Breast Cancer is one of the most common form cancer, which is found among women around the world. One has to go for a breast cancer test for confirming the presence of the ailment. Almost every individual is acknowledged of at least one person who has been treated for it.
There are millions of women, who are indeed diagnosed with breast cancer every year. Dr Lal PathLabs has basically designed its tests in such a manner as to help the patients suffering with this ailment along with their families and friends to have a better understanding of the disease. We hope that others will read it as well to learn about breast cancer.
This is a blog, which has been primarily designed to focus about some important facets of breast cancer like;
- Screening and early detection
This as well has information about how to help patients to cope with such a disease.
Research has indeed led to the progress against breast cancer, along with better treatments, and improved quality of life. Through research, our knowledge about this cancer keeps on increasing. Scientists are focusing and learning more about what causes this ailment and at the same time completely exploring new ways to prevent, detect, diagnose, and treat this same.
Understanding Breast Cancer
Cancer, is defined as something consisting of a group of many related diseases that begin in cells, which is designated as the body’s basic unit of life. In fact if you indeed want to understand cancer, it is always helpful to know what happens when our normal cells become cancerous.
Our body is indeed made up of many types of cells. Normally, these cells grow and even divide to produce more cells, but the mechanism only works when the body needs them. This orderly process is the way to always help keep our vitality active and healthy. Sometimes, however, cells are one such element which even keep dividing when new cells are actually not needed. These extra cells does nothing, but rather form a mass of tissue, more commonly known as a growth or tumor. Tumors can hence be benign or malignant.
- The Benign tumors
The Benign tumors are not cancer. Yes it is true that the Benign tumors can usually be removed, and in most of the cases, they never reoccur or come back. Cells from benign tumors do not spread to other parts of the body. Most significant part is that, the benign breast tumors are not a threat to life.
- Malignant tumors
The Malignant tumors are the cancerous one. Cells in such tumors are abnormal. They usually divide without any kind of control or order, and can at the same time invade and damage nearby tissues and organs. Also, these are the one which can be designated as cancer cells, and can break away from a malignant tumor, thereby entering the bloodstream or the lymphatic system. That is manner in which, cancer spreads from the original (primary) cancer site to form new tumors in other organs. The spread of cancer is therefore known as metastasis.
When cancer arises in your breast tissue and gradually gets spreads (metastasizes) outside the breast, the cancer cells are often found in the lymph nodes under the arm (axillary lymph nodes). If your cancer has actually reached these nodes, it means that cancer cells may have also spread to other parts of the body – thereby means other lymph nodes and other organs, such as the bones, liver, or lungs. When cancer spreads from its native location to another part of the body, the new tumor that has the same kind of abnormal cells along with having the name as the primary tumor. For example, if breast cancer spreads to the brain, the cancer cells in the brain are actually the same cancer cells. The disease is termed metastatic breast cancer. (It is not brain cancer.) Doctors sometimes even call this “distant” disease and may ask you to go for an immediate blood test for breast cancer to procure adequate results.
What Causes For Breast Pain?
Subsequent to a profound analysis and even research it has been concluded that there are many harmless reasons established for breast pain and tenderness. Let us have a look at some of the reasons which may primarily related to changes in the hormone level. These involve the following:
- The immediate arrival of Puberty in girls and even at times for boys
- During the cycle of Menstruation and at times even as one of the premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
- When someone is pregnant. Yes, it is true that pregnancy can be one of the reasons, and especially during the initial stage or the first trimester
- Another one of the major reason is that days following childbirth, as the milk comes in Breastfeeding Mastitis, the milk duct is not properly drained and therefore it becomes infected. This infection thereby causes pain, but however it has no co-relation with cancer. Nonetheless, it might become a serious infection when left untreated.
- As one of the side effect of Menopause
Breast Cancer Risk Factors
The exact or the immediate causes of this cancer are indeed not known. However, there have been certain studies to show that the risk of this disease increases as a woman gets older. This is a disease, which is very uncommon in women who are under the age of 35. Most of such cancers occur in women over the age of 50, and the risk is especially high for those women, who are over age 60. As well, it has also been confirmed that breast cancer occurs more often in white women than the African American or Asian women.
