The phrase “breast cancer” can be plenty scary–to the person who receives the diagnosis as well as to the family. But thanks to incredibly awareness campaigns and advances in medical technology, quite often, breast cancer is treatable.  In this guest post, Jamie Pratt, sheds some much needed light on this disease.

For many of us, hearing the words breast cancer conjures up a dismal picture. Any form of cancer is a frightening thought, and breast cancer affects not only the stricken individual, but loved ones as well. Breast cancer awareness is designed to educate everyone, just as this unforgiving disease touches all walks of life. This awareness may be in the form of promotional items, educational websites and pamphlets, or simply word of mouth. Having access to the necessary tools, such as forums or cancer risk assessments, can make a difference. Annual mammograms, primarily for women past the age of 45, is essential in helping to detect breast cancer early on.

While there are myths about breast cancer that need to be dispelled, there are several facts about this disease that should not be ignored. Arming oneself with knowledge is key in preventing a preventable tragedy. The following contains information relating to breast cancer that every women needs to know. Additionally, you will learn how to distinguish the facts from the myths.

Recognizing the Symptoms of Breast Cancer

The symptoms of breast cancer may vary with the individual, although there are warning signs to be concerned about. Obviously, preventative care is the best course of action, and this means yearly mammograms, especially after a woman enters menopause.

An early symptom of breast cancer includes tenderness in the breast or nipple area, or underneath the arm. If a woman notices the skin area around the breast has taken on a different appearance or color, this may also be a sign. A lump found on the breast may or may not be cancerous, but this warrants a trip to the physician for proper diagnosis.

The Stages of Breast Cancer Defined

The stages of breast cancer range from stage 0-stage 4. Stage 0 is the treatable stage where cancerous cells remain in the location of which they have originated. In stage 1 of breast cancer, the cells have begun to emerge to surrounding breast tissue, either in the form of a tumor or invasive cancer cells that are grouped together. Tumors in the first stage are no larger than two centimeters.

Stage 2 breast invasive breast cancer involves cancer cells that have spread to axillary lymph nodes. Tumors may grow larger than two centimeters in the second stage of breast cancer. In stage 3, the breast cancer may have invaded the chest wall and may also be a form of inflammatory breast cancer. Symptoms include redness, tenderness and pain. In the final stage of breast cancer – stage 4 – the tumor may have spread to vital organs such as the liver or kidneys. In advanced cases, cancer cells may metastasize to the brain. The rate of cancer cell growth will dictate wither the cancer is an aggressive form, requiring more aggressive treatment.

Treatment Options Commonly Prescribed for Breast Cancer Patients

Depending upon whether the cancer is aggressive and invasive, or a non-invasive form, a physician may recommend various treatment options. The pathology report will help to determine the next steps in treating this disease. Treatment options need to be discussed thoroughly to ensure the best choice for the breast cancer patient. Surgery, chemotherapy or radiation treatments are prescribed for breast cancer patients. Surgery is typically recommended for stage 2 or 3 breast cancer patients. Hormonal therapy may be an option for patients diagnosed with stage 0-1 breast cancer. Many experts believe it is best to obtain a second option before making any decisions regarding breast treatment options. As a supplemental treatment, holistic or alternative medicine may be another option for breast cancer patients.

Debunking Common Myths About Breast Cancer

Probably the biggest misconception about breast cancer is that it only affects females. While there is a much higher percentage of breast cancer among females, men can develop this form of cancer as well. Another common myth about breast cancer is that it affects large breasted women more frequently than women with smaller breasts, however there is no evidence to support this. There is also no evidence that wearing tight clothing or under-wire bras may contribute to a higher risk factor for breast cancer.

The best anyone can do is to maintain a healthy lifestyle, visit the doctor for annual mammograms and educate oneself with knowledge regarding breast cancer. If diagnosed and properly treated in the early stages, a woman’s survival rate is actually quite high.

Jamie Pratt is a contributing writer for The Breast Cancer Society, Inc. — a comprehensive resource guide covering breast cancer information, facts, statistics and other pertinent information. Learn more about their cause and join the community that has already helped thousands of breast cancer patients and survivors.