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Breast Cancer: Awareness, Risk Factors, and Early Detection

Among various cancers experienced worldwide, breast cancer stands as one of the most common ones. This disease occurs in both women and men, with women serving as the majority. As this abnormal disease can grow invasive, early detection is encouraged to prevent severe cases.

Ahead, we will learn more about breast cancer, including its types, symptoms, risk factors, preventions, and treatments. Read on!

What is Breast Cancer?

A woman in grey T-shirt wearing a pink ribbon to symbolize breast cancer awareness

 

A woman in a grey T-shirt wearing a pink ribbon to symbolize breast cancer awareness

Breast cancer is a condition that refers to an uncontrollable, abnormal growth of breast cells in the breast ducts or lobules that form tumours—a cancerous lump.

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer after lung cancer. WHO reveals that this common cancer in women has spread among women in 157 out of 185 countries in 2022. In addition, the deaths following this disease reached 670.000 in the same year. Surprisingly, they also found 0.5-1% of men with this disease.

The cancerous cell growth typically begins in the lobules (glands that produce milk) or the ducts (the pathways that transfer milk to the nipple). These cancers are known as lobular or ductal cancers, respectively.

While early detection can identify the initial stage, cancerous cells have the potential to metastasize and invade nearby lymph nodes or other organs, resulting in fatal consequences.

Kinds of Breast Cancer

A hand holding a pink ribbon to symbolize breast cancer awareness

 

A hand holding a pink ribbon to symbolize breast cancer awareness

There are two common types of breast cancer, including:

Invasive Ductal Carcinoma

This breast cancer type originates in the ducts and subsequently extends beyond them, infiltrating other areas of breast tissue. Additionally, these invasive cancer cells have the potential to metastasize, spreading to other parts of the body.

Invasive Lobular Carcinoma

In this form, cancer cells begin in the lobules and then disseminate to nearby breast tissues. Similar to invasive ductal carcinoma, these cancer cells can also spread to other body parts.

Other less common types of breast cancer are angiosarcoma, phyllodes tumour, Paget disease, triple-negative breast cancer, and inflammatory breast cancer.

What are the Symptoms of Breast Cancer?

A woman in a white T-shirt wearing a pink ribbon to symbolize breast cancer awareness

 

A woman in a white T-shirt wearing a pink ribbon to symbolize breast cancer awareness

Breast cancer symptoms vary, from breast thickening to armpit swelling. Here are some of the most common symptoms:

      • Lumps and Thickening: A lump or area of thickened tissue in one breast or underarm, which may be new or feel different from surrounding tissue.

      • Size and Shape Changes: A change in the size or shape of one or both breasts, often noticeable as asymmetry.

      • Nipple Alterations: Changes in the nipple’s appearance, including inversion, sores, crusting, redness, or discharge (possibly bloody).

      • Skin Modifications: Dimpling or irritation of the skin, resembling an orange peel, along with redness, rash, or flaky skin in and around the nipple or breast area.

      • Discomfort: Pain in any breast area not associated with the menstrual cycle, ongoing pain in one breast, or discomfort or swelling in one armpit.

      • Texture Changes: Peeling, scaling, crusting, or flaking of the breast skin or a nipple that appears flattened or turns inward.

      • Colour Variations: Changes in the colour of the breast skin, which may appear pink, red, darker than the surrounding skin, or purple, depending on skin tone.

    Causes of Breast Cancer

    A woman in a brown T-shirt wearing a pink ribbon to symbolize breast cancer awareness

     

    A woman in a brown T-shirt wearing a pink ribbon to symbolize breast cancer awareness

    While the main cause of breast cancer has not been discovered yet, researchers believe this disease is linked to some lifestyle factors, like minimal physical activities, excessive alcohol and cigarette consumption, and being overweight.

