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Breast cancer is the most common invasive type of cancer in women. About one in eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer who are over 50, however women at any age can also get breast cancer. There is no sure way to prevent breast cancer. But awareness of the symptoms, need for screening and lowering risk factors such as Vitamin D and iron deficiencies might lower your risk.
Cancer occurs when changes called mutations take place in genes that regulate cell growth. The mutations let the cells divide and multiply in an uncontrolled way.
Breast cancer develops in breast cells when changes called mutations occur in genes, responsible for cell growth. The cancer forms in either the lobules, the ducts of the breast, the fatty or the fibrous connective tissue within your breast. Lobules are the glands that produce milk, and ducts are the pathways that bring the milk from the glands to the nipple. In rare cases, breast cancer can affect men too.
The uncontrolled cancer cells may move to other parts of the body through the lymph nodes under the arms. Therefore it’s necessary that women check their breasts regularly for any changes.
Breast cancer symptoms
Breast cancer may not cause any symptoms in its early stages. In many cases, a tumor may be too small to be felt, but an abnormality can still be seen on a mammogram. If a tumor can be felt, the first sign is usually a new lump in the breast that was not there before. However, not all lumps are cancer.
Each type of breast cancer can cause a variety of symptoms. Many of these symptoms are similar, but some can be different. Symptoms for the most common breast cancers include:
- a breast lump or tissue thickening that feels different than surrounding tissue
- breast pain
- red, pitted skin over your entire breast
- swelling in all or part of your breast
- a nipple discharge other than breast milk
- bloody discharge from your nipple
- peeling, scaling, or flaking of skin on your nipple or breast
- Sudden changes in the size, shape or appearance of a breast
- A newly inverted nipple
- changes to the appearance of the skin on your breasts
- a lump or swelling under your arm
If you have any of these symptoms, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have breast cancer. The pain you may have in your breast can be due to a benign cyst. Ask your GP for further tests and examinations if you find a lump in your breasts or have other symptoms.
Who is at risk for breast cancer?
- Although breast cancer can affect anyone, women are at greater risk than men.
- The risk of breast cancer also increases with age
- People with a personal or family history of breast cancer are also at increased risk.
- Previous history of radiation to chest or neck (as in lymphoma treatment) before age 30, may increase the risk of breast cancer
- Early menstruation history (before 12 years old) and late menopause (after 55 years old) may increase the chance of growing breast cancer
Diagnosis of breast cancer
To determine if your symptoms are caused by breast cancer or a benign breast condition, your doctor will do a thorough physical exam or more diagnostic tests to help understand what’s causing your symptoms.
Mammogram. The most common way to see below the surface of your breast is with an imaging test called a mammogram. Women aged 40 and older until 54, should get an annual mammogram and then every two years to check for breast cancer. If your doctor suspects you may have a tumor or suspicious spot, they will also request a mammogram. If an abnormal area is seen on your mammogram, your doctor may request additional tests.
Ultrasound. A breast ultrasound uses sound waves to create a picture of the tissues deep in your breast and is usually done in women younger than 40. An ultrasound can help your doctor distinguish between a solid mass, such as a tumor, and a benign cyst.
Your doctor may also suggest tests such as an MRI or a breast biopsy.
Breast cancer treatment
Depending on the cancer’s size, stage, and grade, specific treatment options will be discussed. Surgery is the most common treatment for breast cancer. Many women have additional treatments, such as chemotherapy, targeted therapy, radiation, hormone therapy or medications.
If surgery is needed, the choice will depend on the diagnosis and the individual. Types of surgery include Lumpectomy, Mastectomy, Axillary lymph node dissection and Reconstruction.
Controlled doses of radiation are targeted at the tumor to destroy the cancer cells. A person may undergo this from around a month after surgery (if surgery was needed), along with chemotherapy. This works to kill any remaining cancer cells.
Adverse effects include fatigue, lymphedema, darkening of the breast skin, and irritation of the breast skin.
A doctor may prescribe cytotoxic drugs to kill cancer cells, if there is a high risk of recurrence or spread. Chemotherapy may be done before or after surgery.
Adverse effects of chemotherapy may include:
- loss of appetite
- sore mouth
- hair loss
- a slightly higher susceptibility to infections
Hormone blocking therapy
Doctors use hormone blocking therapy to prevent recurrence in hormone-sensitive breast cancers. These are called estrogen receptive (ER)-positive and progesterone receptor (PR)-positive cancers.
Dayonix Pharma/ August, 2019
The content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional regarding any medical condition. While every care is taken to ensure the accuracy of the information presented in the blog and to describe best generally accepted current practices we cannot accept any liability for errors or omissions or for any consequences from application of the information given.