The media consistently covers breast cancer as one of the most severe cancers amongst Americans today, yet not everyone is aware of breast cancer’s risk, let alone its treatment.
Breast cancer is a slow-growing tumor in the breast cells that spreads to other body parts through the lymphatic system and bloodstream. Women in the United States have breast cancer second only to skin cancer.
According to the center for disease control and prevention, approximately 255,000 women and 2,300 develop breast cancer, leading to about 42,500 deaths each year in the United States.
The most common types of breast cancer are ductal carcinoma, which starts in the breast’s milk ducts, and lobular carcinoma, which begins in the milk-producing cells.
This article will discuss the early warning signs of breast cancer, preventive measures, and treatment of this disease.
What Causes Breast Cancer?
While there are several debates about the cause of breast cancer, most researchers strongly predict it may be related to the diverse relationship between genetics and the environment.
Symptoms of breast cancer
A wide range of physical symptoms may indicate breast cancer; however, the most common is a malignancy (cancerous growth) in the breast. Other symptoms of breast cancer include:
- Change in size and shape of the breast
- Change in appearance of the breast
- Inverted nipples
- Flaking of the skin around the nipple (areola)
- Redness over breast skin
The symptoms of breast cancer can easily be confused with other less severe medical issues. So contact your doctor if you experience any of the symptoms above.
Risk Factors for Developing Breast Cancer
Researchers have yet to understand the underlying factors responsible for breast cancer; however, researchers believe demographic factors such as age, race, and ethnicity are the leading cause. Other factors include:
- Alcohol consumption
- Exposure to radiation
- Nutrition and lifestyle
- History of breast cancer
While breast cancer can affect younger women, this condition is prevalent in women age 50 and above. Researchers believe that giving birth before the age of 40 will lower the risk of developing breast cancer by approximately 60%.
How to Diagnose Breast Cancer
Women with breast cancer are more likely to have favorable outcomes if they receive early detection, prompt treatment, and appropriate care. Here are some of the typical diagnostic tests your doctor may recommend for breast cancer:
A breast examination is often considered the first diagnostic approach. Your doctor will check for lumps or cancerous growths in the breast tissues during an examination. Your doctor may also examine the lymph nodes in the armpit for outgrowth.
A mammogram provides an x-ray image of the breast. This imaging technique is studied to detect abnormal breast tissue growth.
Suppose your doctor is unsure of their diagnosis. In that case, they may recommend a minimally invasive technique known as biopsy to remove a small portion of the abnormalities to be tested in a pathology laboratory for analysis.
A breast ultrasound reveals details about the internal structure of the breast using high-frequency sound waves.
This technique involves using an advanced diagnostic imaging test known as breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This instrument provides a detailed cross-sectional image of the breast tissues using a magnet and radio waves.
An injection of contrast dye often precedes breast MRIs to assist in highlighting deformities in the breast tissues.
Treatment for Breast Cancer
Depending on your stage of cancer, your doctor may recommend any of the treatment options below:
In many cases, breast cancers that haven’t spread to other parts of the body can be removed surgically using a lumpectomy procedure (removing the tumor with some breast tissues).
In extreme cases or advanced cancer, your doctor may perform a modified radical mastectomy to dissect the lymph nodes and remove the entire breast.
Your doctor may recommend you undergo chemotherapy depending on the stage of cancer. Several chemotherapy drugs are administered for 3 -6 months after your surgery. The most common combination is doxorubicin and cyclophosphamide for three months.
Each chemotherapy regime your doctor may discuss with you has several advantages and disadvantages. You can discuss your concern with your doctor to modify a procedure suitable for you.
Aside from biological therapy, hormone therapy, and radiotherapy, your doctor may recommend other treatment options.
How to Prevent Breast Cancer
In many cases, women can modify certain risk factors that may influence the development of breast cancer. Some of which are:
- Having children before the age of 40
- Avoid excessive weight gain
- Exercise and eat healthy
- Limit alcohol consumption
A person without any risk factors can still develop breast cancer, even though cancer is more common in high-risk individuals. Appropriate screening and early detection are essential to reduce mortality associated with this disease.