Overview | Stages | Types | Causes | Symptoms | Risks factors | Diagnosis | Treatment | Prevention | Awareness |
What is breast cancer?
Most people may know, that cancer occurs due to mutations in the genes, which enables cells to divide and multiply in an uncontrolled and abnormal manner. Breast cancer is also a type of cancer.
In breast cancer, cancer develops in the cells of the breast. Particularly, the cancer cells develop in the lobules or the ducts of the breasts. If you don’t know, lobules are the glands that form milk and ducts are those pathways that brings the milk from the glands to the nipple.
Apart from these, cancer can also develop in the fatty tissues and fibrous connective tissues of the breasts. Like other cancers, it also spreads and can reach to the lymph nodes under the arms. These lymph nodes helps cancer cells to spreads to the other parts of the body.
There is a perception that only women can get breast cancer, but it’s completely false. Men can also develop breast can, although the risk of breast cancer is quite higher in women than men.
Where breast cancer can spread?
As said before, breast cancer spreads. But, it can develop in other parts or tissues of the breast as well. It can be felt as a lump in or side of the breast. Some tumours are not spreadable while some spreads to other organs. In details, you will get to know further.
Fact: In India, there are more than 1 million cases are diagnosed with breast cancer, per year. Still, the survival rate is high.
Stages of breast cancer: It has five main stages. That is —
- Stage 0 – In this, the cancer cells limited in the ducts of the breasts.
- Stage 1 – it’s further divided into
A – In this, the primary tumour is about 2 centimetres wide with unaffected lymph nodes.
B – Either the tumour is smaller than 2 centimetres or may not even exist. But cancer can be found in lymph nodes.
- Stage 2: The tumour is between 2 -5 Cm. And spreads to 1 – 3 lymph nodes, but not anywhere else.p
- Stage 3 :
A – Tumours can be 5 Cm. Or any size. And spreads to 1 -9 axillary lymph nodes.
B – Tumour invaded the skin or chest wall but may not invade up to 9 lymph nodes.
C – Cancer is found in 10 or more lymph nodes.
- Stage 4: In this, to our can be of any size and get spread up to distant lymph nodes and organs.
Types of breast cancer:
The two main categories of any type of cancer are — Invasive and non-invasive. Here, invasive refers to that cancer that spreads from the glands or tissues to the other parts of the body, while non – invasive is just vice verse of invasive, it just not spreads from the area where it develops.
The most common types of breast cancer are –
- Invasive ductal carcinoma – Invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) is the most common type of breast cancer. It develops in the milk ducts’ tissues and then spreads to the nearby tissues, after that other parts of the body.
- Invasive lobular carcinoma – It is also known as ILC. It develops in the lobules of the breast, then spreads nearby areas, followed by whole body.
- Non – invasive ductal carcinoma – In this, the cancer cells are limited to the ducts where it develops, but down not spreads further anymore.
- Non – invasive lobular carcinoma – It develops in the milk-producing glands of the breast but does not spreads further.
Some less common types of breast cancer are:
- Angiosarcoma – It develops in the blood or lymph vessels of the breast.
- Paget disease of the nipple – It develops in the duct of the nipple but it affects the skin and areola of the breasts, as it grows.
- Phyllodes tumour: This develops in the connective tissues of the breasts. Mostly, its tumours are benign but some can be cancerous too. Although, Phyllodes tumour cases are quite rare.
- Triple-negative breasts cancer – It is a rare breasts type, affects about 10 -15 % of total breasts cancer cases. It’s rate of growth is very high in comparison to other types and its treatment is also very complicated. If a tumour lacks estrogen and progesterone receptors, and additional HER2 protein at its surface, only then it is considered triple-negative breast cancer.
- Inflammatory breast cancer – It is about 1 – 5 % of all breast cancer cases. It is quite aggressive and makes your breasts look like orange peel with red colour, swelling and warm feel. You must go to your doctor if have symptoms.
- Metastatic breast cancer – It is the breast cancer of fourth stage, in which it already gets spread out to all the organs.
Breasts contain connective tissues, fats and thousands of lobules. When cancer develops, the tumour uses the energy and nutrients which should be used by healthy cells. Due to this, healthy cells get deprived. Breasts cancer starts from the inner linings of the ducts or lobules, then it spreads all over the body.
Researchers have identified hormonal, environment and lifestyle factors can increase the risk of breast cancer. But there are cases who don’t have any known cause or risk, but they develop breast cancer while in some cases, vice verse. It can be inherited too. But the exact cause is still unclear.
- Experience of a lump and thickening of the breast skin
- The skin of the breasts looks like orange peel or dimpling
- Breasts pain
- A newly inverted nipple
- Nipple discharge other than nipple milk
- Change in the shape, size or appearance of the breasts
- Bloody discharge from the nipple
- Swelling and redness of the breasts
- Lump or swelling under your arm
- Peeling, crusting, flaking and scaling of the areola and breast skin.
- Age – The risk of breast cancer increase with age.
- Gender (women has more risk than men)
- Own history of breasts cancer
- Family History
- Breast lumps
- Hormonal treatments and problems
- Beginning of menopause at old age
- Dense breast tissues
- Late pregnancy
- Beginning of periods at a young age
- Never having been pregnant
- Prolonged exposure to estrogen
- Postmenopausal hormonal therapy
- Alcohol consumption
- Radiation exposure
Diagnosis will starts with a physical or breasts examination. Then some tests can be orders like –
- Mammogram – to check below the skin of the breasts
- Ultrasound – to get the picture if the tissues of the breasts
- Breasts biopsy – Your doctor can adopt several ways to take a sample of your breasts tissue to get it tested.
The treatment will depend on the factors like –
- Type and stage of cancer
- Hormone sensitivity
- Overall health
Some treatment options are –
- Radiation therapy
- Hormone blocking therapy
- Biological or targeted drug therapy
- Surgery (several types)
Precautions and prevention tips:
- After 40 years, go for a breast cancer screening once a year.
- Keep noticing your breast, if it shows any changes, then don’t hesitate to go for a diagnosis.
- Go for self–examination of breasts if needed
- Exercise at least 30 minutes daily
- Avoid alcohol consumption
- Limit postmenopausal hormonal therapy, if have
- Eat healthy food only
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Analyse your lifestyle habits, and change some if needed.
- Breastfeeding is good for your breasts.
- Try to be aware of the latest news regarding breasts cancer
- Preventive surgery
There is no proven way to prevent cancer, but awareness is the key.