Breast cancer is a very common terminology we hear these days. It is the most common invasive cancer that accounts for 16 percent of all the cases of female types of cancer. Statistics say that breast cancer is the second leading cause of death in the women. As compared to the developing nations the rate of this cancer is high in developed countries. According to American Cancer Association, every year about 230,000 new cases of breast cancer is reported. Not only in females, but it can also occur in males, but the occurrence is rare. It is known as male breast cancer. Every year about 2300 cases of male breast cancer are diagnosed. It accounts for about 18.2 percent of all the deaths caused due to diseases worldwide.
Personally, I have seen 5 cases of breast cancer among which only 2 survived. They survived because of the early detection and proper treatment of the disease. Thus, to prevent the mortality caused due to breast cancer, it is crucial to diagnose this disease in its early stage. Our article is an awareness about this life-threatening illness, its treatment, and prevention. We have tried to poll all the necessary information about female breast cancer in this article.
What is breast cancer
It may be defined as the collection of cancer cells that arises from the breast cells. It is a malignant tumor that is a group of cancer cells that can invade into the surrounding tissues and may also metastasize (spread) to the other distant body areas. This condition arises when the breast cells begin to grow uncontrollably. It may originate from different regions of the breast, but commonly it starts in the milk-carrying ducts. Also, sometimes this cancer starts in the milk-making glands of the breast and are known as lobular types of cancer. Other types of this disease are less common when compared to these.
Stages of breast cancer
There are four stages of breast cancer. Staging takes into account various factors. Tnm staging of breast cancer includes
- The size of the tumor (tumor means either a breast lump or the area of cancer cells found on a scan or mammogram)
- Whether cancer cells have spread to the nearby lymph glands (lymph nodes)
- Whether the tumor has spread to any other part of the body (metastasised)
Stage 0 & 1:
These are the very initial stages of this disease. At Stage 0 and 1, the cancer cells are confined to a very limited area. But, at this stage, it is tough to detect the cancer. But, an expert can detect this easily using various techniques
Stage 2 (II) And Stage 2A (IIA):
Stage 2 breast cancer is also still in the earlier stages, but there is some evidence that the cancer has begun to grow or spread. At this juncture, if you can detect then you can cure it completely. (8% chances are there to lead a very normal life after surgery. It is still contained to the breast area and is very effectively treated.
Stage 3 (III) A, B, And C:
Stage III is considered as the advanced state of cancer. In this stage, the cancer cells will start invading the surrounding tissues near the breast or mammary glands.
Stage 4 (IV):
Stage 4 breast cancer indicates that cancer has spread beyond the breast to other areas of the body. In this juncture, there is no hope for life. It is very tough to treat at this stage. Also, the patient’s body will not respond to the drugs.
Breast cancer awareness
Officially, October month is declared as Breast cancer Awareness month. To create awareness on this dreadful disease, this awareness campaign helps a lot. The main motto of this Awareness campaign id that no one should face this alone and to avoid this completely by guiding the public to take regular check ups like mammograms to detect early and to fight against it.
Types of breast cancer
They may be divided into various kinds by how the cancer cells look under the microscope. Most of the types of this cancers are carcinomas that start in the epithelial cells that line the breast. But sarcomas that begin in fat cells, muscle cells, and connective tissue cells may also occur. Sometimes there is a combination of in situ and invasive cancer. In very rare cases, cancer cells of the breast may not form any cancer. Let us discuss the common types of this disease in details. Breast cancer types include
1. Ductal carcinoma in situ
This kind of breast cancer may also be defined as intraductal carcinoma. It is the pre-invasive or non-invasive form of this cancer. Here the cells that are lining the ducts changes and looks like cancer cells, but the cancer cells do not spread to the surrounding tissues of the breast. Some cases of DCIS can develop into invasive type and others may not. About 1 in every five newly diagnosed cases of this disease is DCIS. If detected in the early stage it can be cured.
2. Infiltrating or invasive ductal carcinoma
This type of cancer is most common and accounts for about 8 in every 10 cases of breast cancer. It begins in the breast milk ducts and then breaks the tube wall and starts growing in the fatty tissues of the breast. At this stage of breast cancer, it can also spread through the bloodstream and lymphatic system to the other body parts.
3. Invasive or infiltrating lobular carcinoma
This type starts in the lobules (The milk-producing glands). It can also spread to other body parts and accounts for 1 in every 10 cases of the breast cancer. As compared to ductal carcinoma it is harder to detect.
Other less common types of breast cancer are as follows:
Inflammatory breast cancer
This kind of cancer makes the breast skin appear warm and red. This change occurs as a result when the cancer cells block the lymph vessels.
