The following information is a brief description of some breast cancer basics.
There are many websites available with more comprehensive information and we always recommend discussing your case with your medical professionals as everybody is unique.
What is Cancer?
Cancer is a disease of the body's cells. Normally, the body's cells grow and divide in an orderly way, allowing your body to grow and to heal after an injury. Occasionally, some cells behave in an abnormal way and grow into a lump called a tumour. Tumours can be benign (not a cancer) or malignant (a cancer). Benign tumours do not spread to other parts of the body.
What is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is a malignant tumour which starts in the breast tissue. DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ) is the earliest stage where tumour cells are confined to milk ducts and haven’t yet developed the ability to spread. Invasive breast cancer is a step up from DCIS, where the cells are able to penetrate the milk ducts and can spread to lymph nodes or elsewhere in the body such as liver, lung or bone. There are different types of invasive cancer, the most common is Invasive Carcinoma No Special Type (previously called ductal carcinoma), the second most common is Invasive Lobular Carcinoma. Each cancer behaves in a different way with some growing slowly and others taking a more aggressive course.
How common is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women. One in nine New Zealand women will develop it during their lives. About 3500 women are diagnosed each year. It can also occur in men, with approximately 25 men diagnosed each year in New Zealand.
What causes Breast Cancer?
There are many risk factors for breast cancer, most of which we have no control over, such as being female, increasing age, breast density, our family history and genetics. These non-modifiable risk factors have the most impact on the likelihood of developing breast cancer.
Women often worry that they caused their breast cancer. This is never true and, overall, the impact of lifestyle factors is small, however, it is an area where you can take control to actively decrease your risk. Studies show that, compared to other lifestyle factors, maintaining a healthy weight has the most benefit. This is most important after menopause when oestrogen in your body comes from fat cells rather than ovaries. Moderate exercise of at least 2 1⁄2 hours per week also decreases risk. We also know that for women who have had breast cancer, regular exercise decreases the chance of cancer recurring.
Drinking alcohol has been shown to increase risk and should be minimised. There is no known safe level of consumption with even one drink a day increasing risk.
Hormone exposure over your lifetime can also play a role, with an increased risk seen in women who have children later in life, or breastfeed for a short time, or in women using the oral contraceptive pill or HRT. Overall, the impact of hormonal factors is small.
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There is a lot of information out there and starting to google 'breast cancer' can bring up a myriad of different sources of information. Hard to know what is reliable and what is not and it can be a bit scary reading some of what is on the internet. Here are some websites you may find useful:
MacMillan Cancer Support is a UK site with loads of information about cancer in general and specific information about breast cancer.
Health Navigator NZ helps you find reliable and trustworthy information and self help resources about breast cancer.
Better Health Channel is a Victorian (Australian) website and has information about breast cancer.NZ
Breast Cancer Foundation is a national organisation based in Auckland with a focus on research and education. It is packed full of useful information.
A sample of the books available in our lending library
Recovering From Breast Surgery
Exercises to strengthen your body and relieve pain - Diana Stumm
Sink or Swim
When life becomes precious, you don't waste a moment - Shelley Hanna
Why I wore lipstick to my mastectomy - Geralyn Lucas
I am not my Breast Cancer
Women talk openly about love and sex, hair loss and weight gain, mothers and daughters, and being a woman with Breast Cancer - Ruth Peltason
Healing Foods - Miriam Polunin
Can I Still Kiss You?
Answering Your Children's Questions About Cancer - Neil Russell
My Mum's Got Cancer - Dr Lucy Blunt
The Breast Cancer Survivors Fitness Plan - Carolyn M Kaelin, M.D., M.P.H.
Fighting For Our Future
How Young Women Find Strength, Hope, and Courage While Taking Control of Breast Cancer - Beth Murphy
Your Life In Your Hands
Understanding, Preventing and Overcoming Breast Cancer - Professor Jane Plant
Our Support Workers know our library well and can help you to find what you are looking for.
Baring it All
Andrea Fairbairn is a New Zealand writer and has had breast cancer twice. "I wrote this Ebook focusing on survival for survivors. It describes what breast cancer survival is really like and some of the best ways to get through it. I wanted to provide some simplicity and inspiration as well as practical tips to help survivors find their footing once more and hopefully make life easier. I believe in not just surviving but celebrating life." - Andrea Fairbairn
Will using your services cost me anything?
Will I be dealing with people who have actually experienced breast cancer?
Our Support Workers and Buddies are all people living with breast cancer. They understand the fears and feelings that come with a breast cancer diagnosis; they've been through it themselves. They are here to help you successfully navigate the journey by offering practical and emotional support, hope, encouragement and information.
Are you a branch of the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation?
Are donations to Breast Cancer Support Tauranga tax deductible?
Do I have to come to your office?
Are you government funded?
What might a support buddy offer?
Breast Cancer Support Service Buddys can give you a call, meet you for coffee or come to an appointment with you - the amount of contact is really up to you and your support buddy to decide.