Various Research has established that the following conditions increase a woman’s chances of getting complete breast cancer:
- A Personal history of this cancer. Women who have had suffered from this disease always face an increased risk of getting it in their other breast as well.
- A Continued Family history. A woman’s risk for developing this cancer increases if mother, sister, or daughter have had suffered the same earlier, especially at a young age.
- The important and vital breast changes. Having a diagnosis of atypical hyperplasia or even lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) may increase a woman’s risk for developing cancer.
- Genetic alterations are also some of the important aspect. Changes in certain genes are always under the risk of breast cancer. In families, in which many women have had the disease, gene testing can sometimes show the presence of specific genetic changes that increases the risk of such cancer. Doctors may somehow or the other suggest ways to try to delay or prevent breast cancer, or to improve the detection of this disease in women who have these changes in their genes.
There are some other factors that are also associated with an increased risk for such a cancer. They are the following:
- The Estrogen
There have been Evidence that suggests, when woman is exposed to estrogen (estrogen made by the body, taken as a drug, or even delivered by a patch), the more likely she is to develop breast cancer. For instance, the risk is always increased among women who actually began menstruation at a early age (before age 12), and also for those who have experienced menopause late (after age 55), or the one never had children, or took hormone replacement therapy for longer period of time. Each of these factors increases the amount of time a woman’s body is exposed to estrogen.
- Late childbearing
Women who have their first child at a later age (after about age 30) always have a greater chance of developing breast cancer than women who have a child at a younger age.
- Breast density
The Breasts that have a high quantity of lobular and even ductal tissue appear dense on mammograms. Breast cancers nearly always develop in lobular or ductal tissue (not fatty tissue). That’s why cancer is more likely to occur in such breasts that have a lot of lobular and ductal tissue (that is, dense tissue) than in breasts with a lot of fatty tissue. In addition to this, when the breasts are dense, it is more difficult for doctors to see abnormal areas on a mammogram.
- Radiation therapy
When women whose breasts are all the more exposed to radiation during the therapy before the age 30, especially those who were treated with some kind of radiation for Hodgkin’s disease, are at an increased risk for developing breast cancer. Studies have also shown that the younger a woman was when she received her treatment, the higher her risk for developing the disease later in life.
Yes there are some studies suggest a slightly higher risk of breast cancer among women who drink alcohol.
Detecting Breast Cancer
There are some instances when women should talk with their doctors about the factors that can increase their chance of getting breast cancer. Yes it is true that Women of any age who are at higher risk for developing this disease should never hesitate and always ask their doctor when to start and how often to be checked for this cancer. Test for breast cancer is required to know the severity of this disease.
Women can in fact always take an active part in the complete process of early detection of breast cancer by simply having regularly scheduled screening mammograms and even some of the most clinical breast exams (breast exams performed by health professionals). Some women perform breast self-exams to detect the disease.
A screening mammogram is one of the finest tool accessible for finding breast cancer early, even before the symptoms appear. A mammogram is indeed said to be special kind of x-ray. Screening mammograms can therefore be designated to use to look for breast changes in women who never have any signs of developing this cancer.
Mammograms can also often perceive a breast lump before it can be felt. This is the one, that is, a mammogram, which can at the same time show small deposits of calcium in the breast. Although most of the calcium deposits are benign, a cluster of very tiny specks of calcium (called microcalcifications) might indeed become an early sign of cancer.
If an area of the breast seems to be suspicious on the process of screening mammogram, additional (diagnostic) mammograms might be required. It is completely depending on the results, that doctor may always advise the woman to have a biopsy.
Although mammograms are said to be the finest way to find breast abnormalities early, they do have some kind of limitations as well. A mammogram may at times miss some cancers that are effectively present (false negative) or may even find things that turn out not to be completely cancer (false positive). There are some of the fast-growing breast cancers, which may already have to spread to other parts of the body even before being detected.
