Breast cancer: what you should know

Overview

Breast cancer became the most common cancer in the world in 2020. As more than 2.3 million people diagnosed with cancer and over 685,000 died. A woman is diagnosed with breast cancer every 14 seconds all around the world.

What is breast cancer

Breast Cancer is a disease in which cells of the breast undergo uncontrolled and often rapid growth.
The type of breast cancer is dependent on which breast cells turn into cancer.

Breast cancer
Parts of the breast

Breasts consist of three main parts

  • The Lobules
  • The ducts
  • connective tissue

The lobules are the glands responsible for milk production. the ducts transport the milk to the nipple. the connective tissue surrounds and holds everything in place.

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Most times breast cancer begins in the milk glands called lobular carcinoma all the dogs that carry milk to the nipples called ductal carcinoma. if the cancer is undetected it can grow in the breast and spread to nearby lymph nodes or through the bloodstream to other organs like these skin and chest walls. when this happens the breast cancer is said to have metastasized.

Symptoms of Breast Cancer

cancer symptoms can vary depending on the individual. in some cases individuals have had no symptoms prior to the disease. the first and often noticeable symptom is along or thickened area of the breast tissue.

general symptoms include;

breast cancer symptoms
symptoms of breast cancer
  • Lump or thickening in the breast
  • Changes in shape, size and appearance of the breast.
  • Abnormal discharge from the nipples.
  • Changes in the skin of the breast or nipple ( dimpling, puckering, scaling or inflammation).
  • Inverted nipple.
  • Rashes around the nipple
  • Redness in the skin of the breast or pitting like the skin of an orange.
  • Pain in any area of the breast.

Please note that some of these symptoms may happen in conditions other than breast cancer.

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If you have symptoms that worry you be sure to see a doctor immediately.

What do Lumps in my Breast Mean

Breast Cancer is not the only condition that causes lumps in the breast.

Two common causes of breast lumps are fibrocystic breast conditions and cysts.

Fibrocystic condition causes changes in the breast that can cause lumps Tenderness and soreness.

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Cyst are small sacs filled with liquid that develop in the breast.

Breast cancer risk factors

Risk factor is anything that may increase the chances of breast cancer. However having one or more of this week’s factors does not automatically mean you will develop breast cancer.

Some risk factors factors can be controlled while a good majority of them are not controllable.

General risk factors include:

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Sex
The sex of a person can increase their risk of cancer. Women are more likely to develop breast cancer than men.

Age
The risk of breast cancer increases with age. Breast cancer are diagnosed after 50 years of age.

Personal history of breast conditions

Women who have had breast cancer in the past are more likely to develop breast cancer is second time. People who have also had Non-cancerous breast diseases like atypical hyperplasia or lobular carcinoma in situ the higher chances of getting this disease.

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Family history
The risk of breast cancer in a woman is higher if she has a mother or sister or first degree relatives who have had breast cancer or ovarian cancer.

Drinking alcohol
alcohol Increases the risk of cancer. This is a risk that can be controlled.

Obesity
Being overweight increases the risk of breast cancer and many other health conditions.

Genetics
Having certain mutations in the brca1 and brca2 genes increases the chances of developing breast cancer or ovarian cancer or both.

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Radiation

Exposure to radiation in the chest region increases the risk of developing breast cancer.

Postmenopausal hormone therapy
Women taking hormone therapy medications that combined oestrogen and progesterone to treat menopause symptoms have an increased rate of breast cancer. The risk decreases after usage of the drug is stopped.

Reproductive history
Starting menstruation before age 12 or starting menopause after age 55 can increase the risk of breast cancer in women are they are exposed to hormones for a longer period of time.

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Having dense breasts
Women with dense breast have a higher chance of developing breast cancer.
Dense breast have more connective tissue and less fatty tissue.

Types of breast cancer

Common types of breast cancer include:

Non-invasive (in situ) cancers.

These are the types that haven’t spread past the Lobules or ducts when they developed. Examples are:
Ductal Carcinoma in situ (DCIS) and lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS).

Invasive cancers

That have spread into the surrounding breast tissue.

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They include:

  • Invasive or infiltrating ductal carcinoma (IDC)
  • Invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC)

Other types of this cancer include;

  • Adenoid cystic (or adenocystic) carcinoma
  • Low-grade adenosquamous carcinoma
  • Medullary carcinoma
  • Mucinous carcinoma
  • Papillary carcinoma
  • Tubular carcinoma

Breast Cancer Stages

The stages of breast cancer can be determined based on the size of the tumor and whether it has spread to the

breast cancer
breast cancer stages

lymph node or other body parts.

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The most common ways breast cancer stages are listed is the 0-4 stages with substages. The substages indicate specific characteristics of the tumor.

Stage 0: This is the early stage of the Cancer also called ductal carcinoma in situ. In this stage the cancer cells are only within the ducts of the breast and have not spread to surrounding tissues like the lymph nodes.

Stage 1: The Cancer has increased to 2 cm or less but hasn’t spread to the surrounding tissues.

Stage 2: The stage is also divided into stage 2A and 2B. here the tumor is up to 2 cm and has started spreading to nearby nodes or it’s 2-5 cm and has not spread to the lymph nodes.

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Stage 3: This has three substages 3A 3B and 3C. Stage 3 the tumor is up to 5 cm and has spread to several lymph nodes or greater than 5cm and has spread to feel lymph nodes.

Stage 4: (Metastatic) The Cancer has spread to other organs such as lungs, liver, bones or brain.

Breast Cancer Treatment

It makes for breast cancer depends on the size, location of the tumor and the stage of the cancer.

The main treatment for breast cancer are:

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  • Surgery
  • Radiotherapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Hormone therapy
  • Targeted therapy

These treatments can be done alone or as a combination. Consult a medical expert to determine which option to proceed with.

Breast Cancer Prevention

Since the cause of breast cancer is not always known, there is no certain way of preventing the disease. A person can therefore take some steps to reduce the risks.
They include;

  • Reducing alcohol intake
  • Eating healthy
  • Exercising correctly
  • Breast examinations
  • Breast cancer screening

What next

Breast cancer is not something that should be tackled alone. It should involve family loved ones and healthcare experts. It is important to treat the disease with the best treatment available and on time. Treatment and care for people with this disease should be done with utmost care and love.

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