Breast cancer affects one in eight women during their lives. No one knows why some women get breast cancer, but there are many risk factors. Risks that you cannot change include
- Age – the risk rises as you get older
- Genes – two genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, greatly increase the risk. Women who have family members with breast or ovarian cancer may wish to be tested for the genes.
- Personal factors – beginning periods before age 12 or going through menopause after age 55.
Other risks include obesity, using hormone replacement therapy (also called menopausal hormone therapy), taking birth control pills, drinking alcohol, not having children or having your first child after age 35, and having dense breasts.
Breast self-exams and mammography can help find breast cancer early, when it is most treatable. One possible treatment is surgery. It could be a lumpectomy or a mastectomy. Other treatments include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and targeted therapy. Targeted therapy uses substances that attack cancer cells without harming normal cells.
Men can have breast cancer, too, but it is rare.
Types of breast cancer
There are several different types of breast cancer. The two most common types are ductal breast cancer (to do with the milk ducts) and lobular breast cancer (to do with the milk lobules). Each of these breast cancers can be either “in situ” (in the same place) or “invasive” (has spread to normal tissue).
#.In situ carcinoma
These are pre-cancers and are the earliest stage of breast cancer; they can either develop into invasive breast cancer or raise the risk of developing invasive cancer. Caught and treated early, they are often completely curable.
#.Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)
This is where the breast cancer cells are completely contained within the milk ducts and have not spread into the surrounding breast tissue. DCIS is usually treated with surgery (mastectomy) or combined surgery (partial mastectomy) and radiotherapy.
#.Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS)
This is where the breast cancer cells are completely contained within the milk lobules and have not spread into the surrounding breast tissue. Often LCIS does not need treatment. Instead, regular breast exams and mammograms may be used to monitor for the early changes of developing breast cancer.
This is where the ductal or lobular cancer spreads into the surrounding tissues. Approximately 90% of invasive breast cancers are ductal cancers.
Other less common breast cancers include inflammatory breast cancer and medullary breast cancer.
Signs of Breast Cancer
Nearly 250,000 women are estimated to be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. It’s important to pay attention to any breast changes, and see your doctor if you notice any of the following possible breast cancer symptoms.
#.Your nipples look scaly
If the skin of your nipple is suddenly dry, flaky, and scaly-looking, and spreads outward toward the areola and breast, this may be a sign of breast cancer. “A lot of people just have dry skin that goes away, but if you notice the scaling and it doesn’t disappear, that’s concerning,”. These are other secrets your breasts wish they could tell you.
#.Your breast turns red
Redness of the skin usually indicates some sort of infection, but when the affected area of the breast isn’t tender or hot to the touch and continues to expand instead of disappearing, that’s a red flag. The redness may fluctuate from a light pink to a fiery red, but it will not look splotchy like a rash and it won’t hurt to touch it.
#.A swollen lymph node under your arm
Some people notice a lump in the armpit area but don’t feel any lump on the breast, so they don’t think it’s cancer. Unfortunately, it could still be breast cancer. A non-cancer lymph node that swells will feel tender to touch. A cancerous node is generally painless, firmer to the touch, and doesn’t move around as much when you press on it.
#.Bloody nipple discharge
Spontaneous bloody discharge, meaning you don’t have to squeeze the nipple to make it come out, is never normal. You’ll usually just see it appear on your nightshirt or bra, and that’s definitely suspicious that it could be cancer. The discharge also generally appears from only one breast. Any other discharge that appears when you squeeze either nipple is probably nothing to worry about, or stems from something that’s not cancer. These are other signs of cancer women tend to overlook.
#.Dimpling of the breast skin
If your breasts develop dimples, you should see your doctor. Doctor’s suggest doing the following exam to check for dimples: Raise your left arm above your head. This causes the pectoral muscle to stretch. If you look down and see dimples appear, it’s possibly a sign of trouble. You have little fibers that connect up to the skin of the breast, and if you have cancer in there, it can pull in on those ligaments and cause dimpling.
#.Your nipple retracts
If you were born with inverted nipples, in which they point inward instead of out, don’t fret. But if your nipples have always faced outward and you start to notice them retracting in (and not popping back out), that can be cause for concern. A good rule of thumb: any change in nipple appearance, bring it to your doctor’s attention.
Breast Cancer Causes and Risk Factors
There is no single answer for what causes breast cancer. However, a variety of risk factors are associated with the disease.
While some breast cancer risk factors involve lifestyle choices and environmental circumstances, which are often considered to be controllable, others are based on a person’s genetic makeup and cannot be managed or altered.
Breast Cancer Diagnosis
The earlier breast cancer is detected and diagnosed, the better your chances are of fighting it. Whether it’s a lump you never felt before or visible changes in your skin, breast cancer symptoms can vary from person to person.
Your normal health care routine should include a weekly breast self-exam. If you notice any changes, you should schedule a doctor’s appointment immediately. Women over 40 and those with an increased risk of the disease are advised to have annual mammograms and physical exams.
If you’re experiencing breast cancer symptoms or the results of a screening test prove concerning, your doctor may run diagnostic tests, such as a biopsy, breast ultrasound, breast MRIs, or other breast imaging tests. Each test provides deeper insight into whether breast cancer is present and can help guide decisions on breast cancer treatment.
If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, your doctor will use tests including bone scans, CT scans, MRIs, Ultrasounds, and PET scans to monitor your condition both during and after treatment. These tests will assess whether the therapies are working, whether the cancer has spread beyond the breast, and if there is a recurrence.
Because there are standard ways to detect breast cancer, a failure to diagnose the disease could be grounds for a legal action against a doctor who otherwise should have caught it. If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer and have never received a screening or diagnostic test, you may want to learn more about your legal rights.
Studies show that a low-fat diet rich in a variety of fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of breast cancer. For those women who have already had breast cancer, a similar diet may help to prevent a recurrence in the future.