Breast cancer is one of the most frequently seen cancer types among women, accounting for more than one in 10 newly diagnosed cancer cases each year. It is the 2nd highest cancer-related cause of mortality for women worldwide. Although men can also develop breast cancer, women’s conditions account for most cases. Breast cancer can develop at any age, but it is most frequently discovered in people who are above the age of 50 years.
What is breast cancer?
When cells start to multiply abnormally, cancer develops. Cells in the breast mutate (change in form or nature) and start to divide and multiply, which leads to breast cancer. Breast pain, cysts in breasts, nipple colour modifications, and changes in the surface of the breast skin are possibly the first symptoms that people with breast cancer normally observe.
Breast tumours, which are not cancerous, are unusual growths that do not extend to the breast’s exterior. While most benign lumps in breasts are not life-threatening, some can raise a woman’s risk of contracting breast cancer. A medical practitioner should examine all lumps in breasts to determine whether it is malignant (cancer) and whether it may increase the patient’s chance of getting breast cancer in the future.
Breast cancer is referred to as an early-stage condition when it is restricted to the breast and adjacent lymph node areas. Doctors refer to breast cancer as metastasised condition when it expands to a location further from its original site in the body. When breast cancer has spread to more than one location, the term ‘metastasis’ or ‘metastases’ is used to describe the condition. Stage IV breast cancer is another term for ‘metastatic breast cancer’ in which cancer has already developed outside the breast as well as adjacent lymph nodes at the time of the initial detection of the breast tumour.
If cancer first develops in the breast tissue, it will be identified as breast cancer regardless of where it has spread. For instance, clinicians refer to breast cancer that has spread to the lungs as ‘metastatic breast cancer’ rather than ‘lung cancer’. This is because breast cells are where cancer began.
Types of breast cancer
Ductal carcinoma in situ, also known as Stage 0 breast cancer, is regarded as being precancerous since the cells have not yet moved past the milk ducts. To stop the disease from becoming severe and migrating to other organs, immediate treatment is required.
Infiltrating (invasive) ductal carcinoma begins in the milk ducts of the breast, penetrates the duct membrane, and then, progresses to the nearby breast tissue. It is the most frequent kind of breast cancer, accounting for around 80% of all breast cancers.
The breast’s lobules, in which breast milk is produced, are the origin of infiltrating (invasive) lobular carcinoma, which migrates to nearby breast tissues. This carcinoma is responsible for 10%–15% of all breast cancer types.
Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), which accounts for 15% of all breast cancers, is among the hardest breast cancers to cure. Because it lacks 3 of the characteristics linked to other kinds of breast cancer, it is known as triple-negative cancer. This makes diagnosis and therapy challenging.
Lobular carcinoma in situ is a pre-malignant condition when the breast lobules have cancerous cells. Although it’s not actual cancer, this sign may point to a risk of breast cancer subsequently. Therefore, it’s crucial for women having ‘lobular carcinoma in situ’ to get mammography and clinical breast cancer screenings done.
Inflammatory breast cancer is uncommon and severe, and it may be infectious. Redness, inflammation, and dimpling of the breast skin (skin shows a texture similar to an orange peel) are some typical symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer. It is caused by disruptive cancer cells inside the lymphatic vessels under the skin.
In Paget’s disease of the breast, the skin on the nipple as well as the areola (skin around the nipple) is damaged.
Phyllodes tumour is a type of breast cancer that arises in the connective tissue of the breast and is relatively uncommon. Even though most of these tumours are non-cancerous, just a small percentage of them can be cancerous.
Angiosarcoma is a particular form of breast cancer grows on the lymphatic or blood vessels.
What is meant by inherited breast cancer?
Approximately 5%–10% of breast tumours are estimated to result from hereditary gene mutations, which are inherited for generations. The chance of contracting breast cancer can be increased by several inherited defective genes. Both the BRCA1 as well as BRCA2 genes significantly raise the likelihood of getting breast cancer. If you have a family record of breast cancer, your doctor may suggest a lab test to help identify specific BRCA abnormalities or even other genes that have been passed on from one generation to next in your family. Consider asking your physician for a referral to a medical professional who can review your family’s medical records.
