Breast Cancer: Causes, Symptoms & Treatments
Cancer is one of the most widely known and common diseases worldwide. The diseases that cause the most deaths in the world include cancer; it disrupts your body’s regular function due to the rapidly growing cells which may cause tumours. It can also affect and spread to other organs and tissues in your body.
Cancer which forms in the cells of the breasts (the cells develop mutations and begin to divide and multiply) is known as breast cancer. People might first notice a lump in the breast, texture changes, discolouration or other symptoms. Breast cancer can occur in both women and men, but it is far more common in women.
The stage of your breast cancer, the extent of its invasion (if any), and the size of the tumour all have a significant impact on the type of treatment you will require. You may then talk with a doctor about your treatment choices after that.
Table of Contents
What is Breast Cancer?
Mutations in the genes that control cell development are what lead to cancer. Cells can proliferate and divide in an uncontrolled manner because of the mutations.
Breast cancer is a kind of cancer that starts in breast tissue. Usually, the cancer forms in either the ducts or the lobules of the breast.
The milk-producing lobules and the ducts that carry it to the nipple are two different types of glands. Additionally, cancer can develop in your breast’s fatty tissue or fibrous connective tissue.
Unchecked cancer cells can travel to the lymph nodes under the arms and commonly invade nearby healthy breast tissue. The lymph nodes provide cancer with a pathway to other parts of the body.
What are the Symptoms of Breast Cancer?
In its early stages, breast cancer might not cause any symptoms. In many cases, a tumour might be too small to be felt, but an abnormality can still be seen on a mammogram.
If a tumour can be felt, the first sign is typically a new lump in the breast that was not there before. However, not all lumps are cancer.
There are several symptoms that each form of breast cancer might produce. While many of these symptoms are comparable, others might differ. The most typical breast cancer symptoms are as follows:
- a swelling or lump under your arm
- alterations in the breast skin’s appearance
- inverted nipple
- a sudden, unexplained change in the size or shape of your breast
- flaking, scaling or peeling of skin on your breast or nipple
- bloody discharge from your nipple
- a nipple discharge other than breast milk
- swelling in a part or all of your breasts
- Discoloured or red, pitted skin on the breast
- breast pain
- a breast tissue or lump thickening that feels different from surrounding tissue and is new
If you have any of these symptoms, it does not necessarily mean you have breast cancer. For instance, a benign cyst may be the reason behind a breast soreness or a lump.
Still, if you find a lump in your breast or have other symptoms, contact your doctor for further testing and examination.
You Can Also Read: Breast Cancer – Myths vs Facts
What are the Causes or Risk Factors of Breast Cancer?
Various risk factors increase your chances of getting breast cancer. However, having any of these does not mean you will develop the disease.
Some risk factors can not be avoided, like family history. You can change other risk factors, like smoking. Risk factors for breast cancer include:
Previous Breast Cancer
If you have had breast cancer in 1 breast, you have an increased risk of developing breast cancer in your other breast or a different area of the previously affected breast.
Never having been Pregnant
People who have never carried a pregnancy to full term or become pregnant are more likely to develop breast cancer.
Late Menopause Start
People who start menopause after they are 55 years old are more likely to develop breast cancer.
You run a higher chance of getting breast cancer if you have a close female relative who has. This includes your daughter, sister, grandmother or mother. If you do not have a family history of breast cancer, you can still develop breast cancer. The majority of those who contract it don’t have any relatives who have the condition.
People who are taking or took postmenopausal progesterone and oestrogen medications to help reduce their signs of menopause symptoms have a higher risk of breast cancer.
Giving Birth at an Older age
Breast cancer risk is higher in people who have their first child after age 35.
You have a higher chance of developing breast cancer if you start your periods before becoming 12 years old.
People who have the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations are more likely to develop breast cancer than people who do not. Other gene mutations might also affect your risk.
