Breast cancer comes with symptoms, has specific treatments and a few preventive risk factors and explorable causes. Cancer is not a joke for both men and women alike. symptoms like breast pain may or may not be cancer
1 in 8 women will develop cancer in their lifetime. Cancer is dangerous in what ever form it comes or what ever name it goes by.
However, many times, they go undetected in their very inception or early stages until it becomes a little obvious.
While cancer affects both genders, talking of breast cancer the first thing that comes to mind is women.
This is totally not so. Breast cancer affects a little percentage of men in rare cases.
Since women are the major sufferers of breast cancer, we will focus on just that.
Breast cancers are of different kinds and spread at different rates. Some very quickly and some very slowly.
N/B ; Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in women after lung cancer.
Breast cancer is the second most diagnosed form of cancer in women after skin cancer.
Breast cancer just like any other form of cancer involves the growth of unusual cells in the body which becomes a foreign body or threat to the part of the body they travel to.
Breast cancer begins in your milk glands or the ducts to the nipples. From this stage cancer can travel through other parts.
In this stage it can spread to your lymph nodes, blood stream or other organs.
When cancer grows, it may invade your breast tissues, chest wall or skin.
N/B; About two thirds of women with breast cancer are 55 years old or older. That isn’t to say it doesn’t happen to women in their thirties and other age groups.
What are the symptoms of cancer?
Reading through this post for symptoms of breast cancer will go a long way because cancer can best be treated when spotted early.
Late detection and diagnosis could mean complications in treatments as cancer can become difficult to control once it begins to spread..
- – The very initial symptom of breast cancer is a mass or lump in thr breast or armpit.
- -Rash on or around nipple
- -Pitting or redness of breast skin
- -Sunken or inverted nipple
- -Pain in the breast or armpit that lasts through your period.
- -Change in shape or size of the breast or curve.
- -Peeling, inflamed, scaling or flaking of the skin on the breast or nipple.
- -A hard marble sized spot under the skin
- -Clear or bloody nipple discharge
- -Area around breast looking different from other areas.
N/B; Not all breast lumps are cancerous.
Visit a doctor once you notice lump on your breast.
Causes of breast cancer
A woman’s breast consists of fats, connective tissues and a thousand of lobules which are tiny tubes or ducts that carry milk towards the nipple after production of milk from the glands.
Breast cancer starts in the inner lining of milk ducts or lobules that supply them milk then spread to other parts of the body.
Cancer causes uncontrollable multiplication of cells.
These excessive cell growth causes cancer that uses nutrients and energy depriving other cells of it.
Risk factors of Breast cancer
Just like every other sickness or disease in the body there are factors which pose as risk or likelihood of breast cancer.
Just like other heredity cases most people inherit cancer genes linked to gene mutations from their parents.
These genes have a higher chance of developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer or even both.
Women who carry genetic mutations in BRCA1, BRCA2, Tp53, PTEN, ATM, STK11 and PARB2 genes have a higher risk (7 in 10) chances of developing cancer.
If just one person has had or has breast cancer, there is an increased likelihood of developing cancer.
Those with a family history of fallopian tube or peritoneal cancer are at risk too
N/B ; About 1 woman in 200 have one of these genes mentioned above
Beginning from 20 years till you continue to advance in age and increases at age 70
Women who took this drug to prevent miscarriage have an increased risk of breast cancer
-Dense breast tissue
A more dense breast tissue in women puts them at an increased risk or likelihood of breast cancer.
– Body weight
Obesity after menopause causes increased estrogen levels which puts women at an increased risk
Estrogen levels are higher when people start period early and enter menopause late. This puts a woman at risk due to high estrogen levels.
When you undergo radiation treatment for another cancer type you increase your risk.
-History of breast cancer or lump
Women who have had non cancerous breast lumps are at increased risk.
People who have had breast cancer recently are also at an increased risk.
Drinking moderate or heavy amount of alcohol puts you at a greater risk as a woman
Hormone replacement therapy( HRT) like estrogen, progesterone therapy(EPT) comes with an increased risk.
Oral contraceptives also put women at an increased risk.
African American women are more likely at risk before menopause than white women.
Different type of breast cancers
-Invasive breast cancer
This occurs when cancer cells break out from inside the lobules or ducts and invade nearby tissues leading to spread of cancer to other body parts.
