What is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is a cancer of breast tissues. It is the most common form of cancer exclusively found in females, affecting women at some stage of their entire life. Although significant efforts are made to achieve early detection and effective treatment of breast cancer, it is the second most common cause of deaths in women. The breast cancers are made of fat, glands, and connective tissue. The breast has many lobes, which are divided into lobules and end in the milk glands. Tiny ducts run from many small glands, connect together and end in the nipple.
Cancer developing in the lobules is termed as infiltrating lobe cancer. Most of the breast cancers are of this category.
Symptoms of Breast Cancer?
Earlier breast cancer has no symptoms and usually not painful. Most of the breast cancer is discovered before symptoms are present, either by an abnormality on mammography or feeling a breast lump. A lump is an armpit that does not go away and hence may be a sign of cancer. Other possible symptoms involves are breast discharge, nipple inversion, or changes in the skin overlying the breast.
Most breast lump is not cancerous and all breast lumps, however need to be removed by a doctor.
Breast discharge is common problem and is rarely a symptom of breast cancer.
Nipple inversion is a very common group of normal nipples, but nipple inversion that is a new development may become a point of concern.
Changes in the skin of the breast involve redness and changes in texture; however this could be caused by some diseases but can be associated with breast cancer.
Stages of Breast Cancer
Doctors have divided breast cancer into four numbers of stages. With a successful treatment makes it less likely that cancer will go on to another stage. Breast cancer can never go beyond stage 1 or 2.
The four stages of Breast cancer are as follows:
The tumour is no more than 2 centimeters
The lymph node in the armpit is not affected
The cancer has not spread
Can be divided into 2 groups: Stage 2A and Stage 2B
The tumour is less than 2 or 5 centimeters and the lymph nodes under the armpit contain but are not together and the cancer has not spread
The tumour is more than 5 centimeters across, there are no cancer cells in the lymph nodes in the armpit and hence the cancer has not spread
Stage 3 also can be divided into 3 groups: Stage 3A, Stage 3B and Stage 3C
The tumour is not seen in the breast, the lymph nodes under armpit do contain cancer and are together, but there is no sign of cancer spread.
The tumour is fixed to the chest wall, the lymph nodes may or may not contain cancer, but there is no sign of cancer spread.
The tumour can be of any size and has spread to lymph nodes in the armpit and is under the breast and below the collarbone, but there is further spread.
The tumour can be of any size
The lymph nodes may or may not contain cancer
The cancer has started spreading to other parts of the body such as liver, lungs, or bones.
Can Breast Cancer be treated?
Surgery is the backbone of therapy for breast cancer. The type of surgery is based on numerous factors that include the size and the location of tumour, type of tumour and the person health possible.
Cancer can be staged using the information from surgery and other possible test conducted. Staging is a classification that implies which treatment is better for the patient
Staging in breast cancer can be based on the size of the tumour and which part of the breast are involved and which lymph nodes are affected and also weather the cancer has spread to the other parts of the body.
There are four major types of treatments used in breast cancer that includes surgery, radiotherapy, hormone therapy and chemotherapy.
Surgery – The aim of breast surgery is to remove breast cancer from the breast and test weather the cancer cells have spread to the lymph nodes in the armpit. Surgery is not commonly used in the treatment of women with metastatic breast cancer. Surgery is recommended if this is your first diagnosis of the breast cancer.
Radiotherapy – Radiotherapy uses x-rays (radiation) to destroy cancer cells. It is given after surgery. Radiotherapy is recommended after breast surgery and could mean:
Less risk of breast cancer coming back in the same breast
Less need for further surgeries
Surviving breast cancer
Hormone therapy – Hormone therapy is used in addition to the above for treating your breast cancer. Hormone therapy can also be used in addition to chemotherapy.
The main aim of hormone therapy is to destroy cancer cells in the breast after surgery or radiotherapy.
Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. This works by damaging cancer cells that are dividing. It can be used alone or in combination of the above the treatments depending upon the type of cancer.
Can Breast Cancer Be Prevented?
The risk factors of developing breast cancer are sex, age and genetics. The regular screening is recommended in order to allow early detection and prevention of breast cancer. Regular screening includes breast self-examination, clinical breast examination, and mammography. Which type of test to choose from depends upon the risk or the stage of breast cancer?
Breast self-examination is cheap and easy.
Clinical breast examination is usually done by a trained health-care providers one every years starting at the age 20 years and then yearly after age 40 years.
Mammography is recommended every 2 years starting at age 40 years.