what is breast cancer ?

Date posted:  08-11-2021

The breast is a tissue overlying on the chest. Breast cancer is a malignant tumour that has formed in the cells of the breast. There are different types of breast cancer depending on which type of cell in the breast turns into cancer.

A woman's breasts are different from that of a man's because they are made of special tissue that produces milk as well as fatty tissues. Both can have breast cancer but women have a seemingly larger percentage that gets affected by breast cancer.

A breast is made up of three main parts:- lobules, ducts and connective tissue. 

Lobules:- They are the glands that produce milk.

Ducts:- Are tube-like structures that carry milk to the nipple.

Connective tissues:- These are the fatty and fibrous tissues that hold everything together.

Types of breast cancer

There are two common types of breast cancer:- 

Invasive ductal carcinoma:-When cancer cells develop in the ducts and form cancer, it is known to be infectious or invasive as it breaks out in the milk ducts of the breast and spreads. Because these cancer cells can spread through the lymph nodes and possibly to other areas of the body. It is the most common type of breast cancer.   

Invasive lobular carcinoma:- When the cancer cells appear in the lobules or the milk-producing glands of the breast. When the cancer cells have broken out in the lobules, there is a chance of them spreading through the lymph nodes. Only a small portion of breast cancer is invasive lobular carcinoma. 

What are the symptoms of breast cancer? 

Breast cancer symptoms may be different for different people. Most individuals, don't even notice any symptoms or signs at all:-  

  1. Lumps, near the breast or in the armpits:- A lump that doesn't go away, is often the first symptom of breast cancer.  
  2. Fluids other than milk, like blood:- If any sort of fluid other than milk comes out of your nipple, it can even be blood or a clear discharge.  
  3. Changes in the nipple:- If the nipple feels sore, burns, itches and is dimpled. This may be a symptom of breast cancer.  
  4. Swelling of the breast or sudden changes in size: if it is a sudden change in size, contour or temperature and texture. Dimples or skin changes in the breast.  
  5. Pain inside the nipple or surrounding the nipple:- If there is a pain in the nipple or its surrounding area. 
  6. Inverted nipple:- If suddenly, one or both nipples become inverted, it could be a sign of breast cancer. 

How is breast cancer diagnosed?

When a woman is sent for a breast examination it doesn't mean that she has breast cancer. It is mostly just to clarify the doctor’s diagnosis. Some people are experts in diagnosing breast cancer-related issues, that will guide you with the procedures:-  

  • MRI on breast:- Magnetic Resonance Imaging, a machine that uses sound waves to make images is used to check the breast for lumps. 
  • Diagnostic Mammogram:- Diagnostic Mammogram is a well-detailed X-ray of the breast. It helps in diagnosing if there are any tumours in the breast. 
  • Breast ultrasound:- Ultrasound is also seen as a good way to diagnose breast cancer in the fatty tissues of the breast or the surrounding area. 
  • Biopsy:- It is a procedure where a sample of the tissue will be taken off the patient's body. Mostly done to identify the nature of the tumour or mass found inside the patient's body. Biopsies are most commonly used to confirm the diagnosis of cancer. 

Breast self-examination 

Breast self-examination is a self-screening method that one can do by oneself. It can help create awareness or help you understand how your breast looks and feels under normal circumstances. Breast self Examination might cause one to get over-anxious about even small changes. Some might even overestimate self-breast examination, seeing it as the holy grail to detect breast cancer. Self-examination of your breast is not a reliable way to detect breast cancer. 

You can prepare yourself for the self-examination of your breast by asking your doctor for a demonstration . A normal breast examination can be done in two steps :- 

  • Step 1  

A visual examination of your breast 

You can do a visual examination of your breast by sitting or standing in front of the mirror without a brasserie  to  visually inspect your breast .  Once you're familiar with your breasts . Inspect for any changes like dimpling , puckering, sudden changes in size , shape or symmetry.

Inspect your breast while you place your hands on your hip and while raising your hands .You should also take a look at the ridges , by lifting up your breast to see if they are symmetrical or not .

  • Step 2 

A hands on examination of your breast 

The most common way to perform a manual examination of your breast is while lying down or in the shower. It is better to do it in  shower as the lather from the soap will guide your finger , smoothly through your breast .  You can start the physical examination of your breast by pressing the finger pad’s of your  three middle fingers . Your goal is to feel all the  tissue inside your breast and check for any lumps or abnormalities . Take your time and don't rush in the process of examination. You can examine your breast in an anticlockwise or clockwise method , so that each tissue  is examined  perfectly .  

What are the causes of breast cancer?

Some of the relevant causes of breast cancer that cannot be changed are:- 

  • Gender:- Women are more prone to having breast cancer than men. 
  • Previous history of breast cancer:- If you're someone who has a history of having breast cancer, it can happen again. 
  • Age:- women between the age of 40 and 50 are prone to having breast cancer more than women of any other age. 
  • Family History:- if someone in your family like your mother, or grandmother who is a direct relative has had breast cancer. The chances of you getting breast cancer are also high. 
  • Dense breasts:- women with dense breasts are more likely to develop breast cancer than women with less dense breasts. 

Reproductive history:- Some women who had their firstborn after the age of 30 had a higher chance of having or developing breast cancer than a woman who had her kids in her late 20s. 

How to prevent breast cancer?

These are the influential reasons for being a cause of breast cancer that one has control over:

  • Weight:- Not having control over one's weight. Women who are overweight and are more susceptible to breast cancer than average women. Having more tissue can boost your chances of getting breast cancer by increasing estrogen levels in your body.
  • Drinking alcohol:- Drinking alcohol is also one of the most influential reasons as it can increase levels of estrogen and hormones related to hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer. Women who have more than three alcoholic drinks per week have a 15% higher risk of breast cancer. 
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) long term:- HRT is a therapy used by women going through menopause to avoid hot flashes, dizziness or other symptoms associated with it. There is a chance of getting breast cancer with its long term use.
  • Breastfeeding:- Women who have breastfed their kids for more than a year lower their chances of having breast cancer. As the mammary glands are busy making milk, it limits amounts of misbehaviour. Most women avoid drinking alcohol and eat a nutritious diet during their lactation period.

Treatment of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer can be treated in several ways. The treatment depends on the type of cancer and how far it has spread :-

  1. Surgery:-  The doctor can do an operation , where he or she removes the cancer tissue by a surgery .
  2. Chemotherapy:- Treating the person who suffers from cancer by using special medical pills , or by directly injecting the medicine in their veins.  These medicines usually help  by shrinking or killing the cancer cells. 
  3. Hormonal therapy :- Hormonal therapy blocks the hormones that let the cancer cells grow.
  4. Biological therapy:- It's a treatment with fewer side effects, in which the body’s own immune system is induced to kill the cancer cells growing in one's body. 
  5. Radiation therapy:- Radiation therapy uses high energy Radiation , that is  similar to X-rays  to kill the cancer cells. 

The symptoms of breast cancer vary from lumps big and small to small changes in your skin. These changes may not be cancer but may also significantly less gratifying symptoms such as an infection or a cyst inside your breast. If you're over the age of 40 or 50, it is advised to incorporate a compulsory mammogram in your annual health care checkups. The earlier breast cancer is found and diagnosed, the better the chances of healing it.