Having Dense Breast Tissue
Mammograms are challenging to read when breast tissue is dense. It also raises your chance of developing breast cancer.
An alcohol use problem increases your risk.
As you become older, your chance of getting breast cancer rises. Women over the age of 55 are most commonly diagnosed with invasive breast cancer.
You Can Also Read: 5 Common Cancers Affecting Women
What is the Treatment for Breast Cancer?
The stage of your breast cancer, the extent of its invasion (if any), and the size of the tumour all have a significant impact on the type of therapy you will require.
To start, your doctor will determine your cancer’s grade, stage and size. The grade of your cancer indicates how probable it is to advance and spread. You may then talk about your therapy choices after that.
Surgery is the most often used treatment for breast cancer. Many people have additional treatments, like hormone therapy, radiation, targeted therapy or chemotherapy.
Various types of surgery might be used to remove breast cancer, including:
- Contralateral prophylactic mastectomy – Even though breast cancer might be present in only 1 breast, some people elect to have a contralateral prophylactic mastectomy. Your healthy breast is removed during this procedure to reduce your chance of getting breast cancer again.
- Axillary lymph node dissection – If lymph nodes removed during a sentinel node biopsy contain cancer cells, your doctor might remove additional lymph nodes.
- Sentinel node biopsy – A couple of the lymph nodes that get drainage from the tumours are removed during this procedure. These lymph nodes will be tested. If they do not have cancer, you might not need additional surgery to remove more lymph nodes.
- Mastectomy – A surgeon removes a whole breast during this operation. The removal of both breasts occurs during a double mastectomy.
- Lumpectomy – The remaining breast tissue is unaffected by this treatment, which eliminates the tumour and some surrounding tissue.
High-powered beams of radiation are used to target and kill cancer cells in radiation therapy. Most radiation treatments use external beam radiation, in which a large machine is used on the outside of the body.
A treatment called brachytherapy enables doctors to irradiate cancer from inside the body. The surgeons place radioactive pellets or seeds inside the body near the tumour site. The seeds stay there for a while and start to get rid of cancer cells.
A medication therapy called chemotherapy is used to kill cancer cells. It is often used along with other treatments, especially surgery.
Some individuals will need further treatments like radiation or chemotherapy after their surgery. This is called adjuvant therapy. Others may get neoadjuvant treatment, or chemotherapy, to shrink the malignancy before surgery.
Before beginning chemotherapy, talk to your doctor about any concerns you may have as there are several undesirable side effects.
Your doctor might start you on hormone therapy if your type of breast cancer is sensitive to hormones. Progesterone and Oestrogen, 2 female hormones, can stimulate the growth of breast cancer tumours.
Hormone therapy works by blocking your body’s production of these hormones or by blocking the hormone receptors on the cancer cells. By taking this measure, you may be able to reduce or even halt the spread of your cancer.
Any specific therapy they suggest for you will be further explained by your doctor.
Breast cancer develops in the breast cells and is more common in women. People may see some symptoms like discolouration, texture changes and lump in the breast; the treatment is ascertained by the cancer’s size, stage and grade. It is always advisable to seek medical help from an experienced oncologist. Timely care and help can ensure an appropriate diagnosis and treatment of your condition.
At the CK Birla Hospital, we ensure patients get holistic medical support which includes treatment in a compassionate environment. This patient-centric approach not only helps patients heal better but also ensures they are aware of the preventive measures as well. In case you need to consult an oncologist, reach out to us, or book a direct appointment with Dr. Rohan Khandelwal at the CK Birla Hospital.
What are the First Symptoms of Breast Cancer?
For most people, a lump in their breast or some thickening is the initial sign of breast cancer. There may also be a change in the shape, size or feel of your breast.
Is Breast Cancer Serious or Not?
Breast cancer frequently begins as a tiny, unnoticeable lump. As it develops, it has the potential to spread outside of the breast or to other body regions. This causes serious health problems and can result in death.
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