Breast cancer (a.k.a: Breast Carcinoma) has become the predominant illness in women living in urban areas. Current research says that young women of the age group 30 to 40 years are most likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer. Being a female is the biggest risk factor for breast cancer. Early detection of cancer can reduce complications and improve survival rate.
What is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer arises in the cells of the breast. Breast cancer can be invasive or noninvasive. In noninvasive type, cancer is only confined to the milk ducts or lobules whereas in the invasive type, cancer grows beyond the ducts and lobules. Common noninvasive cancers are ductus carcinoma in situ and lobular carcinoma in situ. These cancers are also categorized under stage 0 during diagnosis.
What Causes Breast Cancer?
Hormonal changes or environmental factors may cause genetic mutations in the tumor suppressor genes. BRCA1 and BRCA2 are the tumor suppressor genes of breast cancer. When one of these genes is mutated, cells grow abnormally leading to formation of mass. This ultimately results in breast cancer.
What are the Symptoms of Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer symptoms can be identified by proper self- breast examination. Symptoms of breast cancer include:
- Lump in the breast
- Inverted, flat, or retracted nipple
- Change in color of nipple
- Rashes, redness, or swelling on breast
- Change in size or shape of breast
- Nipple discharge
- Ulceration, dimpling, or nodules on breast
- Persistent itching
What are the Risk Factors for Breast Cancer?
There are certain factors which increases the susceptibility of a woman to develop breast cancer. The common risk factors of breast cancer are as follows:
- Family history of breast cancer
- Age > 50 years
- Early menstruation and late menopause
- Lack of physical activity
- Dense breast tissue
- Chronic use of oral contraceptives
- Hormonal replacement therapy post menopause
- Women who cannot conceive or no pregnancy
- Consumption of alcohol
- Use of tobacco
Working women have 70% more risk than stay at home women. The factors that may contribute to this higher risk are:
- Late pregnancy (after 30 years)
- Not breastfeeding
- Stress at work
- Exposure to air pollution
- Sleep deprivation
What are the Complications of Breast Cancer?
As any type of cancer, breast cancer also is associated with complications occurring in the breasts or the adjacent tissues. The complications of breast cancer are as follows:
- Swelling and breakdown of skin
- Mastitis (inflammation of the breasts)
- Invasion of lymphatic channels
- Metastasis to other organs such as brain, lungs, bone, and liver
- Bone complications such as osteoporosis and fractures
- Anxiety or depression
How is Breast Cancer Diagnosed?
The healthcare provider initially performs a breast examination. The breasts are observed for any change in the color, size, tenderness, and presence of lumps.
Imaging tests such as mammogram (X-ray of the breast) is performed. This test helps to detect deeper lumps that are not palpable.
Breast examination and mammography are the two common screening methods for breast cancer.
Biopsy helps to confirm the diagnosis as breast cancer. A small sample of cells is obtained from the affected site with the help of a needle (needle biopsy). Lump excisional biopsy can also be performed in few cases. In this procedure, entire lump is removed along with some surrounding tissue.
Staging of Breast Cancer:
- Stage 1: The cancer confined to breast and tumor size is upto 2 cm
- Stage 2: The cancer spread to nearby lymph nodes and tumor size is 2 to 4 cm
- Stage 3: The cancer started spreading to nearby tissues and tumor size is > 5 cm
- Stage 4: The cancer spread to distant organs through metastasis
What is the Treatment for Breast Cancer?
Treatment of breast cancer depends on patient’s age, overall health, and stage of the cancer. Treatment options for breast cancer are:
Surgery: Surgery involves excision of tumor. It can be of three types:
- Complete removal of tumor (lumpectomy)
- Removal of entire tumor along with lymph nodes and some surrounding blood vessels
- Removal of entire breast (mastectomy)
Radiation Therapy: High energy X-rays are used to kill or destroy the cancer cells by targeting the affected site.
- Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) – intensity of the rays changes in certain parts of the tumor; helps to minimize damage of normal tissue
- Intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT) – a large dose of radiation is given targeting the cancer protecting other parts of the breast with shields
Systemic Therapy: Medications are given that fight against cancer cells present throughout the body.
- Chemotherapy – Cyclophosphamide and doxorubicin are the commonly used chemotherapeutic agents. These agents interrupt with the growth of cancer cells.
- Hormone Therapy – Estrogen hormone is required for some cancer cells to grow. Medications are given to block the hormone production.
- Targeted Therapy – Chemotherapeutic agents can also kill normal cells whereas in targeted therapy, only the cancerous cells are destroyed. They may block the energy needed for cancer cells to grow, block formation of new blood vessels by cancer cells, or block the cell division.
What are the Home Remedies for Speedy Recovery from Breast Cancer?
Following some measuresat home along with the conventional treatment helps in speedy recovery. Some of the home remedies are as follows
- Foods such as garlic, turmeric, green tea, broccoli, legumes, and flax seeds have anticancerous properties.
- Consumption of grapes reduces the production of estrogens, thereby treating breast cancer.
- Use organic food and beauty products.
- Yoga and meditation also helps in speedy recovery.
- Take vitamin D and iron supplements.
Not all home remedies are safe for every patient. Therefore, it is essential to consult a healthcare before choosing these remedies.
What are the Measures which help in Breast Cancer Prevention?
Breast cancer can be prevented by following certain measures in the day-to-day life. The list mentioned below highlights the preventive measures that can be adapted to avoid breast cancer. This includes:
- Maintaining normal weight
- Exercising regularly
- Consuming healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables
- Doing self-examination of breasts every month
- Undergoing routine screening tests for cancer
- Reducing stress
- Limiting alcohol consumption
- Limiting exposure to electronics
1.Does Breast Cancer Occur in Males?
Yes, breast cancer can also occur in males. Men also have breast tissue, but this will not grow and develop like women. However, it is very less common in men.
2.Can Breast Cancer Come Back?
Breast cancer may reoccur after few months or years in some patients. This is called recurrence.