Breast Cancer: Symptoms, Causes, Prevention, Treatment

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Known to be one of the leading causes of death in the world, breast cancer has World Health Organization concerned. Hence it is constantly looking for treatments and awareness programmes to be extended among the public. Breast cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the cells of the breast. Unlike popular thought, breast cancer can also be present in males but it is far worse in women. The causes could be numerous and the scientists are yet to pinpoint a certain. This article aims to educate you on the symptoms, causes, prevention, and treatment of breast cancer so that you can make an informed decision or at the very least spread awareness.

Symptoms of breast cancer

Numerous symptoms can be attributed to breast cancer. Those include-

  1. Lump– This could be under the arm, near the breast, or even under the breast. It couldn’t be clearer than this.
  2. Changes in breast sizes or shapes– It is common to change breast sizes as you age or mature but unrelated changes should be taken seriously.
  3. Changes in skin texture– Though not a very common symptom, some people also experience discoloration of the skin when they contract cancer.
  4. Nipple changes– If your breast doesn’t show any visible changes, you should look around the areola for any marks or spots that seem out of place.
  5. Breast pain– Pain in the breast is common during premenstrual periods or pregnancy, if that is not the case, you may want to consult a doctor to clear the doubts.
Symptoms of breast cancer

Types of breast cancers

Breast cancer can be divided into multiple types including-

1. Ductal Carcinoma in Situ or DCIS– It is a form of noninvasive cancer that is generally found embedded in the duct linings but not inside them.

2. Invasive ductal carcinoma– Invasive ductal carcinoma signifies cancer that has taken over the breast duct completely.

3. Invasive Lobular Carcinoma– Usually starts in the milk-producing glands called lobules, it then spreads to the accompanying areas.

4. Triple-negative breast cancer– This type of breast cancer occurs due to the absence of hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, or HER2 receptors. It is a particularly vile type of breast cancer and is difficult to treat.

Causes of breast cancer

The causes of breast cancer are primarily 4 which include-

1. Genetic factors– It is one of the leading causes as if you have the particular BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation in your family, chances are high that you may develop one as well. There could be rare cases but otherwise, it is wise to get checked up.

2. Horomone Factors– According to the latest studies our hormones could also play a role in determining our vulnerability to developing cancer. Experts believe that prolonged exposure to estrogen, early menstruation, and late menopause could all be pointing toward a more serious threat.

3. Age and gender– As discussed above it is quite frequently detected in females who have crossed the age of 40. The reason behind this could be hormonal fluctuation or the way the body responds to cancerous cells.

4. Family history– While gene mutation can cause breast cancer, it is also detected in women who have a history of ovarian cancer in their families. More research needs to be conducted to identify the exact reason behind this.

Prevention of breast cancer

 Preventing any form of cancer is not feasible because the exact causes are hard to find. However, there could be some steps adopted by individuals to protect against cancer cells and their presence. They could be-

1. Regular screening– If you have a history of breast cancer in your family or general women over 40 must subject themselves to voluntary breast examination. You could opt for self and go further in case you find something unusual. Early detection is key in the treatment process.

2. Healthy lifestyle– A healthy lifestyle needs to be one of your priorities. This not only includes having a balanced diet and exercising but also avoiding stress and increasing the hours of sleep.

3. Limiting alcohol consumption– Though not a direct cause women who drink alcohol are known to develop breast cancers more than those who don’t. Therefore it is better to avoid engaging in smoking as well.

4. Breastfeeding– Many women choose not to breastfeed their kids after they are born. According to new studies, breastfeeding can provide a protective layer on the breast that could protect a new mother from contracting cancer. Studies still need to establish this theory.

Treatment

Cancer is a vicious disease that has very few treatment options at its disposal. While early detection could avoid cases of fatality. The real idea is to mitigate the symptoms and the cancer from recurring. A lot of effort is being put into coming up with a research plan to help find the cancer cure but studies are yet to clear human trials. However, some of the sure shots methods of treatment include the following-

  1. Surgery– As obvious as it seems, patients can opt for lumpectomy or removal of the lumps from the breasts or mastectomy which includes removing the breast in its entirety.
  2. Radiation therapy– Another way to deal with cancer cells is by exposing them to radiation.
  3. Chemotherapy– Chemicals and drugs are injected into the body that kill away the cancer cells and impact the immune system.
  4. Hormone therapy– In case the hormone levels are seen to rise above a certain point. Medicines are given to keep them under control.

Read More: Can Stress Cause More Painful Periods?

Conclusion

Cancer in any form can be especially threatening and breast cancer is considered the deadliest of all. Every year a huge percentage of women succumb to this vile disease as it continues to grab lives. However, early detection and prevention can take you a long way. Always self-exam yourself and ask your loved ones to do so. In case you find out about the gene mutation in your family, you should certainly give yourself a checkup and maybe remove the breasts to prevent further development of the disease. As science spreads its wings, we can only hope that a miracle cure comes up and saves the planet from the clutches of breast cancer.

References

  • Perou, C. M. et al. Molecular portraits of human breast tumors. Nature 406, 747–752 (2000). Article 
  • Winters, S., Martin, C., Murphy, D. & Shokar, N. K. Breast cancer epidemiology, prevention, and screening. Prog. Mol. Biol. Transl Sci. 151, 1–32 (2017). PubMed

Dr. David G Kiely is a distinguished Medical Reviewer and former General Medicine Consultant with a wealth of experience in the field. Dr. Kiely's notable career as a General Medicine Consultant highlights his significant contributions to the medical field.

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