What is breast cancer?
Generally, cancer occurs when changes called mutation occur in genes responsible for the growth of the body’s cells. This mutation causes cells to divide and multiply in an uncontrolled way. Breast cancer is simply the uncontrolled growth of cells in the breast. It can either form in the lobules or the ducts of the breast. Lobules are the breast glands responsible for the production of milk, while the ducts are tasked with transferring the milk from the glands (lobules) to the nipples of the breast. To put a damper on things, cancerous cells from the breast can travel and end up affecting the lymph nodes under the arm.
Signs and symptoms of breast cancer
In the early stages, no symptoms may be observed. In several other cases, a tumor or lump is felt, indicating other health issues, including breast cancer. The common symptoms are;
- Breast pain
- Breast lump
- Redness of breast skin
- Discharge from nipple (not milk)
- Swelling of the breast (part or all)
- Bloody Discharge from nipples
- Flaking of the nipple skin
- Change in shape of the breast etc.
Note that these symptoms could indicate other health issues, but they shouldn’t be ignored. If any of these symptoms are noticed, visit your doctor.
Types of breast cancer
There are several types of breast cancers. Each of them has been categorized under two groups, invasive and noninvasive. Breast cancer is invasive when the cancerous cells from the breast affect the surrounding parts, including the arm. For noninvasive, the cancerous cells remain in the original tissue. These two categories are used to describe the most common types of breast cancer, which includes:
◦ Ductal carcinoma in situ: This type of breast cancer is noninvasive. With DCIS, the cancer cells are held up in the ducts of the breast.
◦ Lobular carcinoma in situ: This is another type of noninvasive breast cancer. In LCIS, the cancer cells affect only the milk-producing glands present in the breast.
◦ Invasive ductal carcinoma: IDC is one of the most common types of breast cancer. Unlike DCIS, it develops in the ducts of the breasts and then spreads to surrounding tissues. If it’s not taken care of, it can affect the whole breast and then spread to organs and tissues around the breast.
◦ Invasive lobular carcinoma: ILC starts off at the milk glands of the breasts and then affects other areas close to it. It is an invasive type of breast cancer.
Some less common type are:
⁃ Angiosarcoma: This type of breast cancer develops and grows on the breast’s lymph vessels and/or blood vessels.
⁃ Phyllodes tumor: This is a very rare type of breast cancer. It grows in the connective tissues of the breast, thereby causing a tumor. Most of these tumors are benign (not harmful), while some could be cancerous.
⁃ Pager disease of the nipple: It begins in the ducts of the nipples. As it develops, it begins to spread and affect the whole nipple and the areola.
As stated before, the symptoms can either be benign or harmful. To determine this, your doctor must perform a physical examination, in addition to other diagnoses on the affected part. Some important test to diagnose breast cancer include;
◦ Mammogram: This is a very common way to see below the surface of the breast. A mammogram is an imaging diagnosis that pictures the inside of the mammary gland. Mammograms use X-rays to detect any unusual area in the breast, maybe a tumor. This gives the doctor information on what type it could be and the tumor location.
◦ Ultrasound: This involves the use of sound waves to picture the internal structure of the breast. This how’s the position of tissues in the mammary gland.
Some steps are to be taken before the doctor decides what type of treatment is suitable. Surgery is one of the most common treatments for breast cancer. Surgical procedures that can be used include:
◦ Lumpectomy: This procedure removes the tumor and affected tissue from the breast. This procedure leaves the rest of the breast unaffected.
◦ Mastectomy: This involves the complete removal of the breast. This is often employed when the cancer is invasive.
◦ Sentinel node biopsy: This is the removal of a few lymph nodes from the breast to acquire drainage from the tumor. The removed lymph is tested for cancerous cells and is eliminated if any is detected.
◦ Axillary lymph node dissection: This is a continuation of sentinel node biopsy. If the lymph nodes removed contain cancerous cells, more lymph nodes are removed to ensure the breast is rid of harmful nodes.
◦ Contralateral prophylactic mastectomy: This is preferred to be on the safer side. Although only one breast is affected, the unaffected breast is also removed to avoid developing breast cancer again.
This cancer goes further than this. Immediately you notice any abnormality in your breasts’ shape or feel, waste no time in contacting your doctor.