*Invasive or infiltrating ductal carcinoma( IDC)
In these case cancer begins in the milk ducts and breaks through the walls of the ducts, invading fatty tissues of the breast.
This accounts for 80% of invasive cancers and is the most common form.
*Invasive lobular carcinoma(ILC)
In this case cancer begins in the lobules and spreads to other parts of the body including the surrounding tissues and makes up 10% of invasive breast cancers.
Sub types of invasive breast cancers.
-Adenoid cystic or adenocystic carcinoma.
This are similar to cells found in saliva and salivary glands.
-Low grade adenosquamous carcinoma( A type of metaplastic carcinoma) This type of tumor is mistaken for other typrs of cancer and grows slowly.
This type of tumours are rare, squishy mass that is soft and looks like medulla of the brain.
– Mucinous carcinorma
This tumor is a rare type, floating in a slippery, slimy stuff that makes up mucus called mucin
-Inflammatory breast cancer
When the cells of the lymph vessels are inflamed these rare type occurs.
-Paget disease of the nipple
This type affects the areola
-Pyllodes tumors of the breast
This type is rare and grows quickly but rarely spreads outside the breast.
It grows in a leaf like pattern.
-Metastatic breast cancer
When cancer spreads to body parts like the brain, bones and lungs it is metastatic.
This ones are rare and affects women in menopause with fingerlike projections.-Tubular carcinoma; This are tube shaped, slow growing tumors
Insitu or non invasive cancers
This is when cancers remains in it’s place of origin and hasn’t spread past the duct or lobule.
There is still a probability of this type of cancer progressing to an invasive cancer.
*Ductal carcinoma insitu( DUS)
This is the earliest stage of ductal carcinoma.
In this case, the disease is still in the milk ducts and can become invasive if it is not treated at stage zero.
*Lobular carcinoma insitu(LCIs)
This type is found only in the breast milk producing lobules.
This isn’t considered cancer but there is a likelihood of it progressing to cancer in the future.
Regular mammograms and breast exams can help.
Breast cancer risk that can be controlled
- – Breast feed longer to lower risk
- -Too much weight gain after menopause increases risk
- -Sedentary or inactive lifestyle increases risk.
- -Drinking excessively increases risk
- – Be careful of the hormone therapies you use
- -Get screened every 2 years for age 40 and above.
Breast cancer stages
- – Stage 0 non invasive or early stage breast cancer
Cancer in this stage has not spread.
- -Stage 1 breast cancer
Cancer that is 2 centimetre or less
- -Stage IIa breast cancer tumor
Less than 2 centimetre cancer with lymph node involvement.
- -Stage IIb breast cancer
Tumor larger than 5 centimetre that spread to the lymph nodes under the arm or near the breast bone.
It can also be tumor with cancerous lymph node that stick to one another.
- -Stage IIIb breast cancer
Tumor that spread to the skin or chest wall.
- -Stage IIIc breast cancer
Tumor that spreads farther and involves more lymph nodes.
- -Stage IV metastatic breast cancer
Tumor that spreads to bones, lungs, liver, brain and lymph nodes.
Breast cancer diagnosis
It begins from detecting a lump then a detection by mammogram by a doctor
It could be followed by breast exams and questions bothering on family history.
The following could be used for breast cancer diagnosis
Used to detect lumps in a clear picture
Gives clearer picture of breast through sound waves.
-Magnetic resonance imaging( MRI)
In this type, body scan creates detailed images of the breast from the insides through a magnet linked to a computer.
Body or tissue fluids are removed from the body and used under a microscope to check availability and type of cancer cell.
Common Biopsy procedures are
-Image guided biopsy
Using imaging to guide the needle
Removal of nearby breast tissue with entire lump by a surgeon
-Fine needle aspiration
This is for lump filled with fluids.
-Lymph node biopsy
A part of the lymph node is removed to see if cancer has spread.
-Core needle biopsy
A piece of tissue is removed by a bigger needle.
Biopsy samples can be tested by
This lets the doctor differentiate the cells and know if cancer cells are growing faster.
The doctor measures the margins of the tumor and distance from the edge of the biopsy tissue.
This test looks for the gene human epidermal growth factor receptor2.
Targeted therapy could be a treatment for those who are HER2 cancer positive.
-Estrogen receptors(ER and progesterone receptors)(PR)
This type helps the doctor determine if the hormones, estrogen and progesterone makes your cancer grow so as to determine appropriate treatments.