Paget’s disease of the nipple
This type of breast cancer starts in the ducts, and then they spread to the nipple and the surrounding areas. Mostly this condition is characterized by the redness and crusting around the nipple.
The mucus-producing cancer cells form mucinous carcinoma of the breast.
Triple-negative breast cancer
It is a subtype of invasive cancer and is more common in young females and African-American females.
Adenoid cystic carcinoma
This type of cancer is characterized by the presence of both cystic and glandular features. The prognosis of adenoid cystic carcinoma is good as it does not spread aggressively. Other rare types of breast cancers are Angiosarcoma, papillary carcinoma, tubular carcinoma, and phyllodes tumor.
Read more: Types of breast cancer in detail
What causes breast cancer
The definite cause of the breast cancer is not known. It is tough to speak why some women develop this disease whereas others don’t. But yes, certain risk factors increase the risk of developing this cancer. However, the knowledge on how these factors cause breast cancer is not particular. Still, it is important to have knowledge about these risk factors as some of them can be modified. Also, it is critical to discuss these risk factors whenever any new therapy is started such as hormone therapy and postmenopausal therapy. Following are the reasons for breast cancer.
Following are the reasons for breast cancer or the causes for breast cancer. Have a glance at the risk factors for this disease.
As the women get older, the risk of developing this disease also increases. More than 50 percent of this cancer develops after an age of 50 or menopause. So, it is important to undergo complete natural body check up. It will benefit you by detecting in the early stages.
Women with a family history or have any close relative suffering from ovarian or breast cancer is more at the risk of developing this. SO, if you knew that someone in your family has this kind of problem then beware of this and keep an eye on changes in your body.
Females carrying BRCA1 And BRCA2 genes are comparatively at higher danger of developing ovarian and breast cancer. These two genes can also be inherited. One more gene that can increase the risk of breast cancer is TP53.
4. History of breast cancer
Females with a history of the this cancer in the past, even invasive cancer are at the risk of again developing this disease.
5. Dense breast tissue
In some women, the breast tissue is thick as compared to others and they are more at the risk of developing breast cancer.
6. Certain breast lumps
Women having benign breast lumps are at the risk of the development of cancer in the future. Some of the examples of such pieces are lobular carcinoma in situ and atypical ductal hyperplasia.
6. Estrogen exposure
In some women, menopause may be late, or menarche may begin at an early age. Such women are more at the risk of developing the breast cancer. The reason behind this is that their body is exposed to the estrogen hormone for an extended period.
Overweight women are more at the risk of developing this type of cancer. The reason behind this is that in obese women the level of estrogen is comparatively higher. So, stay fit not only to look beautiful but also to live happily.
Women who are taller than the average height in females is more at risk. It is one thing which you can’t be sure. So, regular check up only can give you the right proof.
More the alcohol consumption more is the risk of acquiring this disease. So, lessen your alcohol consumption or avoid it altogether to keep this disease at bay.
10. Hormone replacement therapy
Whether you are taking estrogen-only HRT or combined HRT, Both will increase the risk of this illness development. But women taking combined-HRT are more at the risk of breast cancer.
11. Radiation exposure
Frequent exposure to CT scans and X-rays also increases the risk of developing cancer in females.
12 Cosmetic breast implantation
Statistics say that women who have undergone cosmetic breast implantation are 25 percent more at the risk of developing breast cancer. Also, if they are breast cancer positive then they are at higher danger of dying due to this disease.
13. It is more common in the white race. However, if African-American women develop breast cancer, the tumor tends to be more aggressive in them.
14. Some other risk factors are using oral contraceptives, having no children or having the first child after 30 years of age.
What are the symptoms of the breast cancer
It is not necessary that breast cancer may always display any symptoms. Initially, this cancer may be so small that there may not be any recognizable or unusual breast changes and no mass may be felt. In Such cases, abnormality turns up after the screening mammography and other further tests. In other situations, the most common and the first sign of breast cancer is a new mass or lump. If the lump you feel is hard, painless and has uneven edges, it is more likely to be a cancerous growth. However, in some cases, the cancer mass felt in the breast may be tender soft and round. Thus, it is better that whenever you feel anything unusual do consult your doctor. Besides lump or mass in the breast, other unusual symptoms that may be an alarming sign and symptoms of breast cancer are as follows
Breast cancer signs & Symtoms Includes
- Swelling- This may affect a part or whole of the breast.
- Pain in the chest- However, this is not a usual symptom of breast cancer, but may be present in some cases.
- Dimpling of the breast skin.
- Pain in the nipple.
- Inward turning of the nipple.
- Discharge from the nipple other than the breast milk.
