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Get Ahead Kids - Vol. 4, No. 5 - September/October 2012

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Children & Grief - Finding Healing in a Time of Loss

By Rev. Dr. Kim Miller

You may have seen adverts on the television or radio about big walks or races to help raise money for cancer research. You may also have noticed people wearing pink ribbons on their clothes. This is all to raise awareness for breast cancer.

Breast cancer is a common cancer that mainly affects women. Men can also rarely get breast cancer.

Although it doesn't tend to affect children, someone you know or are close to may have had breast cancer. It can be scary to be told that someone you love has cancer, but it's less scary once you understand it.

What happens in breast cancer?

Your body is made up of millions of building blocks called cells. Each cell carries out a special job.

Some cells are used for support, like the cells that make up your bones, while other cells make up your muscles!

Your body makes new cells all the time, to replace the old worn out ones. Usually your body makes new healthy cells that take on the jobs they are supposed to.

However, sometimes a cell misbehaves and produces lots of bad cells. When this happens, the bad cells join together to form a lump called a tumour. The tumour gets in the way of the healthy cells and stops them working properly. When this happens, it's called cancer.

Cancer can happen anywhere in the body. When it starts in the breast, it's called breast cancer.

How do you get breast cancer?

Anyone can get breast cancer, but there are some things that make it more likely to happen:

  • Age: As you get older, the risk of getting breast cancer increases
  • Family history: You are more likely to get breast cancer if your mother, aunt, sister or daughter has had it
  • Lifestyle: being overweight, smoking & drinking too much alcohol also increases your breast cancer risk

How do you recognise breast cancer?

Usually, the first thing you notice is a painless breast lump.
Breast lumps do not always mean cancer! However, it is always important to see your doctor and get it checked just to be sure.

If there is a lump, the doctors will do a special scan called a mammogram to have a closer look.

They will also do a biopsy. This involves using a very thin needle to take a small sample of cells from the lump. The doctors will then look at the sample under a microscope to see if there are any cancer cells.

To check whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, the doctors will do tests like X-rays and scans, which take detailed pictures of the inside of your body.

How is breast cancer treated?

As cancer can cause havoc all over the body, it's important to get it treated quickly!

The usual treatment for breast cancer is surgery, which involves removing the tumour. Sometimes, other treatments are needed too, like chemotherapy, radiotherapy or hormone therapy, usually when the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

Living with breast cancer

Coping with the diagnosis of breast cancer can be difficult, and some of the treatments can make you feel unwell for a while.

Joining a support group can help, where you can chat to others with breast cancer about how you're feeling. There are support groups for children whose mothers have breast cancer too.

It helps to talk to someone that you trust about your feelings, or you can ask your family doctor about local support groups.

About Dr. Huda Al Haddad

Dr. Huda Al Haddad is a member of the medical writing team at Medikidz, a charity that provides children and teenagers with informative, accessible and fun comic books to help them understand their bodies and illness.

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