What is Breast Cancer? This is a cancerous growth that forms in the cells of the breast. It can occur in both men and women, though it is more common among women. Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed after skin cancer, and the second leading cause of cancer deaths after lung cancer.
It is therefore important to know a thing or ten about this type of cancer, because to be forewarned is to be forearmed.
1. Types of Breast Cancer- They are classified into two major groups.
a. In-situ breast cancer- These types of breast cancer are in their early stages and have not spread past lobule or the duct they originated from.
Examples of such types of cancer are
- Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS). This isn’t considered a true cancer. It only indicates that the person stands a high risk of developing breast cancer later. It is only detected in the lobule which produces breast milk.
- Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)- In this case, this type of cancer (ductal carcinoma) is in its earliest stage known as stage 0. If left untreated, it can be invasive.
b. Invasive breast cancer- These are the types of breast cancer that spread to the surrounding tissues of the breast. Examples of such include;
- Invasive or infiltrating ductal carcinoma (IDC)- This starts from the milk duct and penetrates through the duct to the fatty tissues of the breast. It accounts for 80% of invasive breast cancer.
- Invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC)- This accounts for about 10% of invasive breast cancer and they originate from the lobules then spread to the surrounding tissues and other parts of the body.
2. It occurs in stages- Breast cancer occurs in 5 stages.
Stage 0– In this stage the cancer is still confined to the ducts and have not spread to nearby tissues.
Stage 1- The primary tumor is 2cm wide or less.
Stage 2- The tumor is between 2-5cm and hasn’t spread to the lymph nodes.
Stage 3- The cancer has spread to the axillary nodes and the tumors are greater than 5cm.
Stage 4- The tumor can be of any size. In this stage, the cancer has spread to distant lymph nodes as well as organs.
This is of course better than finding a cure. The ways to prevent breast cancer are;
- Control your weight
- Limit or stay away from alcohol
- Exercise regularly
- Preventive surgery. This is also known as prophylactic mastectomy. In this case, the unhealthy breasts are surgically removed. It is a choice that women with a very high risk of breast cancer may choose.
4. Symptoms- The symptoms of breast cancer include
- A lump in or near your breast or underarm that lasts through the period
- A change in the size or shape of the breast
- Clear or bloody discharge from the nipple
- Changes in the skin of the breast or the nipple. It could be dimpled, puckered, scaly, or inflamed.
- Red skin on the breast or nipple
- Changes in the shape or position of the nipple
- A hard, marble-sized spot under the skin
5. Controllable Risk Factors
Some risk factors of breast cancer that one has control over are;
- Weight and diet
- Alcohol intake
- Physical activities
6. Uncontrollable Risk Factors
These are factors that are not determined by the individuals involved. They include;
- Age- Women over 50 stand a higher risk than younger women.
- Dense breasts. Breasts that have more fatty tissues than connective tissues stand a higher risk of breast cancer.
- Personal history of cancer. If you have a history of cancer be it benign or malignant, you stand a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
- Family history. You are two times more likely to develop breast cancer if a female relative like your mother, sister or daughter has it.
There are different approaches towards treating breast cancer. It all depends on which method is ideal for each case. This is often determined by the doctor and patient. Some forms of treatment include;
- Mastectomy- A surgical procedure in which the entire breast is removed
- Breast Conserving Surgery- In this case, only the affected region is removed along with some nearby tissues.
Other forms of treatment are chemotherapy, hormone therapy and targeted drugs.
8. Keep Fighting
Breast cancer is not a death sentence. If detected early, there is a higher chance of recovery.
9. Find a specialist
If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, it becomes necessary to find an oncologist (a cancer specialist) and begin treatment immediately.
10. Early Detection
Just like other kinds of Cancer, by early detection, a patient stands a chance to defeat breast cancer. This is why women are advised to get a mammography or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
The month of October is tagged the Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast cancer is a scary bell to ring and no one wants it knocking at their door. Ignorance and lack of involvement in knowing your status however doesn’t keep it at bay.
Consult a Doctor today to know the right steps to take towards screening and treatment if you have been diagnosed.
Medical Disclaimer: KompleteCare™ aims to improve the quality of life for everyone with fact-based content about the nature of diseases, preventive care, behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.