Breast Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the world, especially in women. Cancer occurs when changes called mutations to happen in the genes that either regulate cell growth.
These mutations lead the cells to divide and multiply in an uncontrolled way (forming a tumor) many times invading and developing tumor colonies in other organs (cancerous tumor).
This Cancer develops in the breast cells. Usually, the cells start uncontrolled differentiation in either the lobules or the ducts of the breast. It can also develop in the fatty tissues or fibrous connective tissue of the breast.
These cancer cells often invade the lymph nodes under the arms as well. Encouragingly, with proper awareness and improvements in screening techniques, as well as better treatment regimes, the death rate is declining.
Signs And Symptoms Of Breast Cancer:
In the early stages, cancer may not present any symptoms. In most cases, a tumor may be too small to be felt, but it may still be detectable on a mammogram. Usually, the first symptom is a lump in the breast that is newly developed and feels different from the other tissue.
Some common signs and symptoms include:
- A lump or thickening of the tissue that is newly developed and feels different from the surrounding tissue.
- Breast pain.
- Red, pitted skin over your entire breast.
- Swelling in all or parts of your breast.
- A sudden, unexplainable change in the shape or size of your breast.
- Changes in the appearance of the breast skin.
- Peeling, scaling or flaking of skin on nipple or breast area.
- Discharge from the nipple other than breast milk.
- Inverted nipple.
Though these are the most common symptoms, their presence doesn’t always mean you have cancer of the breast. For instance, a pain in your breast or the presence of a breast lump may be due to a benign cyst. Hence visit a doctor for further examination and testing if any of these symptoms develop.
Causes Of Cancer of the Breast:
Hormonal, lifestyle and environmental factors increase the risk. Though it’s not clear which factors are predominant in the development of this kind of cancer, yet it can be concluded that it is caused by a complex interaction of genetic and environmental factors.
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Some Factor Associated With An Increased Risk Include:
- Gender: Women are more likely to develop it over men.
- Age: It is usually more prevalent in later ages.
- Family History: If you have had a family history of cancer of the breast, especially if they were diagnosed in younger age.
- Lifestyle: Obesity increases the risk of cancer of the breast.
- Drinking Alcohol: Drinking alcohol increases the risk of cancer.
- Genetics: Specific gene mutations increase the risk of cancer of the breast, and these can be passed from parents to children. BRCA1 and BRCA2 are the most popular gene mutations that are associated with increased risk of cancer, but the presence of these mutations alone doesn’t mean cancer is prevalent.
- Personal History: If you’ve had a biopsy of the breast tissue that diagnosed lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) or atypical hyperplasia of the breast, chances are you might develop this cancer. If cancer has been diagnosed in one breast, you might also be at an increased risk of developing cancer in the other breast.
- Radiation Exposure: If you have been exposed to radiation for treatment purposes or environmental exposure to your chest as a child or young adult, you are at an increased risk of cancer.
- Menstruation: If you began your periods before the age of 12 or if you attain your menopause at an older age, you are at risk of developing cancer of the breast.
- Postmenopausal Hormone Therapy: Women who take hormone therapy (combination of estrogen and progesterone) to treat the symptoms of menopause have an increased risk of this cancer. The risk decreases once the treatment is stopped.
Types Of Breast Cancer:
The most common types can be differentiated based on invasiveness- invasive or non-invasive (in situ). Invasive cancer spreads through the breast ducts to the other parts of the body whereas non-invasive cancer remains confined to the original tissue. These include:
- Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS): This cancer remains confined to the ducts of the breast and doesn’t invade to the surrounding breast tissue.
- Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS): Here cancer grows in the milk-producing glands of the breast, and this also doesn’t invade the surrounding tissue.
- Invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC): This is the most common type, where cancer begins in the breast’s milk ducts and invades nearby tissues outside the milk ducts. It can start to spread to other organs of the body as well.
- Invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC): It begins in the lobules and invades the nearby tissue.
Other Less Common Types Include:
- Paget Disease Of The Nipple: It begins in the ducts of the nipple, but as it grows it begins to affect the skin and areola of the nipple.
- Phyllodes Tumor: It’s a rare type which develops in the connective tissue of the breast, and mostly the tumors are benign in nature.
- Angiosarcoma: Here cancer grows on the blood vessels or lymph vessels in the breast.
- Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC): Rare (1-5% of all with cancer of breast) but aggressive, here the cells block the lymph nodes near the breasts, making lymph vessels in the breast incapable of draining properly. This causes the breast to swell, look red and feel very warm instead of creating a tumor. During IBC, the breast appears pitted and thick, like an orange peel.
- Triple-Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC): It accounts for about 10-20% of the total cases of cancer of the breast. The tumors in TNBC are characterized by a lack of estrogen receptors, lack of progesterone receptors, and a lack of HER2 proteins on the surface.
It’s a severe malady of the present age! One in eight women is diagnosed with cancer of the breast during their lifetime. It’s vital that women check their breasts regularly for any changes and get it correlated clinically.