing as many bad cancer cells as possible via chemotherapy (drugs) a/k/a CHEMO, which in turns kills the good cells due to the inability of medical science to target just the cancer cells. And following CHEMO, some form of RADIATION is given to help exterminate any remaining cancer or neoplasm (new growth). My late Mother was doing great until she decided against her best judgment to listen to HER IGNORANT BROTHER (VALENTIN) who told her to discontinue the radiation after she seemed to have recovered. Thus, when the cancer returned and metastasized, she asked me if I thought she erred, and even though I knew that she did, I opted to say NOTHING. I didn’t want my MOMMY to die with any regrets. She did her best and made her decision and lived her life, fought a great fight and did great at it. I am so proud of her!

I will stop here because a treatment plan should only be discussed by a specialist on a case-by-case basis based on a particular type of cancer.

BREAST CANCER CAUSES & PREVENTION

Now, let’s “chat” about the CAUSES and PREVENTIONS of BREAST CANCER…

Allow me to start with the following quote:

“Man has lost the ability to foresee and forestall. He will end by destroying the Earth”

  • Albert Schweitzer

According to Sherman (2000), a prolific breast cancer subject matter expect, all life is connected. Thus, undoubtedly cancer exists in humans and in wildlife. And CANCER is an ongoing assault on LIFE (p. 10).

A consideration the accumulated knowledge linking chemical and radioactive contamination of the environment with increasing breast cancer rates should induce one to imply that we must focus our energies and efforts on PREVENTION. It has been wisely said that PREVENTION is THE BEST MEDICINE.

HOW CANCER GROWS:

Some important terms:

(new growth) = PROLIFERATIONNEOPLASM

What is shown when a tissue (group of cells) is studied and shows NEW GROWTH, which means an increase in the number of cells…

HYPERPLASIA

Increase in the size of a cell

METAPLASIA

A change in the basic structure of a cell

Prior to discussing how cancer grows let us discuss the steps in any cancer process:

(1) Cell Proliferation ==> (2) Hyperplasia ==> (3) Metaplasia ==> (4) Tumor Formation

The FORMED TUMOR/LESION is either BENIGN (spreading locally) or MALIGNANT/CANCEROUS (Metastases – spreading distally or beyond the tumor location).

First of all, contrary to popular belief, cancer does develop in healthy people. YUP, cancer strikes children and adults alike. It is life uncontrolled by genes (e.g., tumor suppressor genes) or programmed cell death (apoptosis) that normally control such actions. It occurs when a chemical cascade is set in motion that is difficult-to-impossible to reverse.

NOTE WELL THAT:

Alterations in any of the somatic cells can result in cancer, which means that the body’s somatic cells (non-reproductive cells) have gone awry. A variety of insults, chemical and radiant energy can change the function or form of an originally normal cell, sending it on a path of MALIGNANCY or CANCER-CENTRICITY. CHANGES can occur in any of the steps of NORMAL CELLULAR FUNCTION (e.g., simple repair, chromosomal expression, gene alterations or deletions, enzyme changes, and amino acid substitutions). Moreover, we have learned that EVEN IRRITATION, as from chronic formaldehyde exposure , results in increased cell-turnover, the need for repair and potential for interference with repair. This cascade helps explain not only hyperplasia, but the progression to metaplasia and cancer (Sherman, 2000).

Some alterations may be reversed by a cell’s innate repair mechanisms; others may go unnoticed; YET others become permanent and life-threatening, as when a cancer begins. Just like reproductive development (combination of a SINGLE sperm and a SINGLE egg cell), cancer starts with a SINGLE CELL and by DOUBLING and DOUBLING, grows until a MASS may be felt as a LUMP in one’s BREAST. When left unchecked, the growth may invade neighboring tissues, and may metastasize (i.e., cells break off and travel by the BLOOD and LYMPH to LOCAL and DISTANT parts of the body. These DISTANT GROWTHS are called METASTASES.

It is important to understand that there are many agents that may alter/change the way cells grow and function. Such specific agents include but are not limited to HORMONES, PESTICIDES, INDUSTRIAL CHEMICALS and NUCLEAR RADIATION. It is important that one reads papers that expand on these potential sources of (breast) cancer.

CELL BIOLOGY PRIMER

Our cells are complex factories of life-sustaining biological processes, under control of genes that are composed of DeoxyriboNucleic Acid (DNA). Our existence results from an expression of DNA components (which are complex in number and arrangement). We, humans, have 46 chromosomes in each cell nucleus (23 from our Mother and 23 from our Father). Inside each chromosome are between 50,000 to 100,000 genes, made of DNA, which are the carriers of the genetic code (i.e., our personal and unique biological, physiological and human history). This implies that there are 2.3 to 4.6 million separate entities for each cell, which are developed over millennia, and programmed to work in time-dependent and environment-dependent coordination.

The lack of TUMOR SUPPRESSOR GENES and APOPTOSIS (programmed cell death) will result in cells and thus organs of UNCONTROLLED SIZES. Switching off or suppression of cell activity is a necessary event that needs to happen in adult and embryo cells alike. Our organs need to be of a specific size to occupy their expected spaces. When this is not the case, we end up with organs with uncontrolled size, or organs that stop functioning properly.

Last but not least, the DNA itself consists of a sequence of four simple chemicals called AMINO ACIDS, which are normally represented by the following letters:

A = Adenine

T = Thymine

C = Cytosine

G = Guanine

These AMINO ACIDS (A, T, C, and G) can be arranged and re-arranged in different order and patterns in order to create different genes. Difference arrangements of amino acids (thus, DNA) account for personal or anatomical differences even between members of the same family.

Citizens should become more informed. The LorinsPOST.com Food Healthfulness Quotient (FHQ) can be used as a quick guide to measure how healthful your food intake is.

CITIZEN HEALTH ACTIVISM

LorinsPOST.com encourages you to participate or get involved in citizen health activism. As a citizen, you do have constitutional rights that provide you with some personal choices and access to political actions. Accordingly, you should tap into the hints in this article to question the agents that may be the culprits for certain types of cancers.

I love the following quote and thus will end this article with it accordingly:

“We should be the EYES and CONSCIENCE of the Creator of the Universe…”

  • Jurt Vonnegut

This article is a joint effort of the creators of IV Learning (a provider of innovative results-driven board exam preparation concepts, shortcuts and insights), Lorins Research Institute (LoRI) and Dr. Pete Lorins, the Chief Editor of LorinsPost.com. It is sponsored by LORINS.biz a provider of practice and career management.

References

Sherman, J.D. (2000). Life’s delicate balance: causes and prevention of breast cancer. Taylor & Francis: Levittown, PA

Jacobs, H. (2014). The silver lining: A supportive and insightful guide to breast cancer. ATRIA: NY, NY