Breast cancer is the cancer formed in the cells of the breast. Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancers diagnosed in women from all over the world. Even though breast cancer is most common in women, it can be diagnosed in men, too. This disease can be extremely hard to overcome, but when diagnosed in one of its early stages, breast cancer be cured.
Signs and symptoms
Early detection is crucial when talking about breast cancer. This is why patients should be careful at all signs and symptoms that may indicate the presence of this disease. There are many such symptoms that can be mentioned. They include:
- The growth of a breast lump;
- Bloody discharge from the nipple;
- A change in the breast’s size or shape;
- Redness of the skin;
- Inverted nipple;
- Changes to the skin over the breast;
- Peeling, scaling or flaking of the nipple or the breast skin.
In case you trace any of these changes, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. Not all changes in your breast will turn out being breast cancer, but it is better to be sure.
Causes and risk factors
What causes breast cancer is not certain. Breast cancer occurs when breast cells start growing in an abnormal manner. These are cells that divide more rapidly than healthy cells. When cancerous tumors grow, accumulating cells can start spreading to other organs of the body.
In most cases, breast cancer begins in the cells of the milk-producing ducts. However, the condition can also begin in the milk glands. Although there are no causes that can be associated to this condition, researchers have found a series of risk factors that may increase the possibility of developing breast cancer.
Here are some things you should know about breast cancer risk factors:
- Women are more likely to develop this condition compared to men.
- Breast cancer risk increases with age, so women over 55 are considered to be more likely to be diagnosed with the disease.
- Patients who have already been diagnosed with breast cancer or who have someone in the family suffering from this condition, may develop it.
Other risk factors include:
- Inherited genes that increase cancer risk;
- Radiation exposure;
- Alcohol consumption;
- Post-menopausal hormone therapy;
- Beginning your period before the age of 12;
- Having your first child after the age of 35;
- Beginning menopause after 55.
One of the most important things you need to know is that having these risk factors will not necessarily mean that you will develop breast cancer. However, making simple changes in your daily life may reduce the risk of developing this form of cancer. Exercise, limit alcohol consumption, avoid smoking and try to lead a healthy lifestyle.
There are several tests that doctors can use to diagnose breast cancer. Some of the most important ones include:
- Breast exam -- your doctor will check for lumps or other abnormalities.
- Mammogram -- is a test used to screen for breast cancer.
- Breast ultrasound -- uses waves to produce images of the breast, helping doctors find abnormalities.
- Biopsy -- can be used to remove a sample of the breast cells that are believed to be cancerous. The sample is used for laboratory tests.
- Breast magnetic resonance imaging -- uses a magnet and radio waves to create pictures of the breast’s structure.
After being diagnosed, breast cancer is staged. Stages range from 0 to IV.
- Stage 0 -- the cancer is very small and noninvasive;
- Stages 1-3 -- the cancer is located within the breast, spreading to regional lymph nodes;
- Stage 4 -- the cancer starts spreading to other organs.
A doctor will establish the right treatment for each patient. Treatment will vary depending on the stage in which the disease is diagnosed, but also the overall health of the patient.
- Surgery. Many patients undergo breast cancer surgery to remove the cancerous cells.
- Radiation therapy. This therapy uses energy and x-rays to kill cancer cells.
- Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy uses drugs to destroy cancer cells. It can be used both before and after surgery, to shrink cancerous tumors or prevent recurrence, respectively.
- Hormone therapy. This therapy can be used after surgery to decrease the chances of cancer recurrence.
The human body is built of cells. The body creates cells, who have a circle of life. Cells die to be replaced by healthy cells. When healthy cells become abnormal, they divide more quickly than they should. Tumors actually are abnormal body cells that form a mass or a lump. This is the main reason why breast cancer can be formed any time, by anyone. Trying to get an early diagnosis and starting the right treatment as soon as possible will help patients easier overcome this disease.