Breast Cancer is one of the common types of cancer that affects women. It is the formation of cancerous cells in the breast. Women around the world face the risk of such type of cancer. But, men can also suffer from the disease. It is more common in women compared to men. With the increase of support for awareness and research for treating the disease, you can see the difference in survival rates. The advanced technology helps early detection and diagnosis of the problem, which has reduced the number of deaths associated with the disease. Read ahead to know more about the disease.
Symptoms Of Breast Cancer
You need to observe your body closely to detect any changes. Look for the following signs that indicate the cancerous presence in your breast:
- A lump in the breast or thickened area that feels different from its surrounding tissue
- Changes in the appearance, shape or size of a breast
- Difference visible on the skin over the breast (for example, dimpling)
- An inverted nipple
- Flaking, crusting, scaling, peeling of the areola (the pigmented area surrounding your nipple) or breast skin
- Redness of skin over the breast or pitting of the skin (like orange skin)
When you see such visible differences on your breast, contact your doctor immediately.
Causes Of Breast Cancer
Breast cancer occurs due to the abnormal growth of some breast cell. The abnormal cells divide at an alarming rate compared to healthy cells. So, the abnormal cells accumulate in the breast resulting in the formation of a lump or mass. When you fail to seek treatment, the cells can spread (metastasize) to the lymph nodes or other regions of the body. The different factors influencing the risk of such types of cancer are:
- Abnormal hormones
- Environmental Factors
But, people who have no risk factors can also develop cancer while some with risk factors never develop the disease. The exact reason for such anomaly remains unclear. Doctors believe that it develops due to the complex interaction of a person‘s genetic makeup and their specific environment.
Types Of Breast Cancer
You can classify breast cancer into different types based on where it begins. So, the different types are:
DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma In Situ)
It is a non-invasive condition where you can experience the cancer cells confined to breast ducts. It does not affect the surrounding tissue.
LCIS (Lobular Carcinoma In Situ)
The cancer cells in such type grow in your breast’s milk-producing glands. The cancer cells do not invade the surrounding tissue.
IDC (Invasive Ductal Carcinoma)
It is the most common type of cancer. The problem mostly begins in the milk ducts of the breast and spreads to the surrounding tissue in the breast. Once it affects the tissue outside the milk ducts, it starts to spread to other organs as well as tissue near the breast.
ILC (Invasive Lobular Carcinoma)
The cancerous cells first develop in the breast’s lobules (glandular tissue) and invade the other cells or tissue within your breast.
Stages Of Breast Cancer
Breast Cancer is classified into different stages. The treatment and survival rates depend on the stage of cancer. So, the different stages are:
Breast Cancer: Stage 0
In simple terms, stage 0 refers to DCIS. So, the cancer cells refer confined to the breast ducts. It may not have spread to nearby tissue.
Breast Cancer: Stage 1
It is divided into two sub-stages.
Your doctor diagnoses a primary tumor (two centimeters wide or less in size). But, it does not affect the surrounding lymph nodes.
Your doctor finds cancerous cells in the nearby lymph nodes. You can develop a tumor (less than 2 cm wide) or have no tumor at all.
Breast Cancer: Stage 2
Based on the tumor size and its invasion of other lymph nodes, you can divide the stage into two.
When the tumor is of small size (less two centimeters wide) and has spread to one to three lymph nodes nearby, it comes under the category. Your doctor can diagnose the disease under the stage when the tumor measures between two to five centimeters and have not invaded other lymph nodes.
The tumor measures between two and five centimeters. It also spreads to one to three lymph nodes in your armpit (axillary lymph nodes). The tumor can also come under the category when it measures larger than five centimeters and has not spread to surrounding lymph nodes.
Breast Cancer: Stage 3
Stage 3 of breast cancer is further classified into three subtypes based on the tumor size and its metastasis.
The tumor in the breast comes under the category during the following conditions:
- The cancerous cells spread to four to nine axillary lymph nodes or it has enlarged your internal mammary lymph nodes. In this case, the tumor can have any size.
- Cancer also comes under the category when the tumor as more than five-centimeter size and spreads to one to three breastbone nodes or axillary lymph nodes.
The tumor invades the chest skin or wall. And, cancer can invade up to nine lymph nodes (or not).
When cancer affects ten or more axillary lymph nodes, internal mammary nodes, or lymph nodes near your collarbone.
Breast Cancer: Stage 4
During the stage, cancer can spread to nearby as well as distant lymph nodes. It can also affect distant organs (metastasizes). The tumor size can vary. Stage 4 breast cancer can have a tumor of any size, and its cancer cells have spread to nearby and distant lymph nodes as well as distant organs.
