Breast Cancer: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Prevention and Treatments

A malignant tumor that forms in the cells of the breast is a breast cancer. Although it’s found in women, men can get chest cancer. There are many symptoms associated with breast cancer, but the primary noticeable symptom is usually a lump or area of thickened breast tissue. A lump in the breast does not always mean you have cancer – most of the breast lumps are not cancerous. However, it is always best to visit a doctor when you have it. Breast cancer often starts off in the lobules or the inner lining of milk ducts that supply them with milk. A malicious tumor may spread to other parts of the body. Lobular carcinoma is breast cancer, which started off in the lobules, while one of the grown from ducts is called ductal carcinoma.

Breast cancer is the most usual cancer in female globally. Breast cancer mostly occurs in elderly women.

The anatomy of a female breast cancer

A mature women breast consists of fat, thousands of lobules and fat. The milk of a breastfeeding goes through tiny ducts and delivered through the nipple. The women breast consists of billions of microscopic cells like any other part of the body. The cells multiply in an orderly fashion- new cells made to replace the ones that died. The cells multiply rapidly with no control, in cancer and there are lots of cells, growing more and more that there should be.

Symptoms 

A symptom is only felt by the individual and is described by nurse and doctor such as pain or a headache. A symptom is something the individual and other can detect for example; swelling or a rash. The primary symptoms of breast cancer are often an area of thickened tissue in the breast or a lump. Not every lump is cancerous, however, it is best to get checked by a healthcare professional.

Women who suspect any of the following symptoms and signs should inform their doctor:

  • A lump in a breast
  • A rash around nipples
  • A swelling in  one of the armpits
  • An area of thickened tissue in a breast
  • A pain the breast or an armpit that does not seem to be related to the menstrual period.
  • Redness or pitting of the skin of the breast
  • One of the nipples has discharge: sometimes contain blood
  • Changes in the appearance of a nipple
  • The size of the breast changes
  • Breast skin or nipple skin may have begun to peel, flake or scale.

Causes 

Specialists are not 100 percent sure what causes breast cancer. It is complicated to say why one person develops the disease while another does not. Some risk factors can impact on a woman’s likelihood of developing breast cancer. These are several causes of getting breast cancer:

Getting older

Age is a risk factor the older a woman gets, the higher risk of developing breast cancer. More than 80% of all women occur breast cancer among women aged 50 + years.

Genetics

It is more likely to develop breast cancer that has a close relative having breast or ovarian cancer. The most cases of breast cancers are not hereditary. Female who carries the BRCA2 and BRCA1 genes, which can be inherited, have a considerably higher risk of growing breasts or ovarian cancer. Another gene, TP53 is also linked to greater breast cancer risk.

A history of breast cancer

Women who already had a breast cancer are more likely to develop the disease again, compared to women who have no any history of the disease.

Having had a certain type of breast lumps

Some types of non-cancerous breast lumps are more likely to develop cancer later on.

Dense breast tissue: The women who have denser breast tissue have a greater chance of developing breast cancer.

Estrogen exposure
Women who began having periods earlier or later than usual have a greater chance of having breast cancer because their bodies have been exposed to estrogen for longer. Exposure starts when periods begin, and drops abnormally during the menopause.

Obesity
A post-menopausal obese woman may have a greater chance of growing breast cancer. Specialists suggest that there are greater levels of estrogen in an obese menopausal woman, which can cause the higher chance.

Height
Taller than average women have a slightly greater likelihood of the growing breast cancer than a shorter woman. Specialist is not sure why.

Alcohol consumption
Alcoholic woman or who drinks regularly are at the higher risk of getting breast cancer.

Radiation exposure
Undergoing CT scans and X-rays can raise a risk of getting breast cancer slightly. Scientists found that woman who had been treated with radiation to the chest for a childhood cancer have greater chances of getting breast cancer.

HRT (hormone replacement therapy)
Combined, both forms and estrogen-only HRT therapies can increase a risk of getting breast cancer slightly. Combined HRT causes a higher risk.

Certain Jobs
Women who worked at night prior to a first pregnancy had a higher risk of getting breast cancer, According to the French researchers.

Diagnosis 

Usually, breast cancer diagnosed after a routine breast cancer screening, or after detecting certain symptoms and signs, seeing doctors about them.

If a patient suspects any of the breast cancer symptoms and signs described above, she must speak to health professionals ASAP. Usually, the doctor will carry out a physical exam, and then refer the patient to a specialist if he/she thinks the further assessment is required.

These are some diagnostic tests and procedures for breast cancer:

Breast exam

The doctor will check both the individual’s breasts, checking out for lumps and other possible abnormalities like; nipple discharge, inverted nipples, and change in breast shape. The patient will ask to stand/sit with her arms in different positions.

X-ray

Usually used for breast cancer screening. If anything abnormal is found, the doctor may order a diagnostic mammogram. Over the last few years, breast cancer screening has become a controversial subject. Experts and patient groups cannot currently agree on when X-ray should start and how often it should occur.

3D combined with 2D mammograms

Researchers from the University of Sydney’s School of Public Health, Australia reported, 2D mammograms, when used in collaboration with regular 3D mammograms were found to undermine the incidence of false positives.

Breast ultrasound

This type of scan can help doctors decide whether an abnormality or lump is a solid mass or a fluid-filled cyst.

Biopsy

A Sample of tissue from an apparent abnormality like; lump is surgically removed and sent to the lab for analysis. If the cells are found to be cancerous, the lab will determine what kind of breast cancer, it is, and the phase of cancer.