- A lump or mass may be felt in the underarm and surrounding areas.
- Redness and scaling of the breast skin.
- Thickening of the breast skin.
- Orange peel texture of the breast skin.
- Swollen lymph nodes in the armpit or neck.
- If you find any of these unusual symptoms, then get alerted and consult a doctor. But no need to make unnecessary speculations and assumptions as these may also be symptoms of some less serious diseases such as cysts or an infection.
Diagnosis of breast cancer
The symptoms of the breast cancer vary widely. To make sure that this disease is identified and diagnosed in early stages, it is better to add breast self-exam to your monthly routine.
Below are the steps for Breast cancer self-examination:
First of all, look at your breasts in the mirror. While doing this, keep your shoulders straight with your arms on your hips. Now look for any unusual change in the size, color, and shape of the breasts. In the case of any visible distortion, swelling or rough shape does consult your doctor. Other symptoms you should look for are puckering, dimpling, bulging of the skin, inverted nipples, any discharge from the breast, swelling, redness, rash, and soreness.
Raise both of your arms and look for the same changes.
Now lie down. With the help of your right hand feel your left breast. Remember your touch should be smooth but firm. In the same way feel your right breast with your left hand. Keep your fingers together and flat while doing this. Use a quarter-sized circular motion or move your fingers up and down in vertical rows. Cover the whole of the breast by doing so. Feel all the tissue of the breast. Use light pressure to feel the skin and tissues just beneath, the average amount of pressure on the muscles in the middle and for the deep-seated tissues apply firm pressure.
Stand up or sit down and feel your breasts. It is best if you do this while having a shower. Cover whole of your breast, using the hand movements discussed above. After breast self-exam, if you feel anything unusual you should meet your doctor for further diagnosis and tests. Your doctor may conduct following test and exams.
1. Breast Exam- To confirm the presence of any lump or other possible abnormalities.
2. Mammography or X-ray of breast- This is the most common breast cancer screening method.
3. 2D combined with 3D mammograms
4. Breast biopsy- To find whether the cells are cancerous and to identify the stage of cancer.
5. Breast ultrasound- To determine that the mass or lump is a fluid-filled cyst or a solid mass.
6. Breast MRI Scan- It helps to establish the extent of the cancer.
Read more: Identification of Breast cancer in detail
What is the treatment of the breast cancer
The treatment of breast cancer depends on the size, grade, type of the cancer and their sensitivity to the hormones. Also, the physician will consider the patients all over health before selecting the treatment procedure. Following are the treatment options treat the breast cancer.
1. Breast cancer Surgery:
It includes physical removal of the tumor. Also along with it, there may be the removal of a part of the healthy surrounding tissue and the lymph nodes. Following are the operations that may be for cancer treatment.
- Lumpectomy- In this treatment, removal of the breast tumor and a small margin of healthy surrounding tissues is seen.
- Quadrantectomy- Only 1/4th part of the breast is removed in this type of surgery.
- Mastectomy- In this case, the physician will remove the Whole Breast.
- Axillary lymph node dissection- Treatment includes removal of Several numbers of lymph nodes
- Sentinel node biopsy- Removal of a limited number of lymph nodes
- Removal of both the breast.
Other additional treatment options that may be done after or before the surgery than these there are radiation therapy, chemotherapy for metastatic Breast cancer.
- Chemotherapy for breast cancer
- Hormone therapy
- Targeted therapy
The breast cancer survival rates after the breast cancer treatment are 99 percent if you notice it at an early stage where the cancer is present only in the breast. The complications of the treatment depend on the treatment procedures. Know the different therapies used for the treatment of breast cancer using the below link.
Breast Cancer Prevention
As we all know prevention is better than cure, we should be aware How to avoid breast cancer. After reading the above article, you must be concerned about the steps to prevent breast cancer. So below are the few things you can do to avoid breast cancer. To prevent breast cancer, you should be aware of the causes and stay away from them.
1. Limit the intake of alcohol.
2. Don’t smoke.
3. Be active and maintain a regular exercise regime.
4. Maintain a healthy weight.
5. Breastfeed up to one and a half or two years.
6. Limit the duration and the dose of the HRT.
7. Avoid pollution and radiation exposure.
8. Eat a healthy diet rich in vitamin A, E, and C.
So, Know everything about breast cancer. Learn how to identify and get treatment for breast cancer. Periodically check the symptoms for breast cancer, and if any early signs of breast cancer persist, then you can get proper treatment and eliminate this from your body. Have strength, courage, and hope to combat this evil.
According to a latest update, more intense type of chemotherapy can offer a little more benefit over the standard chemotherapy for women with high-risk early breast cancer. So, hope for the best to happen.