Cancer of the breast tissue is known as breast cancer. This is the commonest type of cancer that affects women, with nearly 25% of the cancers in women turning out to be breast cancer. Usually, a lump in the breasts provides the very first indication of a possibility of breast cancer. Often, women don’t even notice these lumps until they undergo a routine breast examination or gynecologist check-up in NYC. Hence, it is important to self-examine your breasts at least once every month to pick any such changes early on.
Stages of Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is categorised into stages 0-4, depending on the progression of the disease. Stage 0 is the beginning or the pre-cancerous stage, where abnormal cells may be found in the milk ducts or lobules of the breasts. At this stage a woman may not have any lumps or symptoms apart from the abnormal cells that are likely to be detected during a routine mammography. Stages 1 to 3 consist of cancer in the breasts and its lymph nodes alone, whereas stage 4 is when the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
Risk Factors and Causes of Breast Cancer
- A family history of cancer or genetics is the commonest cause of breast cancer. Approximately 10% or more of the cancer cases have a genetic linkage (Read also: Ovarian Cancer).
- Smoking could possibly increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer by 33-50%.
- Alcohol consumption and obesity may also increase the risk of cancer.
- Also, women with fibrocystic changes in their breasts have a higher chance of developing this cancer in the long run.
Symptoms of Breast Cancer
- Breast lumps are by far the commonest symptoms of breast cancer. However, sometimes lumps may also be felt in the armpits due to lymph node enlargement. In fact, 80% of the women with breast cancer first notice a lump in their breasts before any other symptom. Such lumps appear and feel nothing like the normal breast tissue. They are usually hard without a border and immovable. Sometimes a mere thickening over the breast surface may also indicate cancer.
- There may also be a disparity in the sizes or position of the two breasts, with one seeming bigger or lower than the other.
- The nipple of the affected breast may pucker, dimple, or invert. Sometimes the affected nipple may also change shape or position, or even develop a rash. Abnormal breast discharge from the nipple is also a common cancer indication.
- Pain or heaviness in the breasts may also indicate breast cancer; however it isn’t very common and may also occur due to reasons other than cancer.
- Metastatic breast cancers may produce additional symptoms like fever, weight loss, jaundice, or symptoms related to the affected organs.
How to Treat and Diagnose Breast Cancer
A mammogram and FNAC are useful screening tools for breast cancer. However, a final or confirmed diagnosis is usually done with a microscopic study of the breast tissue obtained through a biopsy.
Breast cancer treatment regimens depend on the stage of the cancer and age of the patient amongst other things. A majority of breast cancers are advised surgery. Some women may also require chemotherapy and/or radiation post-surgery. Depending on the stage and spread of the cancerous tissue, a mastectomy, quadrantectomy, or lumpectomy may be performed. While mastectomy involves removal of the entire breast tissue, quadrantectomy involves the removal of just a quarter of the breast and a lumpectomy involves the removal of the breast lump and adjoining tissue alone. Some breast cancers that are receptive to hormones may be treated with hormone blocking therapy.