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Breast cancer is an abnormal growth of cells in the tissues of the breast. Mainly it occurs in females but less than 1% of all the breast cancer cases develop in males. The majority of breast cancers start in the milk ducts. A small number start in the milk sacs or lobules. It can spread to the lymph nodes and to the other parts of the body such as bones, liver, lungs and to the brain.
With more reliable early detection methods as well as the trend towards less invasive surgery, there is hope that even more women with breast cancer will be treated successfully and will go on to resume their normal lives.
Signs & Symptoms
It is painless, especially, during the early stage. Watch out for the following changes in the breast:
- A persistent lump or thickening in the breast or in the axilla.
- A change in the size or shape of the breast.
- A change in the colour or appearance of the skin of the breast such as redness, puckering or dimpling.
- Bloody discharge from the nipple.
- A change in the nipple or areola such as scaliness, persistent rash or nipple retraction (nipple pulled into the breast).
Consult a doctor immediately if you notice any of these changes.
Being a woman puts you at risk of getting breast cancer. There are certain factors that increase the risk of breast cancer. Some of them have been listed below:
- The risk increases with age; most cases of breast cancer develop after the age of 50
- Genetic alterations in certain genes such as BRCA1 and BRCA2
- Family history of breast cancer
- Being overweight
- Early menarche (onset of menstruation before the age of 12)
- Late menopause (after the age of 55)
- Never had children
- Late childbearing
- No breast feeding
- Excessive consumption of alcohol
- Use of hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) for a long period of time
However, most women who have breast cancer have none of the above risk factors. Likewise, not having any of these risk factors does not mean that you will not get breast cancer.
Early Detection and Screening
More treatment options are available when breast cancer is diagnosed at an early stage and hence the chances of recovery is also higher. So regular breast screening is important for early detection even if there are no symptoms. Following are the ways of screening:
- Breast Self-Examination (BSE): Perform BSE once a month about a week after your menses are over. If you no longer menstruate, choose a date each month which is easy to remember e.g. your date of birth or anniversary.
- Clinical Breast Examination: Get a breast specialist to examine your breast once a year if you are 40 years and above.
- Mammogram: Go for a screening mammogram once a year if you are 40 to 49 years old and once every two years if you are 50 years and above even if you do not have any symptom. It is not recommended for younger women (less than 40 years of age) as they have dense breasts, making it difficult for small changes to be detected on a mammogram. So ultrasonography of the breasts is advisable to them.
Types of Breast cancer
- Non-Invasive Breast cancer: These are confined to the ducts within the breasts. They are known as Ductal carcinoma in-situ (DCIS).
- Invasive Breast cancer: It occurs when cancer cells spread beyond the ducts or lobules. Cancer cells first spread to the surrounding breast tissue and subsequently to the lymph nodes in the armpit (Axillary lymph nodes). These cells can also travel to the other parts of the body such as bones, liver, lungs or brain and hence known as metastatic breast cancer.
Making A Diagnosis
If you notice any unusual changes in your breasts, you should see a doctor immediately. He will examine you clinically and may ask you to undergo some tests so that a definitive diagnosis can be made. Further, the staging work up is done to find out the stage of the disease and management accordingly.
Treatment of breast cancer may include various methods such as surgery with or without breast reconstruction, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormonal therapy and targeted therapy. Treatment options offered, depend upon the number of factors such as the stage of cancer and likelihood of cure, your general health and your preference.
Breast Cancer is the most common cancer of females in urban cities. It is a curable disease if detected early. The usual age of presentation is usually after 40 to 50 years of age, though it is becoming common in earlier age as well. This could be due to many factors like late marriages, older age of pregnancy, diet and lifestyle, etc. The usual presentation is a swelling or lump in the breast, not associated with pain. That is the reason why females are advised regular self-breast examination, clinical breast examination and annual mammograms for screening purpose in order to detect early breast cancers. Many times, the breast lump is associated with blood stained discharge from the nipple. There can be skin changes on the breast like thickening, crusting or sometimes itching. If the skin lymphatics get blocked, there may be pitting and or dimpling of the skin too. There may be lumps felt in the armpit felt too. Many times the lump is not noticeable or felt and felt by chance during a bath. These are some of the commonest presentations. The lady should immediately consult a doctor and get evaluated in such scenario. Many women are at increased risk of developing breast cancer like those who have a positive family history especially first degree relatives like mother& sister. Breast cancer is usually a disease of women but 1% of cases are also seen in men.
If a lady feels any such lump she should immediately bring it to the attention of a doctor or oncologist who can do the necessary evaluation and investigations. Breast cancer is curable if detected early, hence the importance!
The primary modality of treatment is surgery followed by chemotherapy and or radiotherapy and or hormonal treatment depending on the report of the specimen after the surgery. Many times if the lump cannot be operated upfront, initially chemotherapy and or targeted therapy can be given to shrink the tumor for better resectability.
People should be aware that having cancer is not the end of life. It can be treated like many other diseases and the most important thing is awareness and early detection for a durable cure.
Chemotherapy has been the remedy for cancer since the late 90s. But in today’s world the medical field has been improved so much that new methods have been invented. One of them is Hormonal therapy. It is used to cure some types of breast cancer that are affected by hormones. Receptor proteins in the breast cancer cells attach to estrogen and help the cells grow. This therapy stops the receptors attaching to estrogen in various ways.
When it is used?
Hormonal breast cancer therapy is performed after surgery to prevent the cancer from coming back. It is also applied to treat the cancer that has come back or to prevent the cancer from spreading to other parts of the body. Sometimes, if needed, it starts before the surgery. It takes five years, generally.
How it works?
Hormonal therapy mainly stops estrogen from acting on the cancer cells or lowers the estrogen level. There are different ways to do that.
- Blocking Estrogen Receptors: These drugs stop estrogen from helping breast cancer cells.
- Tamoxifen: It acts as anti-estrogen in the breast cells, but acts like estrogen in other cells. It lowers the risk of breast cancer and also stops cancer from coming back.
- Toremifene: It works in a similar way, but it is only used in metastatic breast cancer. It also decreases the pain and swelling in the muscles and bones.
- Fulvestrant: It blocks and damages estrogen receptors. It is given by injections after other drugs stop working.
- Lowering Estrogen Levels: These drugs slow the growth of cancer by lowering estrogen levels.
- Aromatase Inhibitors: These drugs stop estrogen production in women whose ovaries are not working due to menopause or other treatments. There are three types of this drug- Letrozole, Anastrozole and Exemestane.
- Ovarian Suppression: In this method, ovaries are removed or shut down to turn pre-menopausal women to post-menopausal. There are several ways to do this, and they are- Oophorectomy or surgery, LHRH analogs and applying chemotