Everything you need to know about Breast Cancer

Breats cancer ribbons

Do you know that 1.7 million cases of Breast Cancer are diagnosed every year?

Well, breast cancer is the second leading cause of women in death after lung cancer. But surprisingly, in recent years, the death rate from breast cancer has significantly decreased due to greater awareness and use of cutting edge technology.

Hence, let us understand everything about Breast Cancer in detail –

What is Breast Cancer?

Breast Cancer is the abnormal cells that have grown uncontrollably. Those cells can also travel to places in your body where they are not usually found, and when that happens, it is known as metastatic.

Breast Cancer usually begins in a small and a confined area in the glands which produce milk (lobular Carcinoma) and carries it to the nipple.

Although it can grow more substantial in the breast and spread through channels to nearby lymph nodes, it can also spread to other organs through the bloodstream. Apart from this, cancer can also develop through spread tissue around the breast on the Skin or chest wall.

There are different types of breast cancer; some take years to spread beyond the breast, while others grow and spread quickly.

What are Breast Cancer types?

There are various types of breast cancer, and they are divided into two main categories – ‘In Situ’ and ‘Invasive’ Breast Cancer.

In Situ Cancer – In Situ Cancer does not spread to surrounding tissue, which makes them treatable. There are two types of ‘In Situ’ Cancers –

Ductal Carcinoma in situ (DCIS) – The Ductal Carcinoma is in early stage, i.e. (stage 0). At this stage, the disease is still in the milk ducts only. Although it is curable, if you don’t treat this type, it can become invasive.

  1. Lobular Carcinoma in situ (LCIS) – Lobular Carcinoma in situ is only found in the lobules which produce breast milk. It is not real cancer but is a mark that means you are more likely to get breast cancer at later stages. In case you feel some issue, get a consultation from a doctor. Invasive Cancer – Invasive Cancer spreads the surrounding breast tissue.

There are two types of Invasive Cancer –

  1. Invasive or Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma (IDC): Infiltrating Ductal Cancer starts in the milk ducts, which breaks through the wall of the tube and captures the fatty tissue of the breast. It is one of the most common forms, which accounts for 80% of the cases.
  2. Invasive Lobular Carcinoma (ILC): Invasive Lobular Carcinoma starts in the lobules but spreads to surrounding body parts. About 10% of invasive breast cancer is Lobular Carcinoma.

The subtypes are –

Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma – Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma is a rare form of neoplasm that arises within secretory glands. It is commonly the major and minor salivary glands of the head and neck.

Low-grade Adenosquamous Carcinoma – Adenosquamous Carcinoma is a rare and unique form of invasive mammary gland carcinoma. Although, it is categorised as a variant of metaplastic Carcinoma and it differs from its counterparts, but it is usually slow-growing and often mistaken for other types.

Medullary Carcinoma – Medullary Carcinoma is a soft, squishy mass that looks like the medulla in your brain.

Mucinous Carcinoma – Mucinous Carcinoma is a rare type of cancer in mucin. It is part of the slippery, slimy stuff that makes up mucus.

Papillary Carcinoma – Papillary Carcinoma has a finger-like projection, and that set these tumours apart. This rare type usually affects women who have been through menopause.

Tubular Carcinoma – Tubular Carcinoma are the tumours that are slow-growing and tube-shaped.

Other common types of Breast Cancer are –

  • Inflammatory Breast Cancer – Inflammatory Breast Cancer is caused by inflammatory cells in lymph vessels in your Skin.
  • Paget’s Disease of the Nipple – Paget’s Disease of the Nipple affects the areola, i.e. the thin Skin around your nipple.
  • Tumour of the Breast – Phyllodes Tumor of the Breast grows in a leaf-like pattern. They grow quickly but rarely, and they spread outside the breast.
  • Metastatic Breast Cancer – Metastatic Breast Cancer spreads to another body part like brain, bones, or lungs.

What are the Breast Cancer stages?

Usually, all breast cancers are assigned a stage based on biopsy results other than blood tests and imaging scans. It is advised to know your cancer stage well so that it can help you to make decisions, start the appropriate treatment, and understand the chances of your survival.

  • Early Stage, Stage 0 – The disease is localised to the breast with no evidence of spread to the lymph nodes.
  • Stage I – The cancer is 2 centimetres or less in size, and it has not spread anywhere.
  • Stage II(A) – The tumour is-

– Smaller than 2 centimetres across with underarm lymph node involvement.

– Larger than two but less than 5 centimetres across without lymph node involvement.

  • Stage II(B) – A tumour that is –

– Larger than 5 centimetres across without underarm lymph nodes that test positive for cancer.

– Larger than two but less than 5 centimetres across with lymph node involvement.

  • Stage III(A) – The tumour is locally advanced and is –

– Larger than 5 centimetres that have spread to the lymph nodes under the arm or near the breastbone.

– Any size tumour with cancerous lymph nodes that stick to one another or surrounding tissue.

  • Stage III(B) – A tumour of any size that has spread to the skin or chest wall.
  • Stage III(C) – A tumour of any size that has spread extensively and it involves more lymph nodes.
  • Stage IV – It is a Metastatic Breast Cancer. It is a tumour, regardless of size, that has spread to places far away from the breast, such as bones, lungs, brain, liver, or distant lymph nodes.

What are Breast Cancer causes?

Breast Cancer is caused by a genetic alteration in the DNA of breast cancer cells. Although it is not clearly understood as to how or why this damage occurs, some mutations develop randomly over time. The other reason could be inheritance or environmental exposures and lifestyle factors.

Mostly, Breast Cancers are diagnosed in women over age 50, but it is still not clear why only a few women get Breast Cancer, and others do not.

