What is Breast Cancer?
What is breast cancer? Breast Cancer is defined by Breastcancer.org as an "uncontrolled growth of breast cells." Cancer developes when abnormal changes take place within the cells, or when the cells mutate. In our bodies cells normally replace themselves with new cells, replacing old cells that die out. When mutation occurs, these changed cells continue to divide creating more cells like it and forming a tumor.
There are two types of tumors, benign (non cancerous) and malignant (cancerous). Let's look at each one more closer. Benign tumors are considered to be non cancerous. These cells are almost normal in appearance and do not spread to other parts of the body. Malignant tumors are cancerous. These cells can spread to other parts of the body. Known as metastatic cancer it spreads from the original place of origin to another part of the body such as the lungs, bones, and liver. If the breast cancer spreads to the lungs and therefore forms a metastatic tumor, it is refered to as metastatic breast cancer and not lung cancer. Some types of metastatic cancer can be cured with treatments, however; most cannot, according to the Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health.
Breast cancer usually begins in the cells of the lobules. These are the ducts, or passages that drain milk from the lobules to the nipple. Although less common, breast cancer can begin in the supporting cells and connective tissue of the breast, also known as the stromal tissue. Cancer cells can make their way to the lymph nodes in the underarm. If that should happen, the cancer can then travel to other parts of the body.
Four Stages Of Breast Cancer
Stage 0 = This stage is when the cancer cells stay inside the breast duct. There is no invasion into normal adjacent breast tissue.
Stage 1 = The cancer is 2 centimeters, or less, and is confined to the breast.
Stage 2A = Cancer cells are found in the lymph nodes under the arm, but no tumor can be found in the breast. Or the tumor measures 2 centimeters, or smaller, and has spread to the lymph nodes under the arm. Or the tumor is larger than 2 centimeters, but no larger than 5 centimeters and has not spread to the lymph nodes under the arm.
Stage 2B = The cancerous tumor is larger than 2, but no larger than 5 centimeters and has spread to the lymph nodes under the arm. Or the tumor is larger than 5 centimeters, but has not spread to the lymph nodes under the arm.
Stage 3A = There is no tumor that is found in the breast. Cancer is found in the lymph nodes under the arm that are sticking together, or sticking to other structures, or the cancer may be found in lymph nodes near the breastbone.
Stage 3B = The tumor may be any size and has spread to the chest wall and/or skin of the breast and may have spread to the lymph nodes under the arm that are clumped together, or sticking to other structures, or the cancer may have spread to the lymph nodes near the breastbone.
Stage 3C = There may be no sign of cancer in the breast, or a tumor may be any size and may have spread to the chest wall and/or the skin of the breast. The cancer has spread to the lymph nodes either above or below the collarbone. The cancer may have spread to the lymph nodes under the arm or to the lymph nodes near the breastbone.
Stage 4 = The cancer has spread, or metastasized to other parts of the body.
Signs Of Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in women. In most cases women over the age of 50 will develop breast cancer. Even though breast cancer can develop with reason, certain risk factors do increase the chance of getting cancer. Having a family history of breast cancer, ageing, if you have previous breast cancer, having menopause over the age of 55, starting menstruation at an early age, taking hormone replacement therapy for several years can slightly increase the risk, and history of some benign breast disease.
Although most breast lumps are non cancerous, usually the first symptom is a painless lump in the breast. Other lumps could be fluid filled cysts or fibroadenomas which are benign. If you suspect a lump in your breast, or feel a lump you should consult a doctor and get examined. Even though most lumps that are cancerous do not hurt, there are times when it does. Other symptoms may include: changes in the size or shape of the breast, dimpling or thickening of some of the skin on a part of the breast, the nipple turns in, discharge from the nipple, which may be bloodstained, and a rash around the nipple that can look very similar to a small patch of eczema. If you develop swelling or a lump in the under the arm consult a doctor for an examination. The first place that breast cancer usually spreads in to the lymph nodes under the arm.
Tests To Detect Breast Cancer
If you develop a lump or symptoms your doctor may want to check your breast and armpits. Your doctor may have you get a mammogram . This is a special x-ray of the breast tissue which can show changes in the density of the breast tissue that might show a tumor. Another test that can be performed is and ultrasound scan of the breast. For younger women, especially who have a strong family history of breast cancer, and MRI scan may be done of the breast.
Depending on the results of your test, your doctor may order you to have a biopsy done to confirm the diagnosis. This is performed by taking a small sample of the tissue and examining it under the microscope to look for abnormal cells. Some cells may be taken by inserting a needle into the lump and withdrawing the cells.
Further testing such as blood tests, chest x-ray or bone scan may be needed if you are confirmed to have breast cancer.
Inherited Faulty Gene
Roughly 1-2 in 20 cases of women who develop breast cancer is caused by an inherited faulty gene.This commonly affects women in their 30's and 40's. The most common on the faulty genes are BRCA1 and BRCA2. Most cases of breast cancer however are not due to an inherited faulty gene. If you have a family history of breast cancer discuss that with your doctor. Below are things to consider:
- Three close blood relatives (from the same side of the family) who developed breast or ovarian cancer at any age.
- Two close relatives (from the same side of the family) who developed breast or ovarian cancer under the age of 60.
- One close relative who developed breast cancer under the age of 40.
- A case of breast cancer in a male relative.
- A relative with cancer in both breasts.
Cancer Awareness Month
October is cancer awareness month. It is an annual international health campaign ro increase awareness of the disease and raise funds for research into its cause prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure. In October 1983, the Race for the Cure was held for the first time in Dallas, Texas, where 800 people participated. By 2002 the number of participants reached 1.3 million and the event was held in over 100 US cities, along with being organized in several other parts of the World. In 1991, the Susan G. Komen Foundation handed out pink ribbons to participants in its New York City race for breast cancer survivors. In 1993 Evelyn Lauder, Senior Corporate Vice President of the Estee Lauder Companies founded the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and established the pink ribbon as its symbol. [483
What types of treatments are available? Treatment options by cancer stage could include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and hormonal therapy. Your doctor will discuss the options with you. He or she will also discuss the side effects and how to manage them.