The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Breast cancer can happen to anyone, TR speaker says

By Erick traska/reporter

In 2011, roughly 230,000 women have been diagnosed and nearly 40,000 deaths have resulted from breast cancer. The lifetime risk for women today is 1 in 8.Nurse educator at John Peter Smith hospital Annette Lam discussed the factors that increase risk and ways to detect and prevent breast cancer Oct. 20 on TR Campus.

“Early detection is the best prevention,” she said.

Lam outlined the non-controllable and controllable risks that increase one’s likelihood of getting breast cancer. The No. 1 factor is gender.

Women are the predominant victims because of their levels of estrogen, but men are vulnerable as well, Lam said.

“Men, in addition to women, can get breast cancer,” she said.

Males have a similar anatomical structure of the breast as women but their hormones — specifically testosterone — prevent the full development of their breasts, Lam said.

“A lot of the guys I talk to don’t know that they can get breast cancer,” she said.

To date, roughly 2,000 cases among men have resulted in about 450 deaths in 2011. The risk for men, however, is much lower than for women — one in a thousand as a lifetime risk, Lam said.

More non-controllable factors that increase risk for women include increased estrogen, age, personal or family history and gene mutation, she said.

Lam listed factors that increase the risk in both genders such as alcohol abuse, obesity and physical inactivity.

“Too much alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer,” she said.

Alcohol damages the liver, which produces and regulates hormones. When these hormones are put out of balance by the liver not functioning properly, it increases estrogen levels that directly increase risk, Lam said.

“As a college student, that might be a problem for some of us,” she said.

Obesity and physical inactivity can also increase risk as fat cells convert androgen into estrogen. Even moderate levels of physical inactivity can decrease risk, Lam said.

Gender-specific risks for women include a long menstrual history — starting before the age of 12 or ending after 55 as it increases the length of time the body is exposed to estrogen, Lam said.

Lam said controllable factors include oral contraceptives and conceiving one’s first child after the age of 35.

Oral contraceptives also can increase hormone levels and increase estrogen. Intrauterine devices are different as they are a different chemical and do not affect hormone levels.

Gender-specific risks for men include Klinefelter syndrome, testicular conditions, work environments or tight jeans.

Also, radiation exposure or estrogen treatments such as those involved with the treatment of prostate cancer can increase risk, Lam said.

“It was pretty interesting,” said TR student Juan Vasquez. “I never thought so many things could increase your risk for breast cancer.”

Lam said that, for men, wearing tight jeans or working in hot environments for extended periods can affect the efficiency of the testicles in regulating hormone levels.

“Stay hydrated and have time to cool down,” she said when a student asked if his participation in sports increased his risk.

The highest incident rates for breast cancer are highest in Caucasians, Lam said, but the mortality rate is highest among African-Americans. The reason for this disparity is the result of lack of education and resources, socioeconomic status and even an unwillingness to be tested, Lam said.

A self-test is the easiest way to begin the process of detection and prevention, she said.

The six main symptoms of breast cancer are inverted nipples, lumps, dimpling, skin changes such as thickness, redness or rash and dripping. She said a self-test should be performed once a month, 10 days after the end of a woman’s menstrual cycle.

Roughly 40 attendants were given snacks and beverages, offered gift bags and awarded prizes in the interactive lecture sponsored by the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

“I learned a lot of things I didn’t know about breast cancer,” TR student Katy Webb said. “The seminar was very informative, and I will definitely be donating to further research. Also, they gave out lots of cool stuff and fed us.”

Lam said she chose TR Campus as the venue for her speech because education and early intervention is so important when it comes to breast cancer.

Donate to The Collegian

Your donation will support the student journalists of Tarrant County College. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Collegian