Breast cancer refers to a malignant tumourous condition arising in the breast tissue. The breasts are a pair of organs positioned in the front of the chest, comprising the mammary glands. These glands form an intricate mesh of branched ducts, which are attached to sac-like tissues called lobules. The breasts are generally well-developed in adolescent and adult women and can produce milk upon pregnancy and lactation.
Naturally, breast cancer occurs mainly in adult women and affects them right from their 30s until their 60s. However, in rare cases, breast cancer affects teenagers, particularly when the onset of their menstrual cycle occurs at an early age such as 9 years. Also Read: Early Breast Cancer In Teens: Symptoms & Treatment
The main factors triggering instances of breast cancer in women are genetic aberrations, hormonal imbalances and environmental factors.
At the onset of breast cancer, some cells in the breast tissue begin to proliferate abnormally and multiply at a faster rate when compared to healthy breast cells. These become cancerous and then metastasize or spread to other organs such as lungs and lymph nodes.
The primary risk factors associated with developing breast cancer are being an adult woman above the age of 40, having a family history of the disease, exposure to radiations, being obese and consuming excessive alcohol. It is advised that women over the age of 30 regularly scan their breasts after consulting with a medical professional, to look for the presence of unusual lumps and not be misled due to any myths associated with breast cancer. Also Read: World Breast Cancer Month: Debunking 5 Common Breast Cancer Myths
Depending on the exact location and nature of the tumour, breast cancer is of different types such as angiosarcoma, ductal carcinoma in situ and invasive lobular carcinoma. Once affected by the disease, it is recommended to seek prompt medical treatment, as breast cancer is usually of an invasive nature and spreads to other organs very rapidly.
- A swelling or hardened lump in one or both the breasts
- Enlarged breasts developing suddenly
- Inverted nipples
- Redness and rashes on the skin over the breasts
- Any change in structure and size of breasts occurring in an unexplained manner
Diagnosis And Treatment:
Diagnosing breast cancer is done by a cancer specialist, also known as an oncologist, by detailed medical procedures such as the following:
1. Breast Exam
The medical professional will physically examine both the breasts as well as the lymph nodes, to check for the presence of any abnormalities.
Mammogram refers to obtaining an X-ray of the breasts, which helps to screen for breast cancer.
3. Breast Ultrasound
Employing sound waves to detect if a lump in the breast is a hardened clump or a fluid-filled cysts is termed as a breast ultrasound.
4. Breast Tissue Biopsy
The doctor will extract a tissue sample of the breasts and examine it under a microscope to assess the exact nature of the abnormal growth, whether it is a benign fibroid or a malignant tumour. This diagnostic method is the most accurate way of confirming an instance of breast cancer in the patient.
Treatment depends on the exact stage of breast cancer in the affected individual as well as to what extent the cancer has spread within the body. Accordingly either only the cancerous tissue in the breast (lumpectomy) or the entire breast (mastectomy) will be surgically removed.
Furthermore, radiation therapy using powerful X-rays and protons are directed at the affected breasts and chemotherapy using potent prescription drugs is advised to eliminate the rapidly proliferating tumour cells.
In addition, the healthcare provider will also administer hormone therapy or immunotherapy to treat breast cancers that are extremely sensitive to hormones and do not respond effectively to radiation.
Finally, palliative care to alleviate any pain and discomfort is absolutely essential, to help the affected women recover from the effects of radiation and to prevent any chances of recurrence of breast cancer.