Stages of breast cancer
The stages of cancer explain how much cancer is present throughout the body. It is influenced by several factors, including the tumour’s volume, position, and spread extent in the breasts as well as if breast cancer has progressed to other regions of the body.
The fundamental stages of breast cancer are:
Stage 0 – The breast ducts remain the only location where the cancer cells may be found; surrounding tissue is not affected.
Stage 1 – The surrounding breast tissue become infected with cancerous cells.
Stage 2 – In this stage, the tumour either possesses a dimension of fewer than 2 centimetres and has progressed towards the lymph nodes underneath the arms, or the tumour has a dimension of more than 5 centimetres but hasn’t progressed to the lymph nodes underneath the arms. Tumours range in dimension from 2–5 cm at this stage and might or might not have an effect on the surrounding lymph nodes.
Stage 3 – In this stage, cancer has spread outside its primary site. Although it might have progressed to the nearby lymph nodes as well as tissue, it cannot yet have invaded different parts of the body. Locally advanced breast cancer is the common term for stage III breast cancer.
Stage 4 – Liver, lungs, bones, or brain are some examples of the distant parts of the body where cancer has progressed from the breast in this stage.
Risk factors of breast cancer
As the growth of malignant cells in the breast multiplies and spreads, breast cancer arises. Yet, breast cancer specialists are unsure of the specific trigger, which sets off this mechanism.
Breast cancer specialists report that there are a variety of factors that could raise the probability of having breast cancer. These factors include the following:
Genetics and family history – You have a greater possibility of getting breast cancer at a certain stage in your life if your siblings, parents, offspring, or other family members are diagnosed with breast cancer. Genetic tests may indicate that 5%–10% of breast cancers result from one defective gene that is transmitted through generations.
Sex – Breast cancer is considerably more common in women than in men.
Age – While breast cancer can affect anyone at any age, it is more commonly found in those over 50 years of age.
Alcohol usage – Alcohol consumption could increase your risk of contracting breast cancer.
Smoking – Breast cancer is one of the many cancers that tobacco usage has been related to.
Overweight – Being overweight can raise your risk of contracting breast cancer.
Hormone replacement therapy – Breast cancer risk is higher for women who use oestrogen- and progesterone-containing hormone treatment drugs to address menopausal signs and symptoms that for women who don’t use these drugs. When women quit using these drugs, their risk of contracting breast cancer lowers.
Radiation exposure – Your chance of getting breast cancer is higher if you have had radiation therapy to the chest when you were a child or teenager.
Symptoms of breast cancer
Each individual’s breast cancer symptoms will be unique. There are various early symptoms of breast cancer, including:
- Variation in your breast’s shape and size
- Lumps and cysts in breasts
- Mass or swelling within your breast or armpit that can last the entire menstrual cycle
- Change in the appearance of the breast skin
- Skin getting red on your breasts or nipples
- Firmness in the region underneath your breast skin
- Blood-coloured discharge from the nipple
- Breast pain
Diagnosis of breast cancer
In addition to carrying out a breast examination, your doctor will also ask you about your family background, health information, and any present concerns. Your doctor will also suggest tests to detect problems in the breasts. The breast cancer specialist might do a breast tissue examination if they find out anything abnormal in the diagnostic procedures. It will be delivered to a department of pathology for further analysis.
Some of the tests performed for diagnosis of breast cancer are:
PET Scans – To highlight problematic spots during a PET scan, specific dyes are used. Your doctor performs this test by injecting a specific dye through your veins while the scanner captures photos.
Mammogram – Your breast irregularities or cancerous growths can be identified with these specialised X-ray images. Mammograms are routinely utilised as breast cancer screening tools.
MRI – This examination provides crystal-clear, highly detailed pictures of the inside of breast tissues by using magnetic as well as radio waves.
