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Breast Cancer - Symptoms

Breast Cancer

When there is an abnormal multiplication of cells, it creates a mass tissue (lump or a tumour) which invades other tissue. The occurrence of this phenomenon in the breast is called breast cancer. Breast cancer is named so as it originates in the breast tissue. It is a global disease seen largely among women and very rarely in men. It is fast-growing cancer among women of the world after lung cancer.

The precise cause of breast cancer is still unclear. However, there are several factors that can put you at risk of breast cancer. It happens that, women who are considered to be at higher risk of breast cancer do not always get it but women with no known risk factor do get affected somehow.

Causing awareness about breast cancer's symptoms and early diagnosis are the only ways to reduce the risk of it.

Staging of cancer :

Staging of cancer helps to determine how bad cancer in the body is and the effective ways to treat it. The stages start from the number 0 followed by roman numbers I, II, III, or IV. The higher the number, the more is the body affected.

  • Stage 0: Intra Ductal Carcinoma refers to the early stage of breast cancer. Cancer has been detected in the Breast ducts or milk glands and has not yet spread to other organs.
  • Stage 1: The lump found is about 2 cm. The cancer is considered invasive at this stage and is now ready to attack the healthy tissues.
  • Stage 2: The 2 cm lump has started to spread to lymph nodes. The cancer is growing and spreading.
  • Stage 3: The lump is now about 5 cm and rapidly spreading to other body parts. The bones and organs are still not affected. However, by this stage, the cancer is considered to be advanced.
  • Stage 4: The cancer-causing cells have spread to distant organs such as brain, liver, bones and lungs. This stage is often described as 'Metastatic' which means it has now spread farther from where it was first found.

Symptoms of breast cancer (Early signs of breast cancer include) :

  • Seeing a lump in the breast
  • Change in the breast size or shape
  • Release of fluid from the nipple
  • A sunken nipple
  • Change in the nipple's colour
  • Mild pain in the armpit or breast
  • Flaking of the skin in and around the breast

Remember that not all lumps are malignant. However, frequent health checkups once in every 3 months would help.

How is it caused ?

During puberty, a woman's breast consists of fat tissue, tiny glands that produce milk and several thousands of lobules. These tiny ducts carry the milk towards the nipple.

In cancer, the cells start reproducing out of control. This excessive cell growth causes cancer.

Breast cancer generally begins in the inner lining of milk ducts that supply them with milk for breastfeeding. From there, it is free to spread to other organs of the body.

Risk Factors

There is no specific known reason that is causing breast cancer. There are several risk factors that may put you at higher risk of developing breast cancer.

  • 1. Genetics
  • 2. Family history of breast cancer
  • 3. Advancing age
  • 4. Excessive estrogen levels in the body
  • 5. Early menstruation
  • 6. Lack of physical exercise
  • 7. Age at childbirth
  • 8. Multiple pregnancies
  • 9. Excess intake of coffee or caffeine
  • 10. Obesity
  • 11. Excessive alcohol consumption
  • 12. Exposure to ionizing radiation
  • 13. Hormone replacement therapy during menopause
  • 14. Wearing under-wired bras for prolonged period
  • 15. Having an abortion or miscarriage

Women who breastfeed have reduced risk of developing breast cancer.

People with breast implants are likely to have delayed screening which puts them at higher risk of dying due to breast cancer.

Facts you should know

  • 1. The lifetime risk (to age 85) of a woman getting affected by breast cancer in 1940 was 5% or one in 20; the risk is now 13.4% or greater than one in 8.
  • 2. According to 2017 estimates, about 252,710 new cases of invasive breast cancer were diagnosed in women. And, about 40,610 women died from breast cancer.
  • 3. Women who underwent breast cancer screening mammograms have significantly shown a decrease in the number of deaths from the disease.
  • 4. Consistent screening, quality of the screening test and being in compliance with screening recommendations from doctor results in an effective breast cancer screening test.

Diagnosis

  • 1. Breast examination
  • 2. Mammography
  • 3. Ultrasound scan
  • 4. An MRI scan
  • 5. Biopsy

Breast Cancer Treatments :

Breast cancer treatments have improved to a great extent making the process easier. The treatment options may vary depending on the size, shape, type of the breast; your age, stage of cancer, medication and individual preferences. The common treatments for breast cancer are listed below.

Lumpectomy:

It's a type in which a tumour is removed and the some of the surrounding normal tissue is removed. It is also called as "Breast Preservation".

Mastectomy:

A treatment in which tone or both the breast tissues are removed including the lump.

Chemotherapy:

It is a common cancer treatment used to kill the cancer cells using anti-cancer drugs.

Radiation:

Direct use of X-Rays to treat the Cancer.

Hormone – Targeted Therapy:

This type of treatment applicable when the cancer growth is due to genes or Hormones.

Sometimes there may be a chance of spreading of breast cancer to lymph nodes or around the collarbone and causes a lump or swelling.

If any lumps or swelling is found around or on the breast, it is suggested to meet the doctor in right time.

Talk to your doctor about the options you have and choose the one suitable for you health-wise.

Consider being a part of support group. Being able to talk to someone who has gone through the phase you are experiencing is a great way to keep things positive. There are so many people out there who went through the same. So, reach out to someone and talk about it.

Prevention

There are no sure known steps to prevent breast cancer. However, few changes in lifestyle can lower your risk of developing breast or any other cancer.

  • Avoid alcohol consumption
  • Do not take chances with smoking
  • Regular exercise
  • Nutritious diet
  • Stay within your BMI

Preventive surgery is also an option for the ones who are at higher risk of developing breast cancer.

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