    While lifestyle plays a role, other factors increase the risk, including:

        • Being female

        • Family history of breast cancer

        • Increasing age

        • Inherited genetic mutations, especially BRCA1 and BRCA2

        • Radiation exposure

        • Female hormones

        • Reproductive history, as in the early start of the period before age 12 and late start of menopause after age 55

        • Previous breast cancer diagnosis

        • Previous history of non-cancerous breast diseases

        • Dense breast tissue

      Prevention 

      Two pair of hands holding a pink ribbon to symbolize breast cancer awareness

       

      Two pair of hands holding a pink ribbon to symbolize breast cancer awareness

      Shifting to a healthier lifestyle can lower breast cancer risk. On top of that, you can also do other prevention efforts, such as:

      Ask about Breast Cancer Screening

      Find information about breast cancer screening with your doctor or nearby healthcare professional, including the benefits, risks, and when to start getting yourself screened. By consulting a professional, you will be able to make a wise decision about whether to take the screening test.

      Maintain a Healthy Weight

      Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most important aspects of a healthy lifestyle. If you are overweight, consult a healthcare professional about healthy weight loss efforts.

      Limit Menopausal Hormone Therapy

      Research revealed the link between some specific combinations of menopausal hormone therapy and the increased risk of breast cancer, including:

          • Estradiol Valerate/Drospirenone

          • Estradiol Hemihydrate/Dydrogesterone

          • Estradiol Hemihydrate/Norethisterone Acetate

          • Estradiol Valerate/Cyproterone Acerate

        Thus, try to talk to your healthcare professional to limit the therapy.

        Lower or Stop Alcohol Consumption

        As you drink alcohol, the risk of this cancer is increasing. Thus, it’s recommended that you stop drinking it. However, if you choose to drink, limit your consumption to not more than one drink a day.

        Exercise Most Days of the Week

        Start slowly by exercising for 30 minutes (or less) on most days of the week. Once you know your own pace, you can increase your duration and frequency to be active.

        Treatment for Breast Cancer

        A woman in a cream T-shirt wearing a pink ribbon to symbolize breast cancer awareness

         

        A woman in a cream T-shirt wearing a pink ribbon to symbolize breast cancer awareness

        Different cancer severity requires different treatments. Thus, pre-assessment is vital to identify the cancer’s size and spread. Typically, this is assessed using a CT scan of the chest, liver, and bone.

        After the assessment, healthcare professionals can take further steps to decide the cancer treatment.

        Surgery

        Breast surgeries come in many options, such as mastectomy, lumpectomy, breast reconstruction, and lymph node removal.

        While lumpectomy is surgery to remove the cancerous part and some nearby tissue in the breast, mastectomy is done to remove the whole breast, sometimes followed by reconstruction.

        Some factors to consider before a certain surgery type is chosen include cancer size, location, spread, breast size, and general health.

        Chemotherapy

        Chemotherapy is an option to help reduce the size of the cancer before surgery, to lower the chance of it coming back, or if it reappears post-surgery. It’s also used for HER2-positive cancers or those not treatable with hormone therapy.

        Hormone Therapy

        Patients undergoing hormone therapy consume drugs to lower the female hormone level in their bodies. These drugs aid in slowing or stopping the growth of hormone receptor positive cancer cells. 

        There are many hormone therapy types to suit individual age, cancer type, and menopause status.

        Radiation Therapy (Radiotherapy)

        After breast-conserving surgery and mastectomy, it is recommended to get radiotherapy to help demolish undetected cancer and minimize the risk of returning cancer to the chest area. Similarly, it is also recommended after lymph node removal around the underarm area to prevent the risk of returning cancer.

        Frequently Asked Questions

        It varies. Some can even take up to 10 years before being diagnosed with breast cancer.

        Yes, an inflammatory breast cancer sometimes allows the breast cancer to show no lump, often undetected by a mammogram scan.

        This stage often feels like having a breast lump, nipple discharge, flattened or inverted nipple, skin dimpling, swelling, redness, and breast texture, size, and shape change.

        Conclusion

        Breast cancer is a common disease experienced by women globally. Living a healthy lifestyle and understanding its signs and symptoms are important for breast care and disease prevention. On top of that, relevant medical treatment options are available.

        If you want further assistance with this condition, contact Wells Road Medical Centre to get professional help!