Benign Breast Conditions
Some of the common benign breast also changes the fall into several broad categories. These are the one that as well include the generalized breast changes, solitary lumps, nipple discharge, and even infection and/or inflammation.
- The Generalized Breast Changes
The Generalized breast lumpiness is well known by several names, this fibrocystic disease changes and at times even benign breast disease. Such a kind of lumpiness, which is occasionally described as “ropy” or “granular,” can indeed frequently be felt in the area around the nipple and at times even the areola and in the upper-outer part of the breast. Such lumpiness may incessantly become more obviously as a woman approaches her middle age and the milk-producing glandular tissue of her breasts therefore becomes progressively gives way to soft, fatty tissue. But for she is taking replacement hormones, this type or the basic kind of lumpiness generally fades for good after menopause.
It is the menstrual cycle that likewise brings cyclic breast changes. There are many women who experiences swelling, tenderness, and even pain before and at times during their periods. At the same time, there are one or more lumps or a feeling of amplified lumpiness, which may progress since of extra fluid collecting in the breast tissue. All these lumps normally go away by the end of the period.
It is during pregnancy, that the milk-producing glands almost becomes enflamed and the breasts may also feel lumpier than usual. Although very unusual, breast cancer has been diagnosed during pregnancy.
- The Solitary Lumps
The Benign breast conditions as well include numerous sorts of distinct, solitary lumps. All such lumps, which can in fact appear at any time, or even may be large or small, soft or rubbery, fluid-filled or solid.
- The Cysts are fluid-filled sacs.
The Cysts are the one which mostly occur and most often occur in women ages 35 to 50, and they most of the time enlarge and convert into tender and painful just prior to the menstrual period. They are the one that is usually found in both breasts. There are some cysts that are so trivial, which cannot be felt; rarely, cysts may be some inches across. Cysts are usually the one treated by surveillance or by fine needle aspiration. They show up clearly on ultrasound.
These are more commonly recognized as solid and round benign tumors that are prepared of both the structural (fibro) and glandular (adenoma) tissues. Usually, all these kinds of lumps are unproblematic and found by the woman herself. They feel that rubbery and can effortlessly be moved around. Fibroadenomas are the most common type of tumors in women who are in their late teens and early twenties, and they occur double as often the African-American women as in other American women.
This is the name given to painless, the round, and firm lumps molded by damaged and crumbling fatty tissues. This is an illness, which typically occurs in obese women with very large breasts. Yes this is the one which often develops in comeback to a bruise or blow to the entire breast, even though the woman may not at all recall the specific injury. Sometimes the skin in and around the lumps looks red or bruised. Fat necrosis can effortlessly be flawed for cancer, so such lumps are removed in a surgical biopsy.
Finally the Sclerosing adenosis is the benign disorder which indeed involves the excessive growth of tissues in the breast’s lobules. It is the one which commonly causes breast pain. Usually the changes that are microscopic, but the adenosis can hence produce lumps, and it can also show up on a mammogram, often as calcifications. Short of biopsy, adenosis can be problematic to differentiate from cancer. The usual approach is surgical biopsy, which furnishes both diagnosis and treatment.
- The Nipple Discharge
It is the Nipple discharge that escorts some of the benign breast conditions. Since the breast is a gland, and the related secretions from the nipple of a mature woman are not unusual, nor even necessarily a sign of disease. For example, there are some small amounts of discharge commonly occur in women taking while birth control pills or on certain other medications, even including sedatives and even tranquilizers. If the discharge is being caused by an ailment, then the disease is more likely to be benign than cancerous.
Types of Cancer
Yes if we have a look at the complete analysis of cancer then it can be seen that apart from breast cancer, the entire genre of cancer is wide spread. There are almost 200 types of cancer that are present. This number is far too numerous to include in this article. However, we have tried and listed some of the several categories. This list is indeed expanded below
This is the special kind of Cancer that begins in the skin or rather to be more specific in the tissues that line or cover internal organs — the skin, lung, colon, pancreatic, ovarian cancers.
