The first thing I wanted to understand was what part of the breast was suseptible to cancer. I checked out a few different websites, one being The Canadian National Cancer Institute‘s website ((go figure)) and so far I understand that the breast is made up of different sections which contain smaller sections. Each of these smaller sections contain organs that produce the milk that babies love. Mostly, the breast is made up of fat, and these ograns they’ve decided to call lobes and lobules. I didn’t mention nipples because, well… we all know they’re there. They’re the ‘duh’ part.
But the important part of the breast to keep an eye on when checking for cancer, is the lymph vessels. Apparently these lead to lymph nodes which carry bacteria, cancer cells and other harmful substances. These lymph nodes exist all over our body.
Now, I think even I remember learning in high school biology that our cells are constantly renewing in our body. Tumors are formed when the system of cell renewal goes astray, as in when the new cells form before the old cells have had a chance to die and the old cells don’t die like they should. But as I’ve learnt from the TV dramas, not all tumours are cancerous. Some tumours can just be extra tissue… some… aren’t so happy.
What was easy to understand was that unless caught and treated early, breast cancer can spread almost any other part of the body and that the most common parts they spread to are the bones, liver, lungs, and brain.
So how does it spread? What I first needed to understand was that the lympathic system is something similar to the nervous system or our veins and arteries but instead of carrying nervous cells, or blood it carries a fluid called lymph through our system. This yellowish, watery fluid containing white blood cells, red blood cells and protein is important to our immune system health. Wisegeek compared lymph to a milkman who replenishes us with nutrients and takes away the empty bottles. Of course, this is one milkman who won’t sleep with your wife.
Cancer can also spread through our blood stream; the not so happy tumours previously mentioned can break off of where they had originally grown and travel through the bloodstream until they find a suitable new home.
Cancer can also ‘invade’ the healthy tissue surrounding it. This type of Cancer is usually ‘easier’ to get rid of if caught early enough and if all infected tissue is removed accurately. But, its said that it’s not a guarantee that the same type of cancer won’t form again in another part of the body and it would be completely unrelated to the first one.
Lastly, there is apparently the rare instance that cancer can form as a result of something happening during a biopsy. A biopsy is the surgery performed to get rid of a malignant tumour… and sometimes, the needle being used to remove the tumour can drip onto other healthy organs and infect said organ.
So! That’s what cancer is… and that’s how it spreads through our body. I hope you learnt something today, because I certainly did.
Have you gone pink for October?
Image ©rachel a. k.