This evaluates 16 cancer related genes to determine risk of cancer coming back within 10 years if diagnosis.
This test predicts if cancer will spread through information from 50 genes.
-Breast cancer index
This test determines if you need endocrine therapy
Uses information from 70 genes to predict risk of cancer returning.
Types of blood tests for blood cancer includes
This is to determine if you have active herpatitis B or infection so as to get medication to fight it before undergoing chemotherapy so as to damage the liver and cause the hepatitis virus to grow.
This tests determines how well your liver and kidneys work
-Complete blood count( CBC) This measures number of white and red blood cells in the blood to determine if your bone marrow is functional.
Breast cancer outlook
Many factors determine your breast cancer outlook including the cancer stage you were diagnosed.
Black women ability to survive is
9% more than white women.
For women who have cancer in the breast only, many percentage of them live at least 5 years after diagnosis and those whose cancer has spread to other tissues 91% Live at least 5 more years
84% live at least 10 more years.
For men with breast cancer, 84% survive at least 5 more years.
96% live at least 5 more years if the tumors are only in the breast.
If 83% of the cancer has spread to the nearby lymph nodes and 22% if it spreads farther in the man’s body.
Survival rate of women whose cancer has spread to lymph nodes is 80% for 5 years survival rate and 27% 5 years survival rate of women whose cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
Management for those at high risk
To lower your odds of developing breast cancer
- -Get surgery to remove breast or ovaries
- – Make more frequent doctor visits and regular screening tests
- -Go for regular genetic testing to observe a change in genes that raise cancer risk.
- -Drugs like aromatase inhibitors, raloxifene and tamoxifen can be useful.
Breast cancer treatments
Breast cancer treatments aim to get rid of cancer and reduce chances of spreading outside the breast while lowering odds of its return.
When treating cancer, the size and location of cancer cells, stage of disease and lab test results matter.
-Surgery(Breast conserving surgery)
Size and tumor matters on how much breast part carrying cancer they remove.
Similar names are
Quadrantectomy, partial mastectomy, lumpectomy, segmental mastectomy.
- – Surgery to remove lymph nodes
This involves removal of lymph nodes from the arm to see if cancer has spread to them.
-Sentinel lymph node biopsy
Here, the doctor removes one or few lymph nodes where cancer is likely to spread to.
-Axillary lymph node dissection
This involves more nodes though fewer than 20.
Removal of entire breast or breast tissue and nearby tissue.
Types of mastectomy
- *Simple or total mastectomy
Removal of entire breast
- *Modified radical mastectomy
Removal of entire breast and lymph nodes.
- *Radical mastectomy
Removal of entire breast and lymph nodes under arm, collar bone, chest wall, muscles and chest
- *Partial mastectomy
Removal of cancerous breast tissue and nearby tissue.
- *Nipple sparing mastectomy
Removal of entire breast tissue but leaving the nipple alone.
- *Contralateral prophylactic mastectomy
Removal of the two breast when there is a likelihood of cancer on one breast to spread to the other breast.
This type of surgery depends on how much the cancer has spread to lymph nodes of the body.
*External beam radiation
There are different types of this one
*hypofractionated radiation therapy
In these one you get larger doses using fewer treatments of 3 weeks.
* Intraoperative radiation therapy
This involves single, large dose of radiation after breast conservation surgery.
*3D conformal radiotherapy
This involves treatments of twice a day for 5 days.
-Internal radiation( Brachytherapy)
There are different types.
* Interstial brachytherapy
Small hollow tubes are inserted into the breast around the area where cancer is found.
* Intracavity bracytherapy
On this one, a device is put inside your breast. The other end sticks outside the breast to put radiation sources.
Systemic cancer treatments
This types are used to destroy or control cancer cells all over the body.
Here, drugs or pills get injected into a vein.
This treatment could be given before or after surgery and can be used as a major treatment for advanced breast cancer.
The medications administered in this therapy to stop hormones from attaching to cancer cells so as to stop their growth.
Aromatase inhibitors are
- *Anastrozole(Arimidex and Exemestane (aromasin)
- *Tamoxifen(Nolvadex, siltamox, tamoxen)
Drugs targeted to make cells grow out of control are
- *Talazoparib( Talzenna)
- *Trastuzumab emtansine(Kadycla)
Medications like atezklizumab(Tecentriq) helps your immune system fight cancer.
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