MRI scans

A dye injected into the individual. This type of scan helps the doctor to figure out the extent of cancer. Researchers found that MRI provides much earlier than through clinical examination a useful indication of a breast tumor’s response to pre-surgical chemotherapy.

Breast cancer staging

The extent of cancer in the patient’s body and is based on whether it is invasive or non-invasive, whether lymph nodes are involved and how many, how large the tumor is and whether it has metastasized or not.

Cancer’s stage is a complicated factor in deciding what treatment options to recommend, and in figuring out the patient’s prognosis. After diagnosing cancer staging is also done. The doctor may order some different tests, including; mammogram, a chest x-ray, a bone scan, a CT scan or PET scan and blood tests.

Prevention

Some lifestyle changes may help significantly undermine a risk of getting breast cancer:

  • Alcohol consumption- Women who drink in limit or do not drink at all, are less likely to have breast cancer.
  • Physical exercise- exercising regularly has been shown to undermine the risk of having breast cancer. Researchers reported that physical activity or exercise can reduce the risk of breast cancer, whether it be either intense or mild, or before/after menopause. However, considerable weight gain can neutralize these benefits.
  • Diet-Experts suggest that women who follow a well-balanced, healthy diet can reduce their risk of having breast cancer.
  • Postmenopausal hormone therapy- Moderating hormone therapy can help reduce the chances of having breast cancer. It is really important for the woman to discuss the cons and pros thoroughly with her doctor.
  • Bodyweight- women with the healthy body- weight have a considerably lower chance of having breast cancer compared to overweight or obese women.
  • A woman at high risk – The doctor can suggest estrogen-blocking medicines, including raloxifene and tamoxifen. Tamoxifen can raise the risk of uterine cancer. Preventive surgery is a choice for women at greater risk.
  • Breast cancer screening- Patients must take advice from their doctor when to start breast cancer screening tests and exams.
  • Breastfeeding- Compared to another woman, a woman who breastfeed run a lower risk of having breast cancer. A team of researchers reported that breastfeeding for at least half a year undermines the risk of early breast cancer, but only applied to non-smoking women.

Treatment

A multidisciplinary team should be involved in a patient’s treatment. The team can consist of radiologist, oncologist, specialist cancer surgeon, specialist nurses, radiographer, pathologist and reconstructive surgeon. They may also include an occupational therapist, dietician, physical therapist, and physiologist.

The team will take into account some factors deciding on the best treatment for the person, Including

  • The type of breast cancer
  • The grade and stage of the breast cancer- how big the tumor is, whether or not it has spread and if so how far
  • Whether the cancer cells are sensitive to hormones or not.
  • The patient’s health overall
  • The age of the patients
  • The patient’s own preferences

The main breast cancer treatment may include:

  • Radiation therapy (radiotherapy)
  • Surgery
  • Hormone therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Biological therapy

Radiation therapy

Moderate doses of radiation are aimed at the tumor to destroy the cancer cells. Radiotherapy is used often after surgery, as well as chemotherapy to kill any cancer cell that can still be around. Normally, radiation therapy occurs about a month after surgery or chemotherapy. Every session lasts a few minutes: the patients need three to five sessions per week for three to six weeks. According to the types of breast cancer, the doctor will decide what type of radiation therapy she has to undergo. In rare cases, radiotherapy is not required. There are several types of radiotherapy which are included:

  • Chest wall radiation therapy
  • Breast radiation therapy
  • Breast boost
  • Lymph nodes radiation therapy
  • Breast brachytherapy

Side effects of radiotherapy can include lymphedema, fatigue, irritation, lymphedema, and darkening of the breast skin.

Chemotherapy

To kill the cancer cells, medications are used- these medications are known as cytotoxic drugs. The doctor can suggest chemotherapy if there are high chances of cancer spreading elsewhere in the body cancer recurrence, which is called adjuvant chemotherapy.

If the tumors are bigger, chemotherapy can be done before surgery. The goal is to shrink them, making its removal easier, which is called neoadjuvant chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy also is done if cancer has metastasized – spread to other parts of the body. Chemotherapy is also useful in undermining some of the signs caused by cancer. Estrogen can enhance the growth of breast cancer, chemotherapy can help stop the production of estrogen.

Side effects of chemotherapy can include vomiting, nausea, hair loss, fatigue, loss of appetite, sore mouth and slightly higher susceptibility to infections.

Hormone therapy (hormone-blocking therapy)

Hormone-blocking therapy is used for breast cancer that is sensitive to hormones. Breast cancer is usually referred to as ER-positive and PR positive cancers. The goal is to prevent cancer recurrence Hormone therapy is often used after surgery, but may sometimes be used beforehand to shrink the tumor. Hormone therapy won’t affect cancers that are insensitive to hormones. It usually lasts up to five years after surgery. Their hormone therapy medications may be used are as follows:

  • Tamoxifen
  • Aromatase inhibitors
  • Ovarian ablation or suppression

Biological treatment (targeted drugs)

  • Trastuzumab (Herceptin)
  • Lapatinib (Tykerb)
  • Bevacizumab (Avastin)
  • Low dose aspirin

Surgery
Several types of surgery can be administered for the treatment, which is as follows;

  • Lumpectomy
  • Mastectomy
  • Sentinel node biopsy
  • Axillary lymph node dissection
  • Breast reconstruction surgery

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