Breast Cancer - Causes, Symptoms & Treatment
Breast cancer is regarded as advanced cancer since it produces a high mortality rate, but the truth is that most Indian women express a no serious attitude towards the early warning signs and are unaware of the screening tests.
How Is Breast Cancer Developed?
Breast cancer develops as a result of abnormal cell division of cells present in breasts. The cells grow rapidly out of control when compared to the healthy cells leading to the formation of a lump or a tumor. The gene mutation is the chief factor that induces this accelerated cell division of breast cells.
Breast cancer can affect one or both breasts. The mutation can affect any type of cells present in the breasts and breast cancer can be classified based on the origin and location.
While breast cancer can originally evolve from varied parts of the breast. It can either develop from the milk-producing glands or in the ducts that connect with the nipple. In some cases, cancer can begin from the fatty tissues that are present in the breasts.
Breast Cancer Causes
The various breast cancer causes are:
- Chronic Intake of birth control pills and Hormonal Replacement Therapy: Long-term consumption of contraceptive pills during the menstruating phase and Hormonal replacement therapy in the post-menopausal phase fuels the risk of breast cancer in women.
- High Body Mass index: In general, women tend to gain weight post-menopause. The reason behind is that due to the decline in levels of estrogen in the body there is a decline in the metabolism rate. Due to this factor, there is a spike in insulin level which is also a causative factor for breast cancer.
- Sedentary Lifestyle: women having an inert lifestyle are either overweight or obese which causes a lot of reproductive hormone disruption and raises the inflammation in the body which acts as the aggravating factor in the development of breast cancer.
- Reproductive History: women who have had their first full-term pregnancy later in their 30’s or women who have not got pregnant during their menstruation phase are slightly at a high risk of developing breast cancer
- Breastfeeding: studies have put forward the fact that breastfeeding your baby for a minimum of 6 months to 1 year can decline the chances of developing a breast cancer
- History of radiation therapy: Women who have had any lung diseases and got exposed to radiation therapy to the chest region are at greater risk of getting breast cancer.
- Menstrual History: women with premature menarche (<12 years) and late menopause (> 55 years) can have an increased risk of breast cancer in their lifetime.
- Genetics and family history: it has been proclaimed that BRCA 1 and 2 gene mutations account for breast cancers as they run through the families. If you have a Family History of breast cancer or ovarian cancer you are at a high risk of developing breast cancer.
- Age: The risk of breast cancer tends to increase in older women and most breast cancer cases are found in women older than 55years of age.
- Lifestyle factors: women who are consuming alcohol have a strong association with hormone-positive breast cancer because alcohol can elevate estrogen levels.
What Are The Various Breast Cancer Symptoms?
- Formation of lumps in the armpits
- Dimpling of breasts
- Abnormal discharge from the nipple
- Inflammation or redness present around the nipple
- Pain in breast regions
- Peeling of skin around the nipple
- Changes in the appearance of the nipple
- Change in shape or size of the breasts
Types of Breast Cancer
There are various types of breast cancer that are classified based on the origin of the tumor, growth and nature of the tumor. Determining the type of breast cancer can help your oncologist determine the suitable treatment option since cancer therapy is highly personalized.
In general, breast cancer is categorized broadly into two types:
- Invasive breast cancer
- Non-invasive breast cancer
A. Invasive Breast Cancer
This is a type of cancer where the cancerous cells have invaded the surrounding breast tissues. Based on the origin the invasive breast cancer can occur in either of two types:
- Invasive ductal carcinoma: it is the most commonly occurring breast cancer that accounts for about 80% of breast cancer cases. The invasive ductal carcinoma is evolved in the milk ducts that connect the lactating lobules to the nipple.
- Invasive lobular carcinoma: this type of breast cancer has its roots in the milk-producing glands that are present in the breasts.
Based on the genes and hormones involved breast cancer is further classified into:
- HR negative and HER2 positive breast cancer
- HR-positive and HER2 negative breast cancer
Researchers and oncologists state that identifying the types of gene mutation involved in the development of breast cancer helps in crafting a cancer therapy specific to that type of breast cancer. By doing this, the survival rate of breast cancer can also be improved.
B. Non-invasive Breast Cancer
- Ductal carcinoma in situ: the cancer has originated in the milk ducts but has not spread beyond that, but it is labelled as a preliminary stage of invasive breast cancer.
- Lobular carcinoma in situ: the type of breast cancer where the cancer has not got extended beyond the milk secreting glands, it is mostly a benign form of breast cancer.
What Are Breast Cancer Treatments Available?
Breast cancer can be treated with the multidisciplinary treatment options that include the following:
- Surgery: the most commonly performed surgeries in breast cancer are lumpectomy and mastectomy which cause the removal of either partial or full breasts. Besides this breast reconstructive surgery shall also be performed to reshape the breasts.
- Radiation therapy: This therapy involves the use of high-energy X- rays to attack breast cancer cells. In general, the rays are generated from the machine externally and patients subjected to external beam radiation therapy might have to attend the sessions for several days. The radiation therapy for breast cancer shall be given partially after the breast cancer surgery or by placing the radioactive substance at the site.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is the mainstay therapy for breast cancer that is administered via intravenously or orally. Chemo medicines promote systemic effect and prevent cancer progression. Commonly used chemo drugs for breast cancer are docetaxel, paclitaxel.
- Targeted drug therapy: Targeted drug therapy drugs include trastuzumab, Palbociclib, ribociclib etc that produces precision effects such as preventing the development of blood vessels within the tumors.
- Hormonal therapy: for treating breast cancer that test positive for female reproductive hormone estrogen and progesterone, medications such as tamoxifen, letrozole , etc shall be given in combination with other breast cancer therapies to prevent the risk of recurrence.
Although breast cancer is the leading cancer related to death, with the advancements in cancer medicine, it is now treatable even at advanced stages. However, it is suggested to you to undergo regular screening if you realize that you are at greater risk of breast cancer and spot the minor abnormalities in breast instantly to start off the suitable treatment.
This Breast cancer awareness month 2022, spread the word among your kith and kin about the importance of watching out the signs and symptoms of breast cancer to get it detected and treated early.
“Let your faith be bigger than your fear”