Despite the many mixed messages women receive about their breasts, the basic truth is that the breast is a gland (a tissue structure that makes an important substance), and it has a job to do. The breast is designed to make milk in the lobules. It uses the milk pipes, or ducts, to drain that milk out to the nipple. Like all parts of your body, the cells in your breasts usually grow and then rest, grow and rest.
These periods of growth and rest are controlled by the genes in the cell’s nucleus, which is like the control room of each cell. When your genes are in good working order, they keep cell growth under control. But when your genes develop an abnormality, they sometimes lose their ability to control cell growth and rest.
Breast cancer is an uncontrolled growth of breast cells. Cancer has the potential to break through normal breast tissue barriers and spread to other parts of the body. While cancer is always caused by a genetic “abnormality” (a “mistake” in the genetic material), only 5–10% of cancers are inherited from your mother or father. Instead, 90% of breast cancers are due to genetic abnormalities that happen as a result of the aging process and life in general.
“Just think about the many things that might cause the wear and tear that leads to abnormal cell growth—pollutants, hormones, pesticides, smoking, alcohol use, obesity, stress…. Or maybe your cells just made a mistake one day when they were making new genes to pass on to their baby cells. Perhaps there was a misprint in the genetic instruction manual that said switch ‘growth on’ instead of ‘growth off.’
While there are things every woman can do to help her body stay as healthy as possible (such as eating a balanced diet, not smoking, minimizing stress, and exercising regularly), breast cancer is never anyone’s fault. Feeling guilty, or telling yourself that breast cancer happened because of something you or anyone else did, is counterproductive.
“As soon as you’re diagnosed with breast cancer, you desperately try to figure out how it could have happened. You analyze your life a thousand times over, rack your brains searching for THE reason, beat your head against the wall, experience endless guilt. All you get is a headache. Drop it! Save your precious energy for your health and well–being.”
“I was 41 when I was diagnosed,” says Bobbi. “I was thin, I worked out and ate healthy foods. I did everything ‘right.’ Everyone said ‘NO WAY! How can you have breast cancer?’”
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