Breast cancer refers to the abnormal growth of the breasts cells which divide rapidly and accumulate to form a lump. The cells may spread through the lymph nodes or other parts of the body. Like the other kinds of cancers, it can be benign or malignant and it is classified as the invasive breast cancer, in which the cancer cells invade the close tissues and spread to other parts of the body, and the non-invasive breast cancer, which describes the situation in which the cancerous cells do not spread to the other parts. It should be mentioned that non-invasive breast cancer can develop to the invasive one.
There are different types of breast cancer. However, the two main types are:
- Ductal carcinoma that happens in the milk ducts called lactiferous ducts. It is the most common type.
- Lobular carcinoma which begins in the lobules.
Breast cancer is known as the most widespread cancer following skin cancer as well as the most common one among women particularly those over the age 50. However, the breast cancer also happens in men. Breast cancer is treatable if it is diagnosed in the early stages.
The causes of breast cancer aren’t clear yet; however, scientists believe that both genetic factors and environmental factors may affect the breast cancer development. There are some risk factors that may have an effect on the causes and can intensify them including:
- Body weight;
- The unhealthy diet;
- Early puberty;
- Late-onset menopause;
- Family history;
- Dense breast tissue;
- Estrogen exposure and breast-feeding;
- Alcohol consumption;
- Radiation exposure;
- Hormone treatments;
- Contraceptive pill.
A lump or an area of thickened tissue in the breasts that seems different from the surrounding tissue is regarded as the most important symptom of breast cancer. It may be experienced with the other symptoms including:
- Any changes in size, shape or appearance of the breasts;
- Peeling, flaking, or scaling of the skin on the breast or nipple;
- ;A pain in the area of armpits or the breasts with no change after the menstrual cycle
- Major lymph nodes in the armpits;
- Some changes in the skin and nipples of the breast;
- Discharge from the nipples.
Treatments for the breast cancer are different depending on the conditions such as the type ;of breast cancer as well as its stage, patient’s age, overall health and preferences etc. however, the main treatments are:
There are different kinds of breast surgery chosen depending on diagnosis and the patient’s preferences. The main ones are:
Lumpectomy: in this surgical treatment, only the breast cancer lumps and the surrounding tissues such as the lymph nodes of armpits are removed. It is known as the breast-conserving surgery and it is usually followed by the radiation therapy.
Mastectomy: it refers to the procedure in which the whole breast as well as lymph nodes in armpits are removed and the radiation therapy may be prescribed as follow-up.
In this method, the high-energy waves are applied on the skin to remove the cancer cells and the around tissues. Radiation Therapy is mostly prescribed after the surgery.
Hormonal therapy is the treatment in which some drugs are used to prevent hormones from producing cancerous cells. The drugs are different depending on the patient (women) menopausal condition.
Chemotherapy is one of the common treatments for breast cancer that is mostly prescribed after the surgery to prevent reversibility of the breast cancer. In this method, anticancer drugs, whether oral or injection, are used to kill the cancer cells.
- Biological Therapy or Targeted Drug Therapy
The immune system will be strengthened to fight the cancer using drugs. It may be prescribed alone or in combination with the other methods such as chemotherapy and hormonal therapy.
Breast cancer stages show how much the cancer cells have developed and describe where the cancer is spread to. Staging is useful to make decision about what kind of treatments is chosen. Breast cancer includes 5 stages from stage 0 to 4 as following:
- Stage 0 or ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS): in this stage, the cells are limited to the duct.
- Stage 1 describes the size of the tumor. It is 2 cm at the beginning stage and it has not invaded to the lymph nodes.
- In stage 2, the tumor is 2 cm and it begins to spread to the surrounding tissues.
- Stage 3: in this stage, the size of the tumor is 5 cm and the cancer may develop to the lymph nodes.
- In stage 4, the cancer develops to other parts of the body including bones, liver, brain, or lungs.
As it is mentioned, the breast cancer causes are not clear, yet. So, it is difficult to prevent the causes of the cancer. However, some changes in the daily lifestyle may be useful to avoid the breast cancer. Some of the important tips include:
- Following a healthy diet;
- Maintaining a healthy weight;
- Doing exercise;
- Avoiding alcohol consumption;
- Receiving the least exposure to radiation;
- Breastfeeding your baby.