A Complete Guide to Breast Cancer

30 Aug

Breast cancer is a disease that takes a toll on both the body and mind. Cancer occurs when certain changes called the mutations to take place in the genes that control the growth of cells. These mutations enable the cells to divide and multiply rapidly. Breast cancer develops in breast cells and usually, the cancer forms in either lobules or the ducts of the breast. Lobules are the glands that produce milk, and the ducts are the pathways that bring milk from glands to the nipple. Cancer can also occur in fatty tissues or the fibrous connective tissue inside your breast.

The rapidly growing cancer cells often reach other healthy breast tissues and can even spread to the lymph nodes under the arms. And the lymph nodes serve as a primary pathway that helps cancer cells move to other parts of the body. But fortunately, there is a solution to everything but the timing of treatment through therapy, surgery, and breast cancer drugs is very important.

Symptoms of Breast Cancer

In the early stages of breast cancer, you might not experience any symptoms. However, in many cases, a tumor might be too small to be felt, but can still be witnessed on a mammogram. If the tumor can be felt, the very first sign is typically a new lump in the breast. However, not all lumps are cancer.

Each type of breast cancer comes with a variety of symptoms and many of these symptoms are similar, some being quite different. Some of the common symptoms include:

  • A breast lump or thickening of tissues that feel different than the surrounding tissues and has developed recently
  • Pain in breast
  • Red, pitted skin of the entire breast
  • Swelling in your breast
  • Inverted nipple
  • Swelling or a lump under your arm
  • Blood discharge from your nipple

· Sudden change in shape and size of the breast

However, experiencing such symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean that you have breast cancer. As an example, breast pain or a lump in the breast can be caused due to a benign cyst. But if you are experiencing any other symptoms as well, you should instantly see a doctor for further testing and examination.

What are the different types of Breast Cancer?

There are various types of breast cancer, but there are two main categories: ‘invasive’ and ‘non-invasive’. Invasive cancer means that cancer has spread from breast ducts to other breast parts and non-invasive cancer is cancer that has not spread from the original tissue.

These two categories of breast cancer are used to describe the most common types of breast cancer including:

Ductal Carcinoma in situ

It is a non-invasive condition and with DCIS, the cancer cells are restricted to the ducts in your breast and haven’t spread to the surrounding breast tissues.

Lobular Carcinoma In Situ

Lobular carcinoma in situ is cancer that grows in the milk-producing glands of your breast.

Invasive Ductal Carcinoma

Invasive lobular carcinoma first develops in your breast’s lobules and has invaded the adjacent tissues.

The cancer type determines the treatment options and the likely long-term outcome.

Stages of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is divided into different stages depending on the size of the tumor and how much it has actually spread. Cancers that are large and have spread to the nearby tissues are at a higher stage than cancers that are small in the breast. Therefore, in order to stage breast cancer, doctors should know about:

  • Whether the cancer is invasive or non-invasive
  • The size of the tumor
  • Whether or not the lymph nodes are involved
  • If cancer has spread to the nearby tissues or organs.

Breast cancer comprises of 5 main stages from 0 to 5-

  • Stage 0

Stage 0 is DCIS. Cancer cells in DCIS remain confined to the ducts in the breast and haven’t spread into the nearby tissues.

  • Stage 1
  1. Stage 1A- The primary tumor is 2 centimeters wide or less and the lymph nodes are not affected.
  2. Stage 1B- In this stage, cancer is found in the nearby lymph nodes, and either there is no tumor in the breast or the tumor is smaller than 2 cm.
  • Stage 2
  1. Stage 2A - The tumor is smaller than 2 cm and has even spread to 1-3 nearby lymph nodes. Or, the tumor has not spread to any lymph nodes but the size is between 2-5 cm.
  2. Stage 2B - The tumor size ranges between 2 and 5 cm and has spread to 1-3 axillary lymph nodes. Or, the tumor is larger than 5 cm and has not spread to any other lymph nodes.
  • Stage 3
  1. Stage 3A- Tumors are greater than 5 cm in size and cancer has spread to 1-3 axillary lymph nodes.
  2. Stage 3B - A tumor has invaded the chest skin and may or may not have reached up to 9 lymph nodes.
  3. Stage 3C - In this stage, cancer is found in 10 or more axillary lymph nodes, lymph node near the collar bone, or even the internal mammary nodes.
  • Stage 4

In this stage, breast cancer can have tumor of any size and its cancer cells have invaded the nearby and distant lymph nodes together with some distant organs.

The testing that your doctor does determines the stage of your breast cancer, which will affect the type of approach required for the treatment. Therapies accompanied by breast cancer drugs come with considerable side effects that take a toll on the patient's mental and physical health. Moreover, surgeries like mastectomy, lumpectomy might be used to remove breast cancer. Today, breast cancer awareness efforts have helped people learn about the risk factors involved, how can it be reduced, what symptoms to look for, and the kind of screening they should undergo.

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