As a kind of cancer, breast cancer develops in the cells of the breast tissue. It is one of the most common types of cancer in women. Around 95% of females suffer from it while only 1-2 % of men suffer from it. As per a study of the WHO, approximately 2.3 million of people have breast cancer each year. And according to the study of the Indian Cancer Society, one in every 28 females have breast cancer.
Breast cancer symptoms may include a lump or thickening in the breast or underarm, nipple discharge, or changes in the appearance of the breast. And breast cancer treatment options could be surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy, or hormone therapy, based on the type and stage of breast cancer. Early detection through regular mammograms and self-exams can improve the chances of successful treatment.
Table of content
- Breast Cancer Types
- Breast Cancer Symptoms
- Breast Cancer Causes
- Breast Cancer Diagnosis
- Breast Cancer Treatment
- How To Avoid Breast Cancer/ How To Lower The Risk Of Breast Cancer
Breast Cancer Types
Breast cancer is a complex disease that can manifest in different ways, and there are several types of breast cancer. The most common types are as follows:
- Ductal Carcinoma – Being the most common type, it starts in the cells that line the milk ducts and can spread to tissues in the surround areas if left untreated.
- Lobular Carcinoma – It starts in the milk-producing glands (lobules) and spreads to surrounding tissue.
- Invasive Breast Cancer – As a more advanced stage of breast cancer, it may have spread to other body parts, apart from starting around breast tissue.
- Inflammatory Breast Cancer – It is a rare and aggressive breast cancer type in which the breast may become swollen, red, and warm to the touch. Other signs may include tenderness, itching, and ridges or thickened areas of skin.
- Triple Negative Breast Cancer – As a subtype of invasive breast cancer, it is negative for the hormone receptors progesterone, oestrogen, and HER2. It is more difficult to treat as it does not respond to hormonal therapies.
- HER2-positive Breast Cancer – This is a subtype of breast cancer where the cancer cells overproduce a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2). HER2-positive breast cancer tends to be more aggressive than other types of breast cancer, but it can be treated with targeted therapies.
- Paget’s Disease of the Nipple – This is a rare type of breast cancer that starts in the ducts of the nipple and spreads to the surrounding skin. Symptoms may include itching, burning, and flaking of the nipple and areola.
It is essential to keep in mind that experts classify breast cancer based on its stage, which takes into account the size of the tumour and whether it has spread to other parts of the body.
Breast Cancer Symptoms
Breast cancer symptoms can vary depending on the stage of the disease. Some women with breast cancer may experience no symptoms at all, while others may notice one or more symptoms. Here are some common symptoms of breast cancer:
- A lump or thickening in the breast or underarm area
- A change in the size or shape of the breast
- Pain in the breast or nipple that does not go away
- Nipple discharge, other than breast milk
- Swelling or redness in the breast or nipple area
- Dimpling or puckering of the skin on the breast
- Itchy, scaly or rash-like patches on the nipple or surrounding skin
- A sudden or noticeable change in the appearance of the breast or nipple
It is crucial to note that not all breast lumps are cancerous, and many women may experience breast changes related to their menstrual cycle or pregnancy. However, if you notice any unusual changes in your breasts or nipples, you must see a respective doctor for a clinical breast exam. Early detection of breast cancer greatly improves treatment outcomes.
Breast Cancer Causes
Till date, experts do not know the exact cause of breast cancer. However, they agree there are certain risk factors that may increase the likelihood of developing the disease. Some of these risk factors include:
- Age – The risk of breast cancer increases as women get older. Most cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in women over the age of 50.
- Family history – Women with a family history of breast cancer, especially if a first-degree relative (mother, sister, or daughter) has had the disease, are at higher risk of developing breast cancer.
- Genetics – Certain inherited gene mutations, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, increase the risk of developing breast cancer.
- Personal history – Women who have had breast cancer in one breast are at higher risk of developing cancer in the other breast or developing a new cancer in the same breast.
- Hormones – Exposure to oestrogen and progesterone over a long period of time, such as in women who have had early onset of menstruation, late onset of menopause, or have never had children, may increase the risk of breast cancer.
- Lifestyle factors – Poor diet, lack of physical activity, alcohol consumption, and smoking may increase the risk of developing breast cancer.
- Radiation exposure – Women who have had radiation therapy to the chest area as part of their treatment for another cancer, such as Hodgkin’s disease, are at higher risk of developing breast cancer.
It is essential to know that having one or more risk factors does not necessarily mean that you are prone to breast cancer. Conversely, some women with no known risk factors may develop the disease. With regular screening, including mammograms and clinical breast exams, you can detect whether you are at risk of breast cancer or not.
Breast Cancer Diagnosis
As you notice something unusual in either of your breasts or surrounding areas, you should consult a respective doctor. After interacting with you, the doctor can recommend a few tests along with physical examination of your breasts. Here are some probable diagnostic tests for breast cancer:
- Breast Exam to look and feel for lumps or other abnormalities in the breast tissue
- Mammography to detect small lumps or abnormalities that may not be palpable during a physical breast exam
- Ultrasound to produce images of the breast tissue. The produced images can help differentiate between solid and fluid-filled lumps.
- MRI or Magnetic resonance imaging to produce detailed images of the breast tissue. Your doctor can recommend it with mammography if you are at a high risk of developing breast cancer.
- Biopsy to determine whether a lump or abnormal area is cancerous or benign.
- Genetic testing – to determine whether they have an inherited gene mutation that increases their risk of developing breast cancer.
Keep in mind that not all lumps or abnormalities detected during diagnostic tests are cancerous. However, if cancer is diagnosed, your doctor may recommend further tests to determine the stage of the cancer, including whether it has spread to other parts of the body or not.
Breast Cancer Treatment
Breast cancer treatment depends on the type and stage of the cancer, as well as other factors such as the patient’s age, overall health, and personal preferences. Based on diagnostic test results, your doctor many recommend one or a combination of the following breast cancer treatment options:
- Surgery – The goal of surgery is to remove the cancerous tissue from the breast. Types of surgery may include lumpectomy (removal of the tumour and a surrounding margin of healthy tissue), mastectomy (removal of the entire breast), or lymph node removal (to determine if cancer has spread to the lymph nodes).
- Radiation therapy – It uses high-energy X-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or prevent them from growing. This may be recommended after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells or to shrink a tumour before surgery.
- Chemotherapy – It uses drugs to kill cancer cells throughout the body. It may be used before surgery to shrink a tumour, after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells, or as the primary treatment for advanced-stage breast cancer.
- Hormone therapy – Hormone therapy may be recommended for breast cancers that are hormone-receptor positive, meaning they need hormones (such as oestrogen or progesterone) to grow. Hormone therapy blocks the effect of hormones on the cancer cells or lowers the amount of hormones in the body.
- Targeted therapy – Targeted therapy uses drugs that specifically target the proteins or genes that contribute to the growth and spread of cancer cells. Examples of targeted therapy for breast cancer include drugs that target the HER2 protein or the CDK4/6 protein.
- Clinical trials – Clinical trials may be an option for some patients with breast cancer, particularly those with advanced-stage cancer or those who have not responded well to standard treatments. Clinical trials are research studies that test new treatments or combinations of treatments.
How To Avoid Breast Cancer/ How To Lower The Risk Of Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is a common type of cancer that affects women and, to a lesser extent, men. While there are several factors that can increase the risk of developing breast cancer, including age, family history, and genetic mutations, there are also several lifestyle changes that can help lower the risk of breast cancer.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight – Being overweight or obese can increase the risk of developing breast cancer, particularly after menopause. It’s important to maintain a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular workout.
- Exercise Regularly – Regular physical activity, such as brisk walking, running, or cycling, can help lower the risk of breast cancer. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week.
- Limit Alcohol Consumption – Drinking alcohol, even in moderate amounts, increases the risk of breast cancer. Women should limit alcohol consumption to no more than one drink per day.
- Quit Smoking – Smoking is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, particularly in younger women. Quitting smoking can help reduce the risk of breast cancer as well as other types of cancer.
- Breastfeed if Possible – Breastfeeding may reduce the risk of breast cancer, particularly if it is done for at least a year. This is thought to be because breastfeeding reduces exposure to oestrogen, a hormone that can promote the growth of some types of breast cancer.
- Get Screened Regularly – Regular breast cancer screening, including mammograms and clinical breast exams, can help detect breast cancer early when it is most treatable. Women should talk to their healthcare provider about when to start screening and how often to be screened based on their individual risk factors.
- Know Your Family History – Women with a family history of breast cancer may be at higher risk of developing the disease and may benefit from earlier or more frequent screening. It’s important to know your family history and discuss it with your doctor.
Breast cancer is a common cancer among women that can also affect men. There are several types of breast cancer, including ductal carcinoma, lobular carcinoma, and inflammatory breast cancer. Symptoms of breast cancer may include a lump or thickening in the breast or underarm area, nipple discharge, and breast pain. The exact causes of breast cancer are not fully understood, but risk factors include age, family history, and lifestyle choices. Treatment options for breast cancer may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and hormone therapy. Prevention measures include regular breast exams, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and screening for breast cancer. Early detection and treatment are crucial in improving the chances of survival.