The breast cancer usually forms in either the lobules or the ducts of the breast. Lobules are the milk producing glands while ducts are the pathways that bring the milk from the glands to the nipples. Cancer can also occur in the fibrous connective tissue or fatty tissue within the breast.
The uncontrolled cancer cells often invade other healthy breast tissue and can travel to the lymph nodes under the arms. The lymph nodes provide the primary pathway for cancer cells to move towards other parts of the body.
Breast cancer symptoms
In its early stages, breast cancer may not cause any symptoms. If a tumor can be felt, the first sign is usually a new lump in the breast that was not there before (Not all the lumps are cancer). In many cases, a tumor may be too small to be felt however, such abnormalities can still be seen on a mammogram.
Each type of breast cancer can cause a variety of symptoms. Symptoms of the most common breast cancers include:
- Breast pain
- Breast lump
- Recently developed tissue thickening (which feels different than surrounding tissue)
- A lump or swelling under your arm
- Swelling in all or a part of your breast
- Red, pitted skin over your entire breast
- Bloody discharge from your nipple
- Inverted nipple
- A nipple discharge other than breast milk
- Peeling, scaling, or flaking of skin on your nipple or breast
- A sudden, unexplained change in the shape/ size of your breast
- Changes to the appearance of the skin on your breasts
These symptoms don’t necessarily mean that you have breast cancer. For example, pain in your breast or a breast lump can be caused by a benign cyst. But in case you experience any of these changes, you should see a doctor for further testing and treatment.
Causes and risk factors
After puberty, a woman’s breast consists of fat, connective tissue, and thousands of lobules (milk producing glands) and ducts (for carrying milk to nipples). Cancer causes an uncontrollable multiplication of cells. They do not die at the usual point in their life cycle because of the mutation in their DNA. This excessive cell growth causes cancer because the tumor uses nutrients and energy and deprives the cells around it. There are various factors which increase the chances of DNA mutation, including
- Gender: Women are much more likely to develop breast cancer as compared to men.
- Age: Risk of breast cancer increases with age.
- Medical history:If you’ve had a breast biopsy that found lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) or atypical hyperplasia of the breast or if you are diagnosed with breast cancer in one breast, you have an increased risk of developing cancer in the other breast.
- Family history:If your close family members were ever diagnosed with breast cancer, particularly at a young age, you are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
- Inheritance: Certain gene mutations that increase the risk of breast cancer can be passed from parents to children.
- Alcohol intake: Drinking alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer.
- Radiations:If you received radiation treatments to your chest at a young age, your chances of developing a breast cancer are increased.
- Onset of menstruation: If your period began before age 12, you are at a higher risk of breast cancer.
- Menopause: If you began menopause at an older age, you’re more likely to develop breast cancer.
- Postmenopausal hormone therapy:Women who take hormone therapy medications for treating the symptoms of menopause have an increased risk of breast cancer.
- Late pregnancies:Women who give birth to their first child after age 30 may have an increased risk of breast cancer.
- Zero pregnancies: Women who have never been pregnant have a greater risk of breast cancer than do women who have had one or more pregnancies.
- Obesity:Being overweight increases your risk of breast cancer.
Breast cancer treatment
The size of the tumor, stage of breast cancer and degree of its spread, all play an important role in determining the type of treatment you’ll need.
Surgery is the most common treatment for breast cancer. Many women have additional treatments, such as targeted therapy, chemotherapy, radiation, or hormone therapy.
Several types of surgery may be used to remove breast cancer, including:
- Sentinel node biopsy
- Axillary lymph node dissection
- Contralateral prophylactic mastectomy
With radiation therapy, high-powered beams of radiation are used to target and kill cancer cells. Most radiation treatments use external beam radiation.
It is a drug treatment used to destroy cancer cells. Some people may undergo chemotherapy on its own, but this type of treatment is often used along with other treatments, especially surgery.
Hormone therapy works by blocking your body’s production of estrogen and progesterone hormones (because they can stimulate the growth of breast cancer tumors), or by blocking the hormone receptors on the cancer cells. This action can help slow and possibly stop the growth of your cancer.
HER2 protein helps in the growth of breast cancer cells so taking a medication like Herceptin (trastuzumab) to slow the production of this protein may help slow cancer growth.
Acupuncture involves gently placing very thin needles into specific pressure points in the skin. Studies suggest that this process may stimulate the brain and nervous system to help reduce the pain. In some people, it may also help in reducing cancer pain and relieving nausea and vomiting resulting from chemotherapy treatments.
It is a process of manually stimulating the tissues in the skin and muscles. It helps in promoting relaxation and relieving pain, anxiety and depression.
Tai chi and qi gong
Tai chi and qi gong are two movement-based exercises which aim to move and balance the natural energies within the body and place a strong focus on breathing and meditation.
This therapy is based on the belief that a person can use his hands to direct energy around the body for promoting healing. Reiki is not a replacement for medical treatment, however, some people claim that Reiki helps them feel more relaxed and eases pain and anxiety.
Some holistic therapies aim to promote peace and balance in a person’s state of mind, which help promote relaxation and reduce stress during their treatment.
These therapies include:
- Art therapy
- Music therapy
- Dance therapy
There is no evidence that supplements can help in treating or curing cancer, however, a balanced diet may support the body during cancer treatment by reducing fatigue and aggression during it. Studies suggest that some people with cancer may find the following herbal supplements advantageous:
- Black cohosh
- Green tea
These supplements appear to be reducing specific symptoms of the disease or side effects of medical treatments (nausea, loss of appetite etc.).
You should also consider adding more vitamin and mineral-rich foods such as vegetables, fruits, and other whole foods to your diet.
For a healthy body that could fight breast cancer, you must reduce
- Processed food
- Salty food
- High fat food
- Smoked or charred food
Breast cancer can be avoided as well as treated at its very early stage by taking several precautionary measures. That’s why, you should:
- Keep your Weight in Check
- Be Physically Active
- Avoid Too Much Alcohol
- Quit smoking
- Eat Your Fruits & Vegetables
- Breastfeed (If Possible)
- Avoid Birth Control Pills (Particularly After Age 35 or If You Smoke)
- Don’t Forget Screening (If you are 40 plus)
Avoid Post-Menopausal Hormones