The treatment of the disease will depend on the stage of cancer. It is also important to understand the survival rates.
Risk Factors Increasing The Occurrence Of Breast Cancer
Some people are more likely to suffer from the cancerous presence in the breast compared to others. One or more factors influence the possibility of suffering from the problem. It does not mean people coming under such category will develop the issue in the future. Some people develop the problem without any known risk. But, people who have one or more risk factors can take precaution to prevent the problem. Therefore, the risk factors you need to watch are:
Female has more chances of developing the problem compared to men. Simply because they develop breast.
The chances of developing cancer in the breast region increase with age.
History Of Breast Conditions
A personal history of conditions affecting your breast can put you in danger of developing the disease. For example, if you have undergone a breast biopsy that detected the following issues, then you are more at risk of the problem
- Breast atypical hyperplasia
- Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS)
Prior History Of Breast Cancer
Women who have developed breast cancer in one breast have increased chances of developing it on the other. The personal history of such cancer can increase the probability of developing it in the future.
If you have a close family relative like a mother, sister or daughter diagnosed with the problem, then you can develop it too. But, most people who suffer from the problem have no people in the family with the disease.
Some people inherit the gene mutation from their parents that increases cancer risk. The popular gene mutations known as BRCA1 and BRCA2 can increase the cancer risk in the breast. It is passed from parents to their children. The presence of the specific genes makes you more vulnerable to developing breast cancer of other types of cancers. But, it does not mean all people with such gene mutation cannot avoid the problem from affecting their lives.
Exposure To Radiation
Excess weight can always put at risk of several health problems. Obese people are more prone to suffering from cancer in the breast compared to others.
Menarche At Young Age
Girls who begin their period for the first time at a young age can increase the risk of cancer. So, girls who begin their period before the age of twelve have to monitor their breast region to detect cancerous presence.
Menopause At Advanced Age
Women who begin their menopause at old age can also expect an increased risk of cancerous presence in their breast.
Having Child At Old Age
Women having their first child at an older age can face the risk of cancerous presence in the breast. Therefore, women who give birth after thirty have increased risk of the disease.
Women who have never become pregnant in their life can also face the risk of the disease. So, compared to women who have had one or more pregnancies, infertile women can suffer from the problem.
Postmenopausal Hormone Therapy
Menopausal women can experience severe symptoms that can affect their daily life. So, they take hormone therapy medication to relieve the signs. The combination of estrogen and progesterone can ease the symptoms associated with menopause. Taking medications can increase the risk of breast cancer. So, it is essential to talk to a doctor about taking low doses of hormone therapy medication.
Consuming alcohol can increase the risk of cancerous cells in the breast region.
Diagnosis Of Breast Cancer
If you suspect changes in your breast region, then you need to consult your doctor for further evaluation and assessment. In most cases, you can detect the problem during routine screening. Your doctor can perform some diagnostic tests to establish the presence of cancerous cells. The tests also help detect the stage of cancer. Based on the size of the lump, the extent of spread, and the regions affected, your doctor can determine the stage of breast cancer. So, the following tests can help in confirming the disease and its stage.
The physician initially performs a physical assessment to check for lumps and other problems on the breast. You need to sit or stand with arms in different positions. So placing the arms above the head and by the sides can help detect lumps or tumor.
Sophisticated imaging tests can offer a better idea of detecting the problem better. Your doctor can select one of the imaging techniques to screen the problem:
- Ultrasound Scan
It is an invasive test that will detect the problem conclusively. Tissue from the breast is surgically removed and analyzed in the lab. The presence of cancerous cells can confirm the problem. The procedure can also determine the type of cancer and understand the hormone sensitivity of cancer.
Treatment Options For Breast Cancer
After the conclusive diagnosis, your doctor can determine an ideal treatment. The treatment will depend on the following:
- The exact type of breast cancer
- The stage of the cancer
- Sensitivity to hormones
- Your age
- Overall health
So, depending on the diagnosis and the factors, your doctor can suggest the following treatment options to manage the condition.
The invasive procedure removes the malignant tumor affecting the breast. Based on the condition you suffer, your doctor can opt from the following types of surgery:
- Lumpectomy (an invasive procedure to remove the specific area affected by cancer)
- Mastectomy (complete removal of the breast)
- Sentinel node biopsy (removal of lymph nodes receives the tumor drainage)
- Axillary lymph node dissection (presence of cancerous cells in lymph nodes requires removal of surrounding lymph nodes)
During the therapy, the patient receives controlled doses of radiation on the breast. It is targeted at the tumor to eliminate the cancer cells. It is mostly used in combination with other treatment options like surgery or chemotherapy. The combined treatment will completely kill the remaining cancer cells to get relief.