This is again another type of Cancer that begins in bone, the cartilage, fat, muscle, blood vessels, or other connective or supportive tissue – the bone, soft tissue cancers.
A particular type of Cancer that starts in blood-forming tissue such as the bone marrow and therefore causes some large numbers of abnormal blood cells to be produced and enter the blood. Hence this is again a severe one.
The Lymphoma and myeloma:
This is the type of Cancer that begin in the cells of the immune system – and therefore engulfs its victims.
When Cancer Is Found
It is said that one of the most common type of breast cancer is known as ductal carcinoma. This is the one that commences in the lining of the ducts. There is another type, called the lobular carcinoma, which simply rises in the lobules. When cancer is found, it is the pathologist who can tell what kind of cancer it is (whether it’s began in a duct or a lobule) and whether it is aggressive (has invaded nearby tissues in the breast).
There are indeed special lab tests of the tissue help the doctor acquire more about the cancer. For example, the hormone receptor or even the tests can indeed aid determine whether hormones help the cancer to grow? If your test results show that hormones do mark the cancer’s growth (a positive test result), the cancer is likely to answer to hormonal therapy. This is therefore the therapy which simply divests the cancer cells of estrogen. For further information about hormonal therapy can only be found in the “Planning Treatment” section.
Other tests are said to be occasionally done to help the doctor predict whether the cancer is likely to progress. For instance, there are doctor may order x-rays and lab tests. Sometimes a sample of breast tissue is checked for a basic gene that is associated with a higher risk that even breast cancer will riposte. The doctor may as well order special exams of the bones, liver, or lungs because this cancer may spread to these areas.
If the entire diagnosis is breast cancer, a woman may want to ask these questions:
- What is the kind of breast cancer do I actually have?
- What did the hormone receptor test actually showed? What are the other lab tests which were done on the tumor tissue, and what did they indeed show?
- How will you actually regulate whether the disease has spread?
- How will this entire evidence help in deciding what type of treatment or further tests will be finest for me?
There are women with breast cancer who nowadays have many treatment options. Many women indeed wants to learn whether they know about the disease and their treatment choices so that there is always an active part in decisions from their side and they have all the idea about their medical care. They are likely to have various kinds of questions and concerns about their treatment options.
The doctor is the said to be the finest best person to answer questions about treatment for a particular patient: what her treatment choices are and how successful her entire treatment is expected to be. Most of the patients also wants to know how actually they will look after treatment and whether there will have to change their normal life activities. A woman should never feel that she requires to ask all her questions or even at times understand all the answers at once. She will always have many chances to ask the doctor to explain things that are not clear and to ask for more information.
A woman’s treatment options is something that completely depend on a number of factors. These are the factors that include her age and her menopausal status; it is also about her general health; along with the size and location of the tumor and the stage of the cancer; it is the results of lab tests; and even the size of her breast. There are even certain features of the tumor cells, such as the factor whether they depend on hormones to grow are at all times considered. In most of the cases, there are most important factor is the stage of the disease. This is the stage is based on the size of the tumor and whether the cancer has spread. The following are brief descriptions of the stages of breast cancer and the treatments most often used for each stage. (Other treatments may sometimes be appropriate.)
Stage 0 is at times also called noninvasive carcinoma or carcinoma in situ.
The so called Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) refers to such conditions which are abnormal cells in the lining of a lobule. These abnormal cells are seldom become invasive cancer. However, their presence is basically a sign that a woman has an increased risk of developing breast cancer. Therefore this is a risk of cancer is increased for both breasts. Some women with LCIS may take a drug called tamoxifen, which can indeed reduce the risk of developing this ailment. Others are there which may take part in studies of other promising new preventive treatments. Some women might even choose not to have treatment, but to however return to the doctor regularly for checkups. And, occasionally, women with LCIS may as well decide to have surgery to remove both breasts even try to prevent cancer from developing. (In most cases, removal of underarm lymph nodes is not necessary.)
The Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) on the other hand refers to the abnormal cells in the lining of a duct. DCIS is as well called the intraductal carcinoma. The abnormal cells here have not spread beyond the duct in order to invade the surrounding breast tissue. However, women with such DCIS conditions are always at an increased risk of getting invasive breast cancer. There are indeed some women with DCIS who have breast-sparing surgery followed by the known radiation therapy. Or they are the one who may choose to have a mastectomy, with or even at times without breast reconstruction (plastic surgery) to rebuild the breast. Underarm lymph nodes are not the one which are usually removed. Also, women with DCIS may want to talk with their doctor about tamoxifen to reduce the risk of developing invasive cancer.
The Stage I and stage II are always said to be the early stages of breast cancer in which the cancer has spread beyond the lobe or duct and invaded nearby tissue. Stage I is indeed meant to be that tumor in which there is no more than about an inch across and cancer cells have not spread beyond the breast. The Stage II means one of the following: that is, the tumor in the breast is less than 1 inch across and the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes under the arm; or even at times the tumor is between 1 and 2 inches (with or without spread to the lymph nodes under the arm); or on the other hand the tumor is larger than 2 inches but has not spread to the lymph nodes under the arm.
Women with an early stage this is a type of cancer may have some breast-sparing surgery followed by some kind of radiation therapy to the breast, or they may even have a mastectomy, with or without breast reconstruction to rebuild the breast. These approaches are always considered to be equally effective in treating early stage of this cancer. (Sometimes radiation therapy is also given after mastectomy.)
In fact the choice of breast-sparing surgery or mastectomy depends mostly on the entire size and even the location of the tumor, the size of the woman’s breast, and certain features of the cancer, and how the woman feels about preserving her breast. With either of the approach, lymph nodes under the arm usually are removed.
There are in fact many women with stage I and most with stage II breast cancer who have chemotherapy and even hormonal therapy after primary treatment with surgery or surgery and radiation therapy. This as well added treatment is called adjuvant therapy. If the entire systemic therapy is given to shrink the tumor before surgery, this is also called neoadjuvant therapy. The systemic treatment is given to try to destroy any kind of remaining cancer cells and therefore prevent the cancer from recurring, or coming back, in the breast or elsewhere.
Stage III is also called locally advanced cancer. Yes it is true that it is in this stage, that the tumor in the breast is large (more than 2 inches across) and the cancer has spread to the underarm lymph nodes; or it can also be said that the cancer is extensive in the underarm lymph nodes; or the cancer has actually spread to lymph nodes near the breastbone or to other tissues near the breast.
Inflammatory breast cancer is basically a type of locally advanced cancer. In this particular type of cancer the breast completely looks red and even swollen (or inflamed) because cancer cells block the entire lymph vessels in the skin of the breast.
The patients with the stage III breast cancer usually have both the local treatment to remove or destroy the cancer in the breast and as well as the systemic treatment to stop the disease from spreading. It is the local treatment may be surgery and/or radiation therapy to the breast and underarm. The systemic treatment may be one chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, or even at times both. Systemic therapy may be given before the local therapy to shrink the tumor or afterward to prevent the particular disease from recurring in the breast or elsewhere.
Stage IV is the metastatic cancer. This is the type of cancer that spreads beyond the breast and even underarm lymph nodes to other parts of the body.
Women who indeed have stage IV breast cancer receive the chemotherapy and/or hormonal therapy in order to destroy cancer cells and as well as control the disease. They may as well have surgery or radiation therapy in order to control the cancer in the breast. Radiation is something that may also be useful to control tumors in other parts of the body.
The Recurrent cancer means that the disease has come back in spite of the initial treatment. Even when there is a tumor in the breast it seems to have been completely removed or at times destroyed, the disease sometimes returns because of the undetected cancer cells remained somewhere in the body after treatment.
