Janelle Cochran was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012. She takes a daily pill and will continue to do so until she reaches five years of being cancer-free which she fully expects to achieve. She says she is not a cancer survivor until 2017 and will then be “home free.”

Janelle Cochran: no pity party needed

By Debby Schamber – For the Record

October 1 kicks off breast cancer awareness month. The color pink is seen everywhere from banners to sports teams in an effort to show their support and raise awareness.

Nobody ever expects to get breast cancer, but in 2015 an estimated 231,840 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 60,290 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer. In addition, there will be about 2,350 new cases of invasive breast cancer diagnosed in men.

About 40,290 women in the U.S. are expected to die in 2015 from breast cancer, though death rates have been decreasing since 1989. Women under 50 have experienced larger decreases. These decreases are thought to be the result of treatment advances, earlier detection through screening, and increased awareness

But, first there must be a better understanding of breast cancer. The term “breast cancer” refers to a malignant tumor which has developed from cells in the breast.

Usually breast cancer either begins in the cells of the lobules or the ducts. Less commonly, breast cancer can begin in the stromal tissues, which include the fatty and fibrous connective tissues of the breast, according to breastcancer.org.

Over time, cancer cells can invade nearby healthy breast tissue and make their way into the underarm lymph nodes. If cancer cells get into the lymph nodes, they then have a pathway into other parts of the body.

Breast cancer is always caused by a genetic abnormality. However, only five to 10 percent of cancers are due to an abnormality inherited from your mother or father. Instead, 85 percent to 90 percent of breast cancers are due to genetic abnormalities that happen as a result of the aging process and the “wear and tear” of life in general, according to breastcancer.org.

About one in eight U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. Janelle Cochran, of Orange, was one of those women. Like her mother, she had cancer too. However, she says it was not the type you receive genetically, but because of their age.

Cochran was diagnosed in 2012. She takes a daily pill and will continue to do so until she reaches five years of being cancer-free. She says she is not a cancer survivor until 2017.

“Then I am home free,” she said. “I fully expect to make it too.”

Even after she reaches five years of being cancer-free she will continue to undergo an annual exam.

Cochran does not want women to be fearful of getting a mammogram. Even after a woman receives a diagnosis of breast cancer, Cochran said it should not be all “doom and gloom” and certainly no “pity party” is necessary.

“I don’t want people to be scared of getting a mammogram. It’s just another bump in the road,” Cochran said. “The diagnosis is not the end, it’s the beginning.”

Initially, breast cancer may not cause any symptoms. A lump may be too small to feel or cause any unusual changes. Often, an abnormal area turns up on a screening mammogram, which leads to further testing.

In some cases, however, the first sign of breast cancer is a new lump or mass in the breast the woman or their doctor can feel. A lump that is painless, hard, and has uneven edges is more likely to be cancer. But, sometimes cancers can be tender, soft, and rounded.

According to the American Cancer Society, some of the unusual changes in the breast which can be a symptom of breast cancer include swelling of all or part of the breast, skin irritation or dimpling, breast pain,nipple pain or the nipple turning inward, redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin, a nipple discharge other than breast milk or a lump in the underarm area. These changes also can be signs of less serious conditions that are not cancerous, such as an infection or a cyst. It’s important to get any breast changes checked out promptly by a doctor.

The Gift of Life, Breast Health Program, offers more than 2,200 free breast cancer screenings for medically underserved women each year. In addition, since the program began, more than 27,500 free breast cancer screenings have been provided for medically underserved women. Plus, since the inception of the program, 183 women have been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Women may be eligible for a free mammogram if they live in Orange, Newton, Tyler, Chambers, Hardin, Jasper and Jefferson Counties. Other qualifications may be if they do not have private insurance, Medicaid or Medicare. They may also be eligible if they have a high medical insurance deductible. Women must be at least 40 years of age with an exception of a woman at age 35 receiving a first mammogram if there is a history of breast cancer in her family.

For more information contact the Gift of Life 24-hour Hotline at  409-860-3369.

“If you catch it early, you still have a chance,” Cochran said.