Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the type of cancer that develops in breast tissues. It can occur in both men and women but it is more common in women. It the most common type of cancer in women and also one of the main causes of cancer deaths in women.

Breast cancer is usually as a result of uncontrollable division of the cells of the breast due to a mutation in the genes that control cell growth. The cancer cells are capable of spreading to healthy breast tissues and other parts of the body though the lymph nodes located under the armpit.

Symptoms

  • Presence of lump(s) in the breast
  • Bloody discharge from the nipple
  • Dimpling
  • Inverted nipple
  • Change in the shape, colour and texture of the breast
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Breast pain
  • Swelling
  • Flaking of the areola
  • Pain beneath the armpit or around the collarbone

The presence of a lump in the breast is usually the first noticeable symptom of breast cancer but the presence of a lump does not always mean that it is breast cancer. There are other medical conditions that can cause the presence of lumps in the breast.

Risk Factors

The exact cause of breast cancer is unknown but some things seem to increase the chances of it developing. There are some people who have these risk factors but do not develop breast cancer and this is one of the reasins why researchers seem to think that breast cancer is caused by the interaction of some of these risk factors and the environment. These risk factors include:

Age

The older someone gets, the higher the chances of that person developing breast cancer

Gender

Women are more likely to develop breast cancer.

Genetics

If there is a history of breast cancer in a family, members of that family who are genetically linked are more likely to develop breast cancer. Also, women with gene mutations, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 are also more likely to develop breast cancer.

Alcohol Intake

Consuming too much alcohol regularly increases the risk of developing breast cancer.

Body Weight

People who are obese (have a high BMI) have a higher risk of developing diabetes.

Personal History

Someone who has had breast cancer before is more likely to have it again than someone who has not.

Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding, especially for 1 – 2 years, decreases the chances of developing breast cancer because it reduces estrogen level after pregnancy.

Pregnancy

People who have never been pregnant or have never carried a pregnancy to full term have a higher risk of developing breast cancer. Also, getting pregnant after the age of 30 increases the risk of getting breast cancer.

Menstruation

People who start menstruating at a young age (especially before the age of 12) have a higher risk of developing breast cancer.

Menopause

Late menopause increases the risk of developing breast cancer.

Hormone Replacemen Therapy

This is used to treat the symptoms of menopause by using estrogens and progestogens. Too much exposure to estrogen without balancing it with progestogen increases the risk of breast cancer.

Exercise

Exercising decreases the risk of breast cancer.

Stages

Breeast cancer can be grouped into five stages and these stages are determined by three factors (TNM), namely:

  • Tumor – the size of the tumor
  • Lymph Node – The number of lymph node affected and their location
  • Metastases – If the cancer has spread tp other areas of the body.

The stages of breast cancer are used to determine how much a cancer has grown and if and how far it has spread.

Stage 0

It is also known as non-invasive cancer. The cancer cells are still within the duct and have not spread to surrounding tissues.

Stage 1A

If there is a tumour, it is usually less than 2 centimetres in length. The cancer cells have spread to the fatty tissues but have not spread to the lymph nodes.

Stage 1B

Some cancer cells are in nearby lymph nodes but they are few. If there is a tumor, it is usually smaller than 2 centimeters in size.

Stage 2A

The tumour in the breast is small, less than 2 centimetres and has spread to 3 lymph nodes nearby or it is between 2 and 5 centimeters and has not spread to lymph nodes nearby.

Stage 2B

It is larger than 2 centimeters and it has spread to 1 or 3 armpit lymphnodes or it is larger than 5 centimeters and has not spread to any lymph nodes.

Stage 3A

The cancer cells can be found in 4 or 9 axillary lymph nodes and have enlarged the lymph nodes deep in the breast (the internal mammary gland). In some cases, the tumour is large and greater than 5 centimetres but other times, there are no tumours. Also, the cancer cells has spread to 1 – 3 axillary lymph nodes or any breast bone nodes.

Stage 3B

A tumor has invaded the chest wall or skin and may or may not have invaded up to 9 lymph nodes.

Stage 3C

Cancer is found in 10 or more axillary lymph nodes. Lymph nodes above or below the collar bone or internal mammary nodes have been affected.

Stage 4

It can have a tumour of any size. At this stage, the cancer is known as metastatic. The cancer cells have spread to nearby and distant lymph nodes as well as distant organs. The most common organs they spread to are the bones, liver, lungs and brain.

Types

There are many types of breast cancers but out of all, the carcinomas are the most common.

Non-invasive Types

Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS)

It is not invasive. The cancers cells are still in the ducts and have not invaded the surrounding tissues. They are still restricted to the ducts of the breasts.

Lobular Carcinoma In Situ (LCIS)

It grows in the milk-producing glands of the breast and the cancer cells have not invaded the surrounding tissues.

Invasive (Infiltrating) Types

Invasive Ductal Carcinoma

It is the most common type. It begins in the ducts of the breast and spreads to nearby tissues and from there, it can spread to other nearby organs or tissues of the body.

Invasive Lobular Carcinoma

It develops in the lobules of the breast and invades other nearby tissues.

Less Common Types

  • Inflammatory breast cancer
  • Paget disease
  • Phyllodes tumour
  • Angosarcoma
  • Triple-negative breast cancer

Diagnosis

Breast Exam

This can be done by a physician and it can also be done without a physician. It is done by mentally dividing the breast into equal segments (such as that of a pie) and thouroughly feeling each segment with the palm in other to determine the presence of lumps.

Mammogram

A mammogram is the use of infrared to detect abnormalities in the breast. It is a type of x-ray for breast screening.

Ultrasound Scan

This is used to determine to examine the interior part of the breast through the use of ultrasonic waves.

Magnetic Resonance Imagery (MRI)

It is non-invasive and is used to examine cross-sectional images of the breast in order to determine how far the cancer cells have spread.

Biopsy

This is the removal of some tissues from the body for examination to determine if they are cancerous or not.

Treatments

Surgery

There are several types and they include:

Lumpectomy

It is the removal of the tumour and the tissues surrounding it. It is also known as breast-conserving surgery and unlike mastectomy, the entire breast is not removed.

Mastectomy

This is the removal of all the breast tissue. A skin-sparing mastectomy may be performed if immediate reconstruction is to be carried out. A skin-sparing masectomy involves the removal of the breast tissue without removing the overlying skin and the areola. Radical masetomy involves the removal of the breast, axillary lymph nodes and muscle of the chest wall.

Sentinel Node Biopsy

This is the removal of a few nodes in order to stop the cancer cells from spreading.

Axillary Lymph Node Dissection

This is the removal of more lymph nodes when lymph nodes removed during a sentinel node biopsy contain cancer cells.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is the use of controlled amounts of high-powered beams of radiation to kill targeted tumors in order to kill the cancer cells. When it is done from outside the body, it is called external beam radiation and it is done through the use of a large machine. When it is done from inside the body, it is called brachytherapy and it is done through surgery by placing radioactive seeds or pellets near the tumor. Side effects include fatigue, irritation and darkening of the skin breasts, and lymphoedema.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy involves destroying cancer cells through the use of drugs. It is often used with other cancer treatments and it has side side effects.

Hormone therapy

Some breast cancers are sensitive to hormones. Estrogen and progesterone are two hormones that stimulate the growth of cancer cells and what hormone therapy does is that it blocks the production of these hormones through the use of appropriate medications. These medications can affect fertility in women.

Leave a reply