Most of the recurrences appear within the first 2 or 3 years after treatment, but the breast cancer can recur many years later.
Cancer that returns only in the area of the surgery is called generally called the local recurrence. If the disease returns in another part of the body, then the distant recurrence is called metastatic breast cancer. When the patient may have one type of treatment or even a combination of treatments for recurrent cancer.
After the mastectomy, there are some women decide to wear a breast form (prosthesis). Others are there who prefers to have breast reconstruction, either at the same time as the mastectomy or later on. There are many options and each of them has its pros and cons, and what is right for one woman might not be right for another. What is more important here is that nearly every woman who has gone through the treatment for breast cancer has choices. It is best to always consult with a plastic surgeon before the mastectomy, even if reconstruction will be considered later on.
Various procedures are indeed used to reconstruct the breast. Some use certain different kinds of implants (either saline or silicone); others use tissue moved from another part of the woman’s body. The safety of what we know as silicone breast implants has been under review by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for several years. Women are always interested in having silicone implants should talk with their doctor about the so called FDA’s findings and even the availability of silicone implants. Which is the type of reconstruction is best depends on a woman’s age, the body type, and even the type of surgery she had. A woman should always ask the plastic surgeon to explain the various risks and benefits of each type of reconstruction.
Rehabilitation is considered to be one of the most important part of breast cancer treatment. The health care is the team that makes every effort to help women return to their normal activities as soon as possible. Recovery is something that will be different for each woman, completely depending on the extent of the disease. Yes therefore it is the type of treatment, and other factors.
Exercising the arm and even the shoulder after surgery can indeed help a woman regain motion and strength in these areas. However it can as well reduce the entire pain and the stiffness in her neck and back. Carefully it is the planned exercises that should be started as soon as the doctor says that the woman is ready, often within a day or so after the completion of the surgery. Exercising indeed begins very slowly and gently and can actually be done in bed. Gradually, the complete exercising can be more active, and even regular exercise becomes part of a woman’s normal routine. (Women who actually have a mastectomy and an immediate breast reconstruction need some kind of special exercises, which the doctor or the nurse will explain.)
Often, the lymphedema after the surgery can be prevented or even be reduced with certain exercises and at times even by resting with the arm propped up on a pillow. If the lymphedema occurs, the doctor may suggest exercises and various other ways to deal with this problem. For example, there are some women with lymphedema who wear an elastic sleeve or even use an elastic cuff to improve lymph circulation. The doctor as well suggests other approaches, such as simple medication, some manual lymph drainage (massage), or even at times the usage of a machine that gently compresses the arm. The woman who may be referred to a physical therapist or another kind of specialist.
Breast Cancer Prevention
Doctors can rarely explain why one woman gets breast cancer and the other doesn’t. It is really very clear, however, that this cancer is basically a disease that not caused by bumping, bruising, or touching the breast this is something more severe. And this disease is not at all contagious; no one can even “catch” this ailment from another person.
Scientists are indeed trying hard to learn more about factors that will gradually increase the risk of developing this disease. For instance, they are looking at whether the risk of such a cancer might be severely affected by environmental factors. So far, it is the scientists who do not have enough information to know whether any factors in the environment increase the risk of such a disease.
Some aspects of a woman’s lifestyle may indeed affect her chances of developing breast cancer. For instance, there have been some recent studies suggest that regular exercise may decrease the risk in younger women. Also, there have been certain evidences that is designed to suggest a link between diet and this cancer. Ongoing studies are looking at ways to prevent this cancer through changes in diet or with dietary supplements. However, it is not yet completely known whether specific dietary changes will actually prevent breast cancer. These are indeed some active areas of research.
Scientists are especially trying to learn whether having a miscarriage or an abortion increases the risk of such a cancer. Thus far, studies have especially produced conflicting results, and this question is still unresolved.
Research has led to the specific identification of changes (mutations) in certain genes that indeed increase the risk of developing breast cancer. Women with some strong family history of this cancer may choose to have a blood test to see whether they have inherited a change in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene.