OCTOBER 7, 2014. It is estimated that one out of every eight women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some time during her life. Every year, nearly 40,000 American women die from breast cancer. Only lung cancer accounts for more cancer deaths in women.
Yet, as terrifying as the numbers may be, there is more hope than ever before for those diagnosed with breast cancer.
“The five-year survival rate for all women diagnosed with breast cancer is 90 percent, and the rate keeps improving,” said Dr. Julie DiGioia, a leading breast surgeon and medical director of the Cristie Kerr Women’s Health Center at Jersey City Medical Center – Barnabas Health. “One’s chance of survival improves dramatically when the cancer is detected early, before it spreads to other parts of the body.”
Early detection and effective treatment are the reasons for improvements in survival rates. A mammogram, which is recommended for women ages 40 and older, or younger women with a family history of breast cancer, is considered the best screening tool available.
Using the most advanced technology and open seven days a week, the Cristie Kerr Women’s Health Center allows women in Hudson County to receive first class medical services without going into Manhattan. It is the only full-service facility in the Hudson County area providing detection, healing, support and recovery services. All women, regardless of their ability to pay, are welcomed.
According to Dr. DiGioia, breast self-exams are also important for early detection. She strongly encourages women to do self-examinations in the shower, lying down and before a mirror in checking for knots, lumps or thickenings in the breast and underarms.
In its early stages, breast cancer usually has no symptoms. As a tumor develops, the following signs may be detectable:
- A lump in the breast or underarm that persists after your menstrual cycle. This is often the first apparent symptom of breast cancer. Lumps – usually visible on a mammogram long before they can be seen or felt – are usually painless.
- Swelling in the armpit.
- Pain or tenderness in the breast – although lumps are usually painless.
- A noticeable flattening or indentation on the breast, which may indicate a tumor that cannot be seen or felt.
- Any change in the size, contour, texture, or temperature of the breast. A reddish, pitted surface like the skin of an orange could be a sign of advanced breast cancer.
- A change in the nipple, such as a nipple retraction, dimpling, itching, a burning sensation, or ulceration. A scaly rash of the nipple is symptomatic of Paget's disease, which may be associated with an underlying breast cancer.
- Unusual discharge from the nipple that may be clear, bloody, or another color.
- A marble-like area under the skin.
- An area that is distinctly different from any other area on either breast.
“Hearing that you have breast cancer is devastating,” said Dr. DiGioia, who herself is a breast cancer survivor. “Yet, today, for many women, through the support of doctors, nurses, therapists, nutritionists and others, as well as family members, there is a path to recovery.”