Cancer is uncontrolled growth and division of cells in any part of the body which can accumulate to form a group of cells denoted as tumors. Tumors can be benign or malignant. The occurrence of this phenomenon in breast tissues leads to breast cancer. Studies report that after skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly found cancer in the US. It can affect both genders but it is predominantly more common in females. Causes of breast cancer are studied for many years but the exact cause of breast cancer still needs to be identified clearly.
Breast cancer is also a leading cause of death in females. But since 1989 technological and medical advancements have helped to reduce mortality and improve the quality of life of cancer survivors. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS) the US currently has as much as 3.1 million breast cancer survivors. One in every 38 females affected with breast cancer still fails to survive. ACS also has estimated that in 2019 268,600 females will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer whereas 62,930 patients will be diagnosed having noninvasive cancer.
Symptoms of Breast Cancer
Breast cancer has certain specific symptoms that can be easily tracked and reported. Awareness about breast cancer symptoms is very important in making early diagnosis possible. It is essential for females with high-risk factors and otherwise healthy individuals to stay aware of changes in their breasts and notice any abnormalities such as those mentioned below and report these to their physicians right away.
Presence of breast cancer can show the following symptoms:
- One of the early signs of breast cancer is the formation of a lump in the breast or armpit.
- Tenderness or other breast pain causes.
- Pain sensation in breast or armpits that do not vary over the monthly cycle.
- Pitted and reddened skin surface of the breast.
- Nipples that show a rash around or on them.
- Unusual nipple discharge that can be blood-stained.
- Change in shape and color of nipples like a sunken or inverted nipple.
- Altered appearance and changes in the size of the breast.
- Skin changes like peeling, flaking, scaling may appear in the skin covering affected breast.
- Changes in pigmented skin around the nipples are also among the warning signs of breast cancer.
- If you happen to notice a lump in your armpit or breast or any other sign or symptom of breast cancer consult your doctor immediately.
Causes of Breast Cancer
As discussed above breast cancer results from uncontrolled growth, division, and proliferation of abnormal cells. Usually, a cell dies after a certain period and follows the normal checks in the human body but a cancerous cell continues to grow abnormally violating all the checks and balances in place. Breast cancer usually originates from cells in milk-producing ducts but this cancer can also arise from glandular tissues called lobules or other tissues present inside the breast.
Many risk factors have been recognized which are hormonal, lifestyle, and environmental origin. The presence of these risk factors increases the incidence of breast cancer. However exact cause of breast cancer remains disguised as many people with high risk do not develop breast cancer and certain unfortunate souls develop breast cancer despite having no risk factor at all.
Risk Factors for Breast Cancer
Many risk factors for breast cancer have been recognized. The presence of a risk actor means you are more likely to contract breast cancer but not essentially. Many females who have no risk factor at all still end up developing breast cancer. Risk factors for breast cancer are listed below:
- Being a female puts you at a greater risk for breast cancer compared to men.
- Having a family history of breast cancer.
- Being exposed to radiation frequently tends to increase your risk of breast cancer.
- Alcohol consumption.
- The risk for breast cancer elevates with advancements in age.
- Anyone who had breast cancer in one breast has increased chances of having breast cancer again.
- Certain gene mutations such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, when passed on to kids, increase their chances of getting affected by breast cancer.
- Having a personal history of breast conditions like hyperplasia or LCIS also elevates your risk for breast cancer.
- Females who have never conceived are more likely to be affected by this cancer compared to those who got pregnant in their life.
- Estrogen and progesterone therapy to ease symptoms of menopause have also been reported to enhance the risk for breast cancer.
- Women who have their first child after the age of thirty are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer in comparison to those who had their first child earlier.
- Having periods at an early than normal age also increases the chances of breast cancer as do having menopause in older age.
Stages of Breast Cancer
Anyone diagnosed with cancer is informed about its stage which reflects certain information about how much cancer has metastasized and what is its size. Typically cancer is divided broadly into five stages from 0 to 4. There is deep detail behind this staging that determines the stage of cancer. Physicians use information from tests, physical exams, and pathological exams to determine the stage of cancer. These stages are used for all cancer types except brain cancer, lymphoma, and blood cancer.
Brief description of these stages is given below:
Stage zero reflects that there is no cancer yet but there are abnormal cells present that can become cancerous. Carcinoma in situ is another term used to refer to this stage of cancer.
This is an early stage of cancer which is present in one area only. Stage 1 cancer is small in size and can be easily treated if diagnosed.
Stage 2 and 3
A cancer is stage 2 or 3 means it has metastasized to other parts other than the point of origin. Nearby tissues and lymph nodes get affected in these stages. Treatment of stage 2 cancer is vigorous to stop further spread of abnormal cells.
The most advanced form of cancer is classified as stage 4 cancer. Cancer in stage 4 means it has touched body parts away from where cancer originated.
Treatment of Breast cancer
Treatment of breast cancer differs as per patient condition, stage of cancer, and several other factors such as age and personal preferences also weigh in. Treatment options for breast cancer can be broadly outlined as:
- Radiation therapy
- Surgical treatment
- Hormone therapy
- Biological therapy
Cancer is a life-threatening condition. Early diagnosis can save lives and improve the quality of life of survivors. Breast cancer symptoms like pain in breasts or lump should be taken seriously to get this dangerous disease diagnosed as soon as possible.