One out of three people will get cancer during their life time.
People often think of the word 'cancer' as describing a single disease with a single cause, like 'flu' or 'HIV'. This is misleading. Cancer is the name given to any illness resulting from one of our body's own cells growing out of control. Cancer can be at least 200 different illnesses.
There are many stages that control a cell’s growth and division. As a general rule-of-thumb, several of these control mechanisms need to be damaged before
a cell becomes cancerous.
Researchers are trying to find out exactly how cells grow, divide and survive.
Eventually, we will understand how all cancers form and how they grow out of control, leading to improved cancer treatments and better patient care.
A brief history of cancer
Ever since life started cancer has been detected. Plants can get cancer. Dinosaurs probably suffered
from it. It has been around for thousands and thousands of years. The Egyptian papyrus written
between 3000-1500 BC, referred to tumours of the breast. In Greece in about 400 BC Hippocrates, the "Father of Medicine", is credited with being the first to recognise the difference between non cancerous and cancerous tumours.
It was not until the 18th century in France, that the first cancer hospital was founded, although this
was in the mistaken belief that cancer was a contagious disease. The French gynaecologist Recamier described the invasion of the bloodstream by cancer cells in 1839, coining the word metastasis (cancer spread).
In 1895, German William Rontgen discovered the x-ray and this radiation is still used for both cancer diagnosis and cancer treatment radiotherapy
The understanding of cell biology came in 1953; Francis Crick and James Watson unravelled the structure of DNA. We find new treatments based on this knowledge.
The last fifty years have seen an explosion in our understanding of this most fundamental of diseases, and new discoveries are occurring on an almost weekly basis.
How many different types of cancer-tumours are there?
There are as many types of cancer as there are different people, because everyone's genes are different and so no two cancers are exactly alike.
However, there are as many different types of cancer as there are different types of human cell just over 200.
However, cancers can be broadly grouped into different types, depending on which tissues they come from.
Carcinomas, the most common types of cancer, arise from the cells that cover external and internal body surfaces. Lung, breast, and colon are the most frequent cancers of this type.
are cancers arising from cells found
in the supporting tissues of the
body such as bone, cartilage, fat,
connective tissue and muscle.
Lymphomas, are cancers that arise in the lymph nodes and tissues of the body's immune system.
Leukaemias, are cancers of the immature blood cells that grow in the bone marrow and tend to accumulate in large numbers in the bloodstream.
Adenomas, are tumours that come from glandular tissue like the thyroid, the pituitary gland the adrenal gland. They are often benign.
These terms often have prefixes that describe exactly what type of cell the cancer originated from.
For example, an osteosarcoma is a cancer of the bone.
1 out of 9 women get breast cancer in the western world today.
The age group is slightly lower now than many years ago, and it is not so uncommon for a younger woman being diagnosed breast cancer and also having the responsibility for her young children at home. This is where Cancer support shop thru The Pink Table comes in. It is so important
no-one at all feels they are alone at such a time.
The children may want to play a part during the treatment.
Allow them to be if they wish!
Maybe they prefer facts, good as bad from an independent source?
Children react so differently. Some become very quiet as they don't want to worry. Others ask 101 questions, you may not be able to answer them all. Maybe no-one can. We don't have all the answers just yet.
Don't hesitate to ask the schools or your own welfare officer for support
with the children if you feel you need it.
The welfare officer can put you
in touch with the social welfare that can often provide you with a relief family if needed.
Some types of cancer tumours don't need any treatment at all.
Cancer treatments have improved
a lot the last 50 years and more and more women survive this traumatic disease.
"The most traumatic time of the whole breast cancer journey was waiting for the results from the Pathologist after the operation".
The results show if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or
to vital organs in the body.
The results also provide possibility for The Breast Cancer Team to tailor a treatment suitable for just you.
Below you will find some questions you might like to ask the surgeon
or oncologist before your operation or prior to any possible treatment you may need.
Operation is usually the main treatment for breast cancer
The human body contains approximately 50-75 million cells.
