Breast Cancer Overview

Breast Cancer Overview

As per WHO, these are a few breast cancer facts/statistics of breast cancer:

Breast cancer is the topmost cause of death in women in the developed as well as the developing countries.

Over 508000 deaths in women are estimated due to breast cancer in 2011.

Breast Cancer Symptoms

Some of the common symptoms of breast cancer are:

  • Swelling in the breast
  • Skin irritation
  • Skin dimpling
  • Breast pain
  • Nipple pain
  • Retracted nipple
  • Redness
  • Scaling of the nipple or breast skin
  • Thickening
  • Discharge from the nipple

Causes of Breast Cancer

  • Women are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer
  • The risk of breast cancer steps up with increasing age
  • Personal history of breast cancer
  • Family history of breast cancer
  • Presence of inherited genes like BRCA1 and BRCA2 increase the risk of breast cancer.
  • Exposure to radiation
  • Obesity
  • Early menarche: early start of the menstrual cycle before the age of 12 increases the risk of breast cancer
  • Menopause at an older age means that one is more likely to develop breast cancer
  • Late pregnancy (after the age of 30) puts one in an increased risk
  • Taking post-menopausal hormone therapy for treating the menopause increases the risk of breast cancer
  • Alcohol consumption

Breast Cancer Stages

The TNM grading is used in the staging of cancer.

Basically the TNM grading system consists of three things:

T stands for tumour size

N stands for the number of lymph node involved

M stands for metastasis, which means if the cancer has spread beyond the breast tissue to other body parts

T TX Tumor cannot be measured or found
T0 In this stage the cancer is in situ (the tumor has not spread into the healthy breast tissue
T1, T2, T3, T4 The higher the T number, the larger the tumor and/or the more it may have grown into the breast tissue.
N NX Nearby lymph nodes can't be measured or found
N0 Nearby lymph nodes do not contain cancer
N1, N2, N3 The higher the N number, the greater is the extent of the lymph node involvement.
M MX Metastasis can't be measured or found
M0 No distant metastasis
M1 Presence of distant metastasis

The TNM grading can be used to determine the cancer stage. LetÂ’s take the example of T1-N0-M0 grade is means that the cancer is at the stage I: this means that the (primary) breast tumor is less than 2 cm N0 means there is no involvement of lymph nodes and M0 means that the tumour has not spread to distant parts of the body.

Diagnosis of Breast Cancer

Different tests are done for breast cancer diagnosis. Some of the important diagnostics are:

  • Breast examination:

    is done by the physician who physically examines both the breasts and lymph nodes in the armpit for any discoloration, lumps, abnormalities, etc.
  • Mammogram:

    A mammogram is nothing but an X-ray of the breast
  • Breast ultrasound:

    Ultrasound is used to determine if the breast lump is a solid or a fluid-filled cyst
  • Breast Biopsy:
  • Breast MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): is used for breast screening

Breast Cancer Treatment

The breast cancer can be treated by the following regimens:

  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Lumpectomy: This is a surgical removal of the breast lumps with the surrounding healthy tissue.
  • This is usually done in smaller tumours.
  • Mastectomy: is done to remove the all of the breast tissue which includes:
    • Lobules
    • Ducts
    • Fatty tissue
    • Some skin
    • Nipple
    • Areola
  • Sentinel Node Biopsy: This involves the removal of a limited number of the lymph nodes from the affected tumour area.
  • Axillary Lymph Node Dissection: This involves removal of the additional number of the lymph nodes from the affected tumour area.
  • Removal of both the breast: There are chances when both the breasts are removed. This usually is done in patients with an increased risk due to the genetic predisposition or even in cases of a family history.
  • Hormonal Therapy this is used for blocking the hormones, used typically in cases where the breast cancer is hormone sensitive.
  • Targeted therapy: is undertaken to treat specific cancer cells abnormalities.
  • Palliative care: focuses on relief from pain and other cancer symptoms or cancer treatment side-effects. It is aimed to improve the quality of life of the cancer patient and also their families.

How to Prevent Breast Cancer

Following are some easy prevention tips for breast cancer are:

  • Health Diet: decreases the risk of some types of cancer
  • Control the alcohol intake:
  • Quit smoking
  • Control your weight: One needs to control the excessive body weight or obesity for lowering the risk of breast cancer.
  • Stay physically active: makes you fit and maintains the healthy weight
  • Avoid exposure to radiation and environmental pollution