Also known as targeted therapy, the drugs used can destroy specific types of breast cancer. The drugs can use the body’s hormonal system or immune system to fight the malignant cells in the breast. It does not cause any harm to healthy cells. So, specific therapy causes less side effects compared to other known treatments like chemotherapy.
The therapy can prevent the recurrence of certain cancers like hormone-sensitive breast cancers. So, the therapy is ideal for the cancers occurring due to hormone issues. ER-positive and PR positive types of cancer have proteins (receptors) that attach themselves to estrogen. It causes cancer to grow. In most cases, the therapy is chosen before the surgery. If used before surgery, then it can shrink the size of the tumor.
Chemotherapy uses cytotoxic drugs to kill the cancer cells completely. It is classified into two different types:
It is usually given in combination with initial therapy to get maximum effects. So, your doctor can combine chemotherapy with surgery or chemotherapy with radiation to get positive results.
It is the treatment opted before performing surgery. The method is best for the large size of the tumor. So, chemotherapy can shrink the tumor and make it easy to remove the tumor.
Preventing Breast Cancer
There is no sure shot method to prevent breast cancer. But, you can make some simple yet significant changes in your life to reduce the risk of the disease. Therefore, you can follow the pointers like:
You can ask your doctor about screening for cancer in your breast region. Your doctor can shed light on the different benign screening examinations and tests. In most cases, you can opt for clinical breast exams and/or mammograms to detect the cancerous presence. Consulting the doctor can help you understand the pros and cons of each screening technique. So, you can select the screening strategy that will suit you the best.
You need to become familiar with your breasts. Self-examination can help you know the changes occurring. You can inspect your breast and check if new lumps or bumps have formed. If you suspect any changes or observe lumps as well as other unusual signs, then you can consult the doctor for evaluation. Early intervention can always prevent severe complications.
Consuming alcohol can affect your body. Therefore, try to drink alcohol moderately. Try not to drink more than one drink a day. It will reduce your risk of health problems.
You need to include exercise in your daily routine. Working out at least thirty minutes every day can reduce your risk of health issues including cancer. You need to start slowly and increase the duration of the activity. Daily activity will boost your immune system and keep you healthy.
Limit Postmenopausal Hormone Therapy
Women facing menopause can experience several adverse symptoms. So, to reduce the severity of the signs, you may undergo hormonal therapy. The combination of hormone therapy can increase the chances of cancer. Therefore, before undergoing the therapy, you need to talk to the doctor in detail about the benefits and risks associated with the therapy. Women who need hormone therapy to reduce the severity of the menopausal symptoms can undergo the lowest dose of therapy for a short duration of time. It will reduce the risk of breast cancer.
It is important to maintain a healthy weight. It will prevent any lifestyle diseases and reduce the risk of cancer. If you have a healthy weight, then try to maintain it. People who are overweight need to shed weight to keep them fit. Talk to your doctor about healthy methods to lose weight. Include exercise and eat healthily. It helps you control the number of calories you consume and the calories you lose.
Women who are at risk of getting cancer need to include a healthy diet. A special diet like the Mediterranean diet has items that can reduce the risk considerably. The diet has extra virgin olive oil as well as mixed nuts. It can lower your chances of cancer.
If you have diagnosed to have a high risk of getting breast cancer, then you need to take preventive measures. Your family history, precancerous breast condition, and other factors can place you under the high-risk category of cancer. So, once your doctor diagnoses the risk, you need to discuss different options to lower the risk like:
You can consult your doctor about taking estrogen-blocking medications (chemoprevention). It can lower the high risk of cancer among women who are more prone to the problem. So, medications like the following can prevent cancer from happening:
- Aromatase inhibitors
- Estrogen receptor modulators
Women who have genes that put them at risk of cancer can choose to surgically remove their breasts. The procedure known as a prophylactic mastectomy can reduce the risk of getting cancer. It is effective for women who carry the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation. Preventive surgery can reduce the risk of cancer by 95%.
The survival rates of breast cancer depend on several factors. The type of cancer and the stage of the cancer are the main factors that depend on the outlook. Early detection and treatment can improve the chances of survival. Your age and race can also play a significant role in the prognosis. Women who detect the problem early and are in an early stage can get relief from the problem completely. With advances in the medical field, the rates of survival are improving. You need to monitor the changes occurring in your body, especially the breast region. When you see any concerning change, seek assistance from your doctor. With proper care and treatment, you can beat cancer and lead a fulfilling life.
[expand title=”View Article Sources“]