The treatment for cancer is tailor-made
for the individual going by
the contents of the tumour and its size and stage.
Mastectomy or alternative operations, There are various kinds of operations, which will show the Pathologist if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or to the organs in the body.
Your surgeon will give you the information you need. You might be offered a reconstruction at the same time as your mastectomy.
Radiotherapy, can be taken in intervals during a period of time
and it has changed remarkably since the 1990's when burns
were not unusal.
Radiotherapy is usually given after chemotherapy.Not at the same time.
Some people feel perfectly okay during their radiotherapy treatment, and can happily study or work through it
others feel they need to be at home and rest.
Chemotherapy: There are various kinds of chemotherapy, which is a cell-poison.
The period of time we need chemotherapy and how often - also differs. We can react very differently to
the one and same treatment and some of us can work through chemo-treatment today.
Others may feel sick and tired. But there is help for both.
Your oncologist will explain what type of chemotherapy you need, how often and for how long.
Some hospitals allow us to wear 'freeze hats' so we can keep our hair. There has been discussions re freeze-hats and the subject is controversial
Chemotherapy treatment helps against relapses.Far from all kinds of cancer need chemotherapy, Radiotherapy or anti-hormon-therapy
After the breast operation the pathologist may note the tumour lives off estrogen
in that case we may be offered 5-10 years of antihormone mediciation.
There are various types of anti-hormone medication and there may be quite a few
unpleasant side effects so some patients have decided not to have this treatment
Many studies have shown this anti-hormone treatment is a good prevention
Some studies have shown that Estrogen in food, such as in Soya products, should be avoided as well as
estrogen herbs and estrogen stimulating items at health shops, but again the subject is controversial
There are additional treatments too, for instance HER2 receptive cancer tumours
If you wish to study these various treatments on the internet, be careful to read good sources of information. There is
a lot of subjective information out there, which has often no scientific documentation.
Questions you might wish to ask your doctor regardless of where in the body the cancer lies.
- How long will it take before I get the results of the tests?
- How do you decide on the best tests for diagnosis?
- Can I see the results of my scans during the appointment?
- Will I be told straight away, during the liver ultrasound or bone scan, if there are signs the cancer has spread?
- How will I be told the results - do I have a choice?
- If the results show the breast cancer has spread, what needs to happen next?
- Will you test for hormone receptors?
- Will you test for HER2 receptors?
- Will I be able to see a breast care nurse at the clinic?
- Is emotional support available at the hospital if I am anxious?
Men can get breast cancer too, but it’s unusual.
When first diagnosed it is natural that some of us start thinking about clearing out our attic and arranging a funeral, but many people today live a long time with their cancer and some types of cancer are curable
Research has moved forward and the medication and treatments have improved a lot over the latest 50 years.
Many feel we must stand up for our rights as a patient at all times. Never be afraid to ask for answers.
If we haven't the strength to insist on a requested second opinion, or to change our Surgeon or Oncologist, we may like to ask a close relative or the Oncology-department's- counsellor for help us with this.
Life is always NOW regardless of age or being healthy or ill.
We ARE allowed to feel sorry for ourselves.
We ARE allowed to throw emotions around us, having a good cry can clear our mind.
No one says we need put on the stiff upper lip. Being angry, upset, anxious and scared is human and no-one asks us to keep them all tucked up inside us....
Our cancer journey is like a rollercoaster.
We would never be able to feel the highs if the downs weren't there to compare with. Being diagnosed cancer is not all bad.
Many of us have found we have healthier values and insight. Priorities become reality and we focus on the things that give us satisfaction and not on what other people may think gives us contentment. It is easier to shug off expectations.
The small moments of happiness become the BIG ones. We remember to take time out for ourselves and the people and things we love in life. For some of us it takes a wake-up call to remind us to look after ourselves, our life and our loved ones !
Through all the ups and downs on our cancer journey...
Faith, and a “never give up" attitude are brilliant company!