Breast cancer can severely impact a person’s quality of life. People are not aware of the causes of breast cancer and may believe myths or misinformation floating around, such as breast pressing causes breast cancer, which is not true. You can learn more about the disease and its risk factors here. This way you can assess the risk of developing breast cancer yourself, which will prompt you to visit the doctor regularly to check for any signs of the disease. Diagnosing breast cancer early on is extremely important in treating the disease and increasing the patient’s chances of survival.
Symptoms of breast cancer
Breast cancer symptoms may vary from person to person; some common symptoms are listed here:
- Changes in the breast size or shape
- A lump in the breast or underarm area (can be as small as a pea and as hard as a marble)
- Change in the appearance or texture of your nipples or the skin on your breasts
- Unusual or bloody discharge from the nipples
- Redness of the breast skin and/or nipples
Any evident symptoms usually don’t show up until the disease has progressed further, which makes it extremely important to go for regular check-ups. This is especially true for people who have a risk of developing breast cancer.
Diagnosing breast cancer
You should visit a breast cancer hospital on noticing any abnormalities in or around your breasts. It is possible that you are having symptoms, such as breast pain, due to a cyst in the breast that could be benign (non-cancerous). However, a breast cancer specialist can determine the nature of this cyst in your breast and may recommend a breast cancer surgery to remove it.
One or a combination of the following tests can be used to find out any breast tumours and diagnose breast cancer:
- A physical examination to find any lumps in and around the breast area
- A mammogram to take special X-rays of your breasts to detect changes
- Ultrasonography to study the breast tissues
- Positron emission tomography (PET) scanning to highlight any suspicious areas
- A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to observe the breast area in detail
Based on the finding of these tests, your doctor will devise a breast cancer care plan and schedule a date for the essential breast cancer surgery.
How is breast cancer caused?
Breast cancer is caused due to the abnormal growth of breast cells that grow rapidly and accumulate to form lumps (breast tumours or cysts). These cancerous cells may metastasise (spread) to the lymph nodes or other parts of your body including lungs.
Generally, breast cancer begins in the milk-producing ducts in the breasts or in the lobules (glandular tissue) and may spread to other areas.
According to research, certain lifestyle, hormonal, and environmental factors are known to increase the risk of developing breast cancer. However, people who have breast cancer may not have any of the risk factors and high-risk individuals may never get cancer. The research so far indicates that a complex interaction of genes with your environment can be the cause of breast cancer.
There are few known gene mutations that can cause breast cancer, for example, breast cancer gene 1 (BRCA1) and breast cancer gene 2 (BRCA2). People who have inherited such mutated genes have a high likelihood of developing breast cancer. If your family has a strong history of cancer, including breast cancer, it might be helpful to consult a genetic counsellor. This can help identify specific gene mutations to determine breast cancer causes and prevent your future generations from having it.
Risk factors of breast cancer
Breast cancer is a severe illness that can escalate and become life-threatening if left unchecked. Although the exact causes of breast cancer are not clear, there are certain risk factors. Some factors can be controlled to reduce the likelihood of getting breast cancer, but others are not in your control. Please note that these risk factors do not ascertain that you will get breast cancer.
Modifiable risks of breast cancer
Here is a list of risk factors that you can control to reduce the chances of getting breast cancer:
Being overweight, especially after menopause, can lead to many health complications including breast cancer. You can lose weight to reduce the risks
People who consume alcohol (2 or 3 drinks) on a regular basis have about 20% higher risk of getting breast cancer; thus, drinking alcohol in moderation is advised.
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
People who are on this treatment take oestrogen and progesterone for long periods of time, which increases the risk of developing breast cancer. After stopping this therapy for 5 years or more, the risk of developing cancer significantly drops.
- Sedentary lifestyle
People who are physically inactive and don’t indulge in regular exercise have a high chance of developing breast cancer among other health ailments.
- Reproductive history
If a woman has children after the age of 30, she may refrain from breastfeeding or should not have a full-term pregnancy, as the chances of getting breast cancer increase with age.
Non-modifiable risks of cancer
Here are some common risk factors that you can’t control:
- Being a women
Although men can get breast cancer too, women are 100 times more likely to get breast cancer.
- History of breast cancer
If you have had breast cancer previously in your life, such as invasive breast cancer or ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), you have a high likelihood of developing a new breast cancer.
Your chances of getting breast cancer increase as you age. Women who are more than 50-year old have a high chance of developing breast cancer.
- Family history of breast cancer or other cancers
You are at higher risk of getting breast cancer if your first-degree relative, such as your mother or sister, have breast cancer. One first-degree relative with breast cancer doubles your risk, and two first-degree relatives with breast cancer triple this risk.
- Genetic makeup
Research has shown that about 5%–10% of breast cancer cases are connected with inherited mutated genes—BRCA1 and BRCA2. Women who have BRCA1 have about 72% chances of getting breast cancer till they reach 80, and women with BRCA2 have about 69% chances.
- Dense breasts
Women who have less fat in their breasts and more glandular and fibrous tissue are 1.5–2 times more likely to develop breast cancer.
- Abnormal breast biopsy in the past
Women who have fibroadenomas with complex features, sclerosing adenosis, solitary papilloma, and hyperplasia without atypia according to biopsy results have a high chance of getting cancer.
- Reproductive history
Women who got their period before 12, started menopause after 55, and never became pregnant have a higher risk of getting breast cancer due to the increased amount of oestrogen in the body.
- Exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES)
This drug was used to prevent miscarriages between 1940 and 1971; so, if you or your mother took it, you have an increased chances of getting breast cancer.
Breast cancer can occur in both men and women regardless of gender and other factors. However, some risk factors (mentioned above) increase the likelihood of a person developing breast cancer. Early stages of breast cancer are most treatable, and you can be cancer-free in a few months or years. A breast cancer surgery is one of the most crucial parts of a breast cancer care plan as it removes the cancerous breast tumour. After determining the type of breast cancer and figuring out your risk factors, the breast cancer specialist will recommend additional treatment options to cure you if possible.
Can a bra cause breast cancer?
No, there are no relevant studies or any credible research that shows wearing a bra can cause breast cancer.
What are the main causes of breast cancer?
There are certain factors that significantly increase the risk of you getting breast cancer:
• Being a women
• Having BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes
• Exposure to radiation
• Excess oestrogen production
What causes breast cancer the most?
Mutated genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, are the most prominent factors that can lead to breast cancer. Doctors believe that a complex interaction between genes and other environmental factors causes breast cancer.
What causes breast cancer to spread faster?
In general, breast cancer spreads fast in people who are unaware of their condition or choose to ignore their breast cancer treatment plan. Additionally, the extra HER2 proteins on the cancerous cells make it difficult for treatment methods to work on them, except targeted drug therapy.
Does breast cancer cause pain?
Most types of breast cancer do not cause nipple or breast pain, but some might.