Breast cancer is a type of cancer that develops from breast tissue. Breast cancer cells divide quicker than normal cells and accumulate into lumps or bulks.
One in eight women will develop breast cancer at some point in their lives. While this disease is frightening, it’s important to remember that many treatment options are available.
In this blog post, we will discuss the symptoms of breast cancer, how to detect it, and the various available treatment options. We hope that this information will help you make informed decisions about your health.
What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer is a type of cancer that develops from breast tissue.
Breast cancer is the most frequent malignancy diagnosed in women in the United States, second only to skin cancer. In both men and women, breast cancer is uncommon.
Breast cancer survival rates have improved. In addition, the number of deaths caused by this disease is decreasing, owing to increased detection time, a new personalized strategy for therapy, and a better understanding of the illness.
Symptoms of breast cancer may include a lump in the breast, a change in breast shape, dimpling of the skin, fluid coming from the nipple, a newly inverted nipple, or a rash on the breast.
Treatment for breast cancer may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, or targeted therapy. The choice of treatment depends on the stage of cancer.
Stages of breast cancer include
The stages of breast cancer include
Stage 0: Cancer is present, but it has not spread outside the breast ducts.
Stage I: Also known as carcinoma in situ, this is the earliest stage of breast cancer. Cancer has spread to the surrounding tissues, but it is still small and confined to the breast.
Stage II: Cancer has grown larger and may have spread to the lymph nodes under the arm.
Stage III: Cancer has spread to the surrounding tissues and lymph nodes.
Stage IV: Cancer has spread to other body parts, such as the liver or lungs.
If you have any of the symptoms of breast cancer, it’s essential to see a doctor for a diagnosis. Early detection is key to successful treatment.
Early-stage breast cancer can often be treated and cured if found quickly enough. However, the more complex treatment becomes, the longer breast cancer can grow.
Causes of breast cancer
Doctors believe breast cancer develops when breast cells develop abnormal growth and become inoperable. These cells divide quicker than normal cells and accumulate into lumps or bulks. Cells can spread via a breast into your lymph nodes and other body parts.
Breast cancer is typically found within milk ducts (invasive ductal carcinoma). Breast cancer can also occur inside glandular tissues known as lobules and in vascular tissues or other tissue.
Researchers have identified several hormonal, lifestyle, and environmental elements that are linked to a higher risk of breast cancer. However, it’s unclear why some individuals who don’t have any risk factors develop the disease while others with risk factors do not.
Breast cancer is thought to be caused by a complex interaction of your genetic makeup and environment. Inherited breast cancer accounts for a small percentage of all breast cancer cases. BRCA gene mutations and other inherited genetic factors can increase your risk of breast cancer.
Risk factors of breast cancer
A risk factor is anything that increases the chances of developing breast cancer. However, the breast cancer risk is different from the risk of acquiring breast cancer in other patients.
Most people with breast cancer have no known risk factors. Factors that may increase your chances of developing breast cancer include:
- A family history of breast cancer: If a close relative has or has had breast cancer, a person’s chance of developing breast cancer increases
- Being female
- Inherited genes
- Dense breast tissue
- Personal history of breast cancer
- Certain non-cancerous breast conditions
- Older age
- Radiation exposure
- Postmenopausal hormone therapy
- Early age at first menstrual period
- Late age at menopause
- Never having children or having your first child after age 35
- A diet high in fat
- Not getting enough exercise
- Alcohol consumption
According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), studies have consistently found that women who consume alcohol have an increased risk of breast cancer than women who do not. And those who drink at moderate to heavy levels have a greater risk than women who drink less.
How common is breast cancer?
Breast cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death among women in the United States after lung cancer. It’s also the most prevalent form of cancer death among women aged 35 to 54 years old.
Types of breast cancer
The two most common types of breast cancer are ductal carcinoma and lobular carcinoma.
Ductal Carcinoma: It is the most common type of breast cancer that may lead to invasive breast cancer. It begins in the milk ducts and can spread to other parts of the breast.
Lobular Carcinoma: It begins in the milk-producing lobules and is less common than ductal carcinoma. The lobules are the glands that produce milk. Lobular carcinoma can also spread to other parts of the breast.
Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma (IDC): IDC is the most common type of breast cancer. It begins in the milk ducts and invades the surrounding breast tissue.
Infiltrating Lobular Carcinoma (ILC): ILC begins in the lobules and invades the surrounding breast tissue.
Metastatic Breast Cancer: Metastatic breast cancer is breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.
Triple-Negative Breast Cancer: Triple-negative breast cancer is a type of breast cancer that does not have receptors for estrogen, progesterone, or HER-II.
Inflammatory breast cancer: Rare and aggressive; this type of cancer resembles an infection. People with inflammatory breast cancer usually notice redness, swelling, pitting, and dimpling of their breast skin. It’s caused by obstructive cancer cells in their skin’s lymph vessels.
Paget’s disease of the breast: A type of cancer that begins in the nipple and areola, this cancer can also spread to the surrounding breast tissue. Early symptoms include itching, burning, or a discharge from the nipple.
Symptoms of breast cancer
The most common symptom of breast cancer is a lump in the breast. A breast lump that is painless, hard, and has irregular edges is more likely to be cancerous.
However, some breast cancers do not form a lump but can be detected by changes on a mammogram or by physical exam changes of the breasts.
Other possible breast cancer symptoms may include:
- A change in the size or shape of the breast
- Skin dimpling or puckering
- Nipple discharge, which may be bloody
- Nipple retraction (turning inward)
- Redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
- Swelling of all or part of the breast, even if no lump is felt
- Constant breast pain
- Lymph nodes under the arm that feel larger or are hard to the touch
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s essential to see your doctor so they can determine the cause. Many of these symptoms can also be caused by benign conditions, such as an infection or a cyst.
