Cancer is the result of the mutation of genes responsible for the growth and health of the cells in the body. This abnormal proliferation may occur to the breast cells which is called breast cancer. Breast cancer cells may continue dividing without a halt, resulting in a tumor. Breast cancer is common to woman but men are also susceptible to breast cancer.
People suffering from breast cancer may not show symptoms at all, especially in its early stages. But a new lump or mass in the breast can be indicative of breast cancer. Generally any change to the breast appearance, texture, and pain can be a sign of breast cancer. Nipple discharge or redness, breast or nipple pain, dimpling or swelling of the breast can also be signs of breast cancer.
Breast cancer has better prognosis once treated in early stages. Thus, women are advised to undergo routine screening procedures to detect breast cancer earlier. Monthly self examination of breast, clinical examination of breast and mammography are the recommended routine screening procedures to detect breast cancer, even without obvious symptoms. Breast cancer development can be associated with: a family history of breast cancer (heredity); early onset of menstruation; late menopause; dense breast tissue; exposure to carcinogens; the use of oral contraceptives; or, drinking excessive alcohol.
Breast cancer has various types – Some types are ductal carcinoma, lobular carcinoma, mucinous carcinoma, triple negative test breast carcinoma, inflammatory breast carcinoma, and mixed tumors. Treatment of breast cancer is dependent on the type of cancer and its stage. Basic treatment options available to breast cancer patients are: Surgery, which involves the removal of cancerous tissues, radiation therapy that aims to destroy cancer cells by the use of high energy rays and chemotherapy which treats breast cancer with medications.
Cancer is a type of disease, where there is an abnormal proliferation of cells leading to the formation of a tumor due to the occurrence of mutations in the genes of a normal cell. There are many types of cancers such as blood cancer, bone cancer, lung cancer and breast cancer etc,. to name a few. It is considered to be one of the most dreadful diseases in the world.
The abnormal proliferation of cells occurring in the breast tissue is called as breast cancer.
Based on the region where it occurs, it is of two types:
(i) Cancer that starts in the lactiferous duct (milk duct) is called as ductal carcinoma, which is more common and,
(ii) Cancer that starts in the lobules is called as lobular carcinoma, which is less common.
Based on the spread, it is of two types:
(i) Invasive breast cancer: The cancer cells spread outside the membrane that lines a duct or a lobule, invading the surrounding tissues, reach the lymph nodes and make their way to other organs, such as bones, liver and lungs (metastatic cancer).
(ii) Non-invasive breast cancer: It refers to the cancer in which the cancer cells have remained within the place of their origin.
Kinds of Breast Cancer
Ductal Carcinoma: It is the most commonly occurring breast cancer in women. It cites to the development of cancer cells within the milk ducts of the breast. It occurs in two forms, invasive ductal carcinoma and ductal carcinoma in-situ (non-invasive).
Triple Negative Breast Carcinoma: In this type of carcinoma the breast cancer cells test negative for estrogen receptors (ER), progesterone receptors (PR) and hormone epidermal growth factor receptor-2 (HER-2). It is more likely to affect younger people. 15% of the breast cancers are triple negative.
Mucinous Carcinoma: A mucin component defines this type of carcinoma. It is one of the rarer forms of intra-mammary cancer and is typically associated with a better prognosis than other types of breast cancer. It accounts for 1 -7 % of all invasive breast carcinomas.
Inflammatory Breast Carcinoma: It is an aggressive and fast growing breast cancer in which cancer cells infiltrate the skin and lymph vessels of the breast. Symptoms show up when lymph vessels are blocked.
Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer
- Formation of a lump in the breast.
- Dimpling or swelling of the breast.
- Nipple discharge, clear or blood may be discharged from the nipple.
- Redness of the breast.
- The nipple may become sunken or inverted.
- Change in the size and shape of the breast may be observed.
Causes of Breast Cancer
- The risk of developing breast cancer is higher in older women. Nearly 80% of all female breast cancers occur among women who are aged above 45, generally after the menopause, women have higher levels of estrogen, which also may lead to the risk of developing breast cancer.
- Consumption of alcohol excessively may also lead to breast cancer.
- Genetic condition – women carrying BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes have higher risk of developing breast cancer. These genes may be inherited.
- Undergoing X-rays and CT scans regularly may increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.
- Cosmetic breast implants may lead to breast cancer.
Diagnosis of Breast Cancer
Breast Self-examination: Once in a month, adult women of all ages should be encouraged to perform a breast self-exam.
Mammogram: It is the X-ray test for the breast tissue, used to check for breast problems such as lump formation.
Breast Ultrasound: It uses sound waves to make a picture of the tissues inside the breast. The liquid or solid form of a breast lump can be detected by this method. It is often used to check the abnormal results from a mammogram.
Biopsy: A tissue sample is surgically removed from the affected area of the breast and sent to the lab for tissue analysis. If the cells are found to be affected, the type and grade of cancer can be determined.
Breast MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) Scan: If the initial exams are not conclusive, breast MRI is recommended to determine the extent of the disease. In this magnetic and radio waves are used to make a picture of the tissues inside the breast. These images help in distinguishing between normal and affected tissue.
Treatment Options For Breast Cancer
Surgery: It involves removal of the tumor and nearby margins. This can be performed in two ways:
(i) Lumpectomy: In this type of surgery, least amount of breast tissue is removed.
(ii) Mastectomy: In this type of surgery, complete removal of the breast is observed.
Radiation therapy: In this treatment, high energy rays in a controlled way are used to kill the cancerous cells. There are two main kinds of radiation therapy – i) External beam breast cancer radiation. ii) Internal breast cancer radiation.
Chemotherapy: It is a type of treatment in which a combination of drugs is used either to destroy cancer cells or slowdown the growth of cancer cells. It is offered to patients based on several factors – Tumor type, size and grade. A lot of side effects are observed in this treatment.
Hormone therapy: The most commonly used drug for hormone therapy is tamoxifen. The benefits of using chemotherapy and hormone therapy together have a greater combined effect.
Biological treatment: In this treatment, several medical drugs are used which are target specific. Trastuzumab, Lapatinib, Bevacizumab etc., are a few to name.
Prevention of Breast Cancer
- A healthy and well balanced diet should be followed.
- Physical exercise should be performed on a daily routine.
- Body weight to height ratio should be maintained.
- Alcohol consumption should be minimized or stopped.
- Breast feeding minimizes the risk of developing breast cancer.