Ultrasonography – Throughout this test, sound waves are used to examine insides of the breast tissues. It makes the detection of breast abnormalities or cysts in breasts easy.
Role of radiation therapy, hormone therapy, and chemotherapy in breast cancer treatment
Radiation therapy – To eradicate (kill) any residual cancer cells, radiation therapy is frequently administered to breast cancer patient. In addition, it can be utilised to treat specific metastatic cancers that are irritating or causing other issues.
Hormone therapy – Certain cancer types use hormones like oestrogen and progesterone to promote their growth. In certain circumstances, hormone therapy can lower oestrogen levels or stop oestrogen from binding to breast cells. Medical experts most typically utilise hormonal treatment following surgery to reduce the likelihood of getting breast cancer.
They might utilise it to kill cancerous cells before surgery or to cure breast cancer, which has progressed to other places in the patient’s body.
Chemotherapy – Before performing surgery, your doctor may suggest chemotherapy as an option for breast cancer for minimising the tumour’s size. It’s occasionally given following the surgery to destroy any cancer cells that may still be present and decrease the likelihood of breast cancer coming back. Your healthcare practitioner can prefer chemotherapy as the initial treatment of cancer if it has progressed from your breast to any other places of the body.
Survival rates of a person is diagnosed with breast cancer
Based on numerous variables, the survival rates for breast cancer vary greatly. The kind of cancer that you have as well as the stage of the disease when you get a diagnosis are two of the most crucial variables. Your gender, race, age, and the rate at which the disease is growing are additional variables. Thankfully, as doctors understand more about the illness and create innovative and improved therapeutic strategies, the life expectancy for breast cancer patients is rising.
Remember that survival rates are simply statistics. They cannot influence treatment outcomes or be used to calculate your life expectancy. Speak with your healthcare practitioner if you have particular inquiries about the survival rates for breast cancer.
Breast care measures required to reduce the risk of breast cancer
Leading a healthy life, getting frequent tests, and taking any preventative actions your doctor advises can reduce your likelihood of contracting breast cancer. Your breast cancer risk may be affected by life choices. For example, being overweight increases the risk of breast cancer in a person. You might be able to lose weight and minimise your risk by maintaining a protein-rich diet and working out frequently. Routine mammograms might not be effective in avoiding breast cancer, but they can decrease the probability of the condition going unnoticed.
Your chance of getting breast cancer may be elevated because of genetic factors. If you’re in danger of this condition, discuss preventative treatments and diagnostic possibilities with your physician. Furthermore, if you are diagnosed with breast cancer, consult your physician to learn about any possible precautionary steps you may take to lessen your risk.
How does breast cancer start?
Certain breast cells start to develop uncontrollably, which leads to breast cancer. These cells keep on multiplying and dividing more quickly than healthy cells, producing a bulk or lump. To reach the lymph nodes and other regions of your body, cells can expand (metastasize) through the breast.
How fast can breast cancer spread?
Like other cells, cancer cells in breast tissue multiply by dividing into new cells (cellular division). A visible tumour possibly develops inside the body for 2 to 5 years as it takes 1 to 2 months for each division to occur.
Compared to stages 1 or 2, stage 3 breast cancer is highly likely to spread quickly. Stage 4 breast cancer spreads the quickest since it has already progressed outside the breast tissue.
What are the steps involved in breast care to avoid breast cancer?
By employing the methods listed below, you may lower your risk of getting breast cancer
• Maintain an appropriate weight
• Be active and fit
• Prefer not drinking alcohol or consume it only a few times
• Talk to your physician about the complications of birth control pills if you are currently using them or have been advised to do so
• Speak to your doctor about further risk-reducing measures when you have a breast cancer family history or inherited abnormalities in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes
Can breast cancer be cured?
Breast cancer is a complicated illness. There are numerous forms of breast cancer, each with a unique origin and course of therapy. Before it progresses to other body parts, breast cancer is generally curable in its initial stages. Metastatic breast cancer (MBC) is difficult to treat as it has progressed to other parts of the body.