When should you be concerned?
Most breast lumps are benign, which means they’re not cancer. However, you should always see your doctor if you have any concerns.
They can perform a physical exam and order tests if needed. If you have any of the following symptoms, it’s essential to see your doctor right away:
- A lump that’s hard, irregularly shaped, and immobile
- Skin changes, such as dimpling or redness that are new or unusual
- A change in the size or shape of your breast
- Nipple discharge, especially if it’s bloody
- Persistent pain in your breast
- A mass or lump that’s growing rapidly
Remember that these symptoms can also be caused by conditions other than cancer. However, it’s essential to see your doctor so they can determine the cause.
Diagnosis of breast cancer
If you have any of the above symptoms, please consult your doctor. If you’re experiencing pain in your breast, it’s more likely to be a benign condition, but it’s always best to get it checked out.
A breast exam helps the doctor make and confirm the diagnosis.
Several tests can be done for breast cancer diagnosis, including:
- An ultrasound is a test that uses sound waves to create an image of your breast. This test is usually done along with a mammogram and can help determine if a suspicious area seen on a mammogram is solid or filled with fluid.
- A breast biopsy is the removal of a small amount of tissue for examination. There are several types of breast biopsies, and your doctor will choose the one that is best for you based on your particular situation.
- A needle biopsy uses a needle to remove a small amount of tissue from the suspicious area. The tissue is then examined under a microscope to look for cancer cells.
- A core needle biopsy uses a hollow needle to remove a small cylinder of tissue from the suspicious area. The tissue is then examined under a microscope to look for cancer cells.
- A surgical biopsy is an operation to remove all or part of the suspicious area. The tissue is then examined under a microscope to look for cancer cells.
Breast cancer screening
Screening tests are used to find breast cancer before it causes any symptoms. This is important because it is easier to treat when breast cancer is found early.
There are two types of breast cancer screening tests:
- Mammography is an X-ray of the breast. Mammography can often find tumors that are too small to feel.
- Breast MRI is a test that uses magnetic waves and a computer to create an image of your breast. Breast MRI is sometimes used along with mammography, but it is not as good as mammography at finding small tumors.
About 5% to 10% of breast cancers are due to single abnormal genes passed down from parents to children, which can be discovered by genetic testing.
Prevention of breast cancer
Breast cancer prevention is essential, and there are some things you can do to lower your risk. Unfortunately, some risks cannot be changed, like your age or family history. But other risks can be changed.
You can lower your risk or prevent breast cancer by making healthy choices like eating right, staying active, getting regular screenings, maintaining a healthy weight, and not smoking.
The American Cancer Society recommends having a baseline mammogram at age 35 and a screening mammogram every year after age 40. Examine your breasts every month after age 20. You’ll become familiar with the contours and feel of your breasts and will be more alert to changes. Examine your breasts for breast awareness through a self-exam.
Hormone replacement therapy should be limited. Breast cancer risk may be increased by combined hormone treatment. Determine whether hormones are right for you and the risks and benefits of using them. To decrease your risk of breast cancer, use the lowest amount of hormone therapy possible for the shortest period.
You should also talk to your doctor about your risk and what you can do to lower it.
Treatment of breast cancer
The type of treatment you have will depend on the stage of cancer, your age and health, and your personal preferences.
Breast cancer surgery is the most common treatment. The goal of surgery is to remove all breast cancer cells. There are different types of surgery for breast cancer:
A lumpectomy is an operation to remove cancer from the breast. The surrounding tissue and lymph nodes may also be removed. If multiple lymph nodes are involved by cancer, an axillary lymph node dissection may be done to remove them.
A mastectomy is an operation to remove the breast. The surrounding tissue and lymph nodes may also be removed.
Radiation therapy is a treatment that uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy may be given after surgery to lower the risk of cancer coming back.
Chemotherapy is a treatment that uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be given before surgery to shrink the tumor. After surgery, it may also be given to lower the risk of cancer coming back.
Targeted therapy is a treatment that uses drugs or other substances to target cancer cells.
Hormone therapy is a treatment that lowers the number of hormones in the body or blocks hormone receptors. This type of treatment is used to treat hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer.
Clinical trials are research studies that test new treatments. Clinical trials are an important option for people with all stages of breast cancer.
You should perform self-breast exams monthly and have regular mammograms starting at age 40. If you have a family history of breast cancer, you may need to start mammograms earlier. Talk to your doctor about what is best for you.
If you think you may have breast cancer, see your doctor right away. Early detection is key to successful treatment.
How can you cope with a diagnosis of breast cancer, both emotionally and practically speaking?
A diagnosis of breast cancer can be devastating. You may feel scared, alone, and unsure of what the future holds. It’s important to remember that you are not alone. There are many resources available to help you cope with your diagnosis and treatment.
One of the most important things you can do is educate yourself about your disease.
Learn as much as you can about breast cancer, including the different types, stages, and treatment options. This will help you make informed decisions about your care.
It’s also important to find a support system to help you through this difficult time. Talk to your friends and family, join a support group, or see a therapist. These people can offer practical and emotional support.
Finally, make sure to take care of yourself both physically and emotionally. Eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and get plenty of rest. Take time for activities that make you happy. Be patient with yourself as you cope with this difficult diagnosis.
With the right support system and lifestyle choices, you can cope with breast cancer. Remember to educate yourself about your disease and make the best choices for yourself.