Some Breast Cancer risks may be preventable, but you cannot control every variable that influence your risk.

They key Breast Cancer risk factors are –

  • Age Factor – The women over 50 are more likely to get Breast Cancer than younger women.
  • Family History – If the first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) had breast cancer, it is very likely that you might become a victim disease.
  • Genes – Women who have the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations are more likely to develop breast cancer than women who don’t.
  • Menstrual History – Your chances of having breast cancer are high, if –

Your period starts before age 12.

Your period does not stop once you have crossed the age of 55.

  • Radiation – If you had treatment for cancers like Hodgkin’s lymphoma before the age of 40, there could be a possibility that you might develop Breast Cancer.
  • Diethylstilbestrol (DES) – Usually, doctors used this drug between 1940 and 1971 to prevent miscarriage. Hence, if you are a mother and you took it, breast cancer odds go up.
  • Weight – Women who are overweight after menopause are more likely to get breast cancer.
  • Race – African-American women are more likely to become a victim of breast cancer before menopause, as compared to white women.

What is Breast Cancer Symptoms?

In its early stages, Breast Cancer may do not have any symptoms. Sometimes, a tumour may be too small to be felt, but an abnormality can still be seen on a mammogram. Hence, if a tumour can be felt, the first sign is usually a new lump in the breast that was not there before.

However, not all lumps are cancer.

Although each type of cancer can have various symptoms, many of these symptoms are similar.

Symptoms for the most common Breast Cancers are –

  • A breast lump that feels different than the surrounding tissue and has developed recently.
  • Breast Pain
  • Red, Pitted Skin over your entire breast
  • Swelling in all part of your chest
  • Nipple discharge other than breast milk
  • Bloody Discharge from your nipple
  • Peeling, Scaling, or Flaking of Skin in the shape or size of the breast
  • Inverted Nipple
  • Change in breast appearance
  • A lump or swelling under your arm

In case if you are facing any of the above symptoms, it is advised to visit an oncologist.

Some Breast Cancer Myths and Facts –

Antiperspirants can cause breast cancer – You might have heard that chemicals can get into your body through razor nicks, and it can be harmful. But, experts say that it is not true and there is no evidence.

Most breast lumps are not cancer – You do not need to panic if you lump. Many women have lumps which are fluid-filled sacs, also known as cysts. A new lump that is hard, painless and has rough edges is more likely to cause cancer. You should see carefully for breast pain, swelling, dimpling, nipples that hurt or leak liquid. In case, if you are facing any of the above symptoms, it is always advised to visit the doctor.

In the 14th century, breast cancer was called as the disease of Nuns – Back then, the disease was so common among religious women, most of whom had no children; hence it was known as nuns’ disease. Women who have many children and who get pregnant at a younger age have a lower risk. That may be because pregnancy causes early menopause. The scientists think that having more period related hormones might raise the chances of getting breast cancer.

You need to worry about breast cancer if it runs in your family – Well, anyone having a breast tissue can be a victim, even men. But, if someone in your family, on your mother’s or father’s side had Breast Cancer, the chances of being a victim of Breast Cancer are higher.

What is Breast Cancer Treatment?

Well, Breast Cancer treatment largely depends on its stage and how big the tumour has grown.

To begin with, your doctor will determine your cancer’s size, stage, and grade. After that, you can discuss various treatment options. Although surgery is one of the most popular treatments for Breast Cancer. But many women, go for additional treatments such as Chemotherapy, Radiation Therapy, Immunotherapy, Targeted Therapy, Hormone Therapy, Stem-Cell Transplant, and Precision Medicine.

1. Surgery – There are various types of surgery that can be used to remove Breast Cancer such as Lumpectomy, Mastectomy, Sentinel Node Biopsy, Axillary Lymph Node Dissection, and Contralateral Prophylactic Mastectomy.

2. Radiation Therapy – With Radiation Therapy, high-powered beams of radiation are used to target and kill cancer cells. This technique requires a large machine outside the body.

The advances in cancer treatment have enabled doctors to eradicate cancer from inside the body, and this type of radiation is known as brachytherapy. Usually, surgeons place radioactive seeds, or pellets, inside the body near the tumour site, to conduct brachytherapy. The seeds stay for a short period, and they work to destroy cancer cells.

3. Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy is a drug treatment which is used to destroy cancer cells. Some people may undergo only chemotherapy, but this type of therapy is often used along with other medications, especially surgery.

In a few cases, doctors prefer to give patients chemotherapy before surgery to shrink the tumour. Since chemotherapy has many unwanted side effects; hence, it is advised to consult a doctor before starting any treatment.

4. Hormone Therapy – If your type of cancer is sensitive to hormones, your doctor may advise for a Hormone Therapy. There are two female hormones; Progesterone and Estrogen that prompts the growth of breast cancer tumours. The Hormone Therapy works by blocking your body’s production of these hormones and blocking the hormone receptors on the cancer cells. This can help in slowing down the growth of your cancer cells.

Breast Cancer Prevention

Although no one can tell you how to prevent Breast Cancer with any guarantee, there is evidence to suggest that specific lifestyle changes can lower breast cancer risk.

1. Decrease the alcohol intake – It is advised to limit your alcohol intake. The more you consume, the risk level will be higher.

2. Watch your weight – It is advised to have a healthy body. Being overweight is one of the reasons for breast cancer.

3. Exercise Regularly – Stay active and exercise regularly. The women who work out usually have a lower risk than less active women.

4. Reduce your hormone intake – Usually, the users are at higher risk who uses Hormone Therapy. Hence, it is advised to contact your doctor about the dose.

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