Breast cancer is the most talked about and the better known of all the cancers. In this blog, we have tried to cover each aspect related to breast cancer that you must know.
WHAT IS BREAST CANCER?
Like any other form of cancer, breast cancer occurs when mutations happen. It is a result of the out of control growth pattern of some unusual body cells.
As the name suggests, breast cancer develops in the breast cells, typically either in the lobules (glands that make milk) or the breast ducts (the carrier of milk to the nipple). It can also develop in the fatty tissue or the fibrous connective tissue of the breast.
HOW DO CANCER CELLS TRAVEL TO THE OTHER BODY PARTS?
The uncontrolled cells or the cancer cells overpower the healthy breast tissues and usually ride to the lymph nodes present under the arms. This becomes the primary pathway for the movement of cancerous cells. After this, they start spreading to the other organs via the bloodstream. The cells might capture the skin or chest wall after this.
There are different types of cancers, and the rate of growth and spread also varies. Some might grow at a much faster pace while others might take a longer duration, maybe years.
WHO IS MORE PRONE TO BREAST CANCER?
Well, let’s first clear the wrong notion. It’s not that only women are susceptive to it, but men too can get breast cancer. Though the rate being as low as only 1%.
When it comes to the women, stats reveal an alarming number. Breast cancer holds the second position in terms of the most commonly diagnosed disease, and again number two is in the list of the leading causes of cancer deaths. On an average, one in every 8 women will get this cancer out of which two-thirds are in their 50’s or plus.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF BREAST CANCER?
In the early stages, there might be no such symptoms. At times the tumor may be too small to be felt. But if the tumor can be felt, it might be the first sign and is usually in the form of a lump in the breast, which developed. However, it is not that all lumps are cancerous, but approaching a doctor will always give a clear picture.
There are a lot of symptoms that might come to your notice if you regularly do your self-examination. Take a look at some of the most common signs that one might develop:
- A lump or thickened area in or near your breast or underarm that lasts through the menstrual cycle
- A lump, even if it feels as pea-sized
- Changed breast size, shape, or curve
- Nipple discharge that can be bloody or clear
- Breast or your nipple could become dimpled, puckered, scaly, or inflamed.
- Red skin formation on your breast or nipple
- Changes in your nipple or inverted nipple
What relieves news about this type of cancer is that it is entirely curable, provided it gets diagnosed at an early stage. So if the tumor is localized, which means it hasn’t started spreading, it can be controlled in that case. But once it begins to apply, the treatment becomes complicated.
WHAT ARE THE STAGES OF BREAST CANCER?
The cancer can be divided in stages from 0 to 5 depending upon how large the tumor is or how far it has spread in the body and if the lymph nodes are also involved.
Let’s go through each stage in detail:
This stage is Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). At this stage, the cancer is not spread into nearby tissues and remains confined to the breast’s ducts.
This stage has two parts: Stage 1A, where the primary tumor is 2 cm or even less, and the lymph nodes are unaffected. And Stage 1B, this is where cancer starts spreading near the lymph nodes. Here the tumor is not in the breast, and if it is present, it is smaller than 2 cm.
Stage 2A finds the tumor in size smaller than 2 cm and has been spread to nearby lymph nodes. Or the length is between 2 to 5 cm and hasn’t spread to any lymph nodes. Stage 2B has the tumor between 2 to 5 cm and has spread to axillary lymph nodes in the armpit. Alternatively, the other way where the tumor size is larger than 5 cm and the lymph nodes are unaffected.
This stage again has different variations: Stage 3A cancer has already spread to 4 – 9 axillary lymph nodes. It might have even enlarged the mammary node, whereas the size of the tumor varies. Or the tumors are more significant than 5 cm, and cancer has reached 1 – 3 axillary lymph nodes or maybe the breastbone.
In Stage 3B tumor, cancer has conquered the chest wall or skin and might have affected about nine lymph nodes. Stage 3C has the cancerous cells in about ten or more axillary lymph nodes near the collarbone or perhaps the mammary nodes.
This stage of cancer has a tumor of an unpredicted size, and the cancerous cells have spread to nearby and distant lymph nodes and distant organs.
WHICH RISK FACTORS INDICATE PROXIMITY TO BREAST CANCER?
Many factors reveal the chances of developing breast cancer. You can always consider these; however, having any of these does not mean that you might set the disease.
Some factors are there with your genes like family history, which undoubtedly can’t be denied. But some can definitely be avoided like smoking cigars, etc. Let’s have a quick look at some common risk factors:
- Drinking alcohol
- Having dense breast tissue
- Gene mutations, especially brca1 and brca2
- Early menstruation
- Late or no pregnancy
- Hormone therapy by women post-menopause or late menopause
- Previous breast cancer on either side
HOW CAN YOU SELF-DIAGNOSE BEFORE GOING TO A DOCTOR?
It is good to always self-examine first. What you can best do is, keep examining regularly. Like once a month and that too at equal gaps. This will make you more aware of your breast, and if you feel any changes, it will be effortless to figure out the difference.
If you observe something unusual in your body like a lump is formed in your breast or feel any breast cancer symptoms that we just discussed, seek professional help! There are chances that you’re just suspecting, and the situation is normal because there are many potential causes of such indications.
But assuming that prevention is better if the scenario is unfavorable, you might end up getting early and avoiding all the unnecessary and hectic, and painful processes of a later stage.
WHAT ARE TESTS DONE TO DIAGNOSE BREAST CANCER?
It is essential to determine if the symptoms are cancerous, for which one can always look for external help. Doctors will do a thorough physical examination along with the tests that examine the breast more precisely.
The tests that are performed to diagnose breast cancer are:
It is the imaging test, which is the most common way to examine what lies beneath the breast’s surface. After this examination, a doctor is to guide you further into the process and even ask for additional tests if things seem slightly off or abnormal.
Breast ultrasound is all about the sound waves that create a picture of the tissues deep in the breast. It is how doctors get to know if any formations are taking place like a tumor or any lump.
After these two tests, the doctors move a step ahead to become more sure. This stage involves getting a Breast Biopsy or an MRI(Magnetic Resonance Imaging), etc.
There are a few tips we have come up with. You can check these out and incorporate the same in your day to day lives:
WHAT SHOULD BE DONE TO PREVENT BREAST CANCER?
- MAINTAIN PROPER WEIGHT
It is very crucial to have a healthy weight. Being obese increases the risk of east cancer, especially after the menopause stage. You can check our blog on Body Fat Distribution And Your Health to get more insights about the subject.
- EAT HEALTHY AND BE ACTIVE
Embracing a nutrient-rich diet along with regular physical activities or exercises, is a must. This reduces the risk of breast cancer to an extent. You can also check out the relation between Exercise Vs. Diet, which we have covered for you.
- SAY ‘NO’ TO ALCOHOL OR SMOKING
Alcohol and long-term smoking increase the risks to multi-folds, especially in women. So start avoiding or at least limiting them from now.
- BREASTFEED YOUR BABIES AS LONG AS POSSIBLE
Studies reveal that women who breastfeed their kids for at least a year are less likely to develop breast cancer.
- SAY ‘NO’ TO HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY
Many women are seen trying Menopausal Hormonal Therapy, which increases the risk of breast cancer. Consult a doctor if it is indispensable and go ahead only with a proper prescription.
The bottom line is, yes, there are risk factors that are not in the hands of any individual, but what is in our hands can be worked upon. Following a healthy lifestyle and taking preventive measures and doing regular self-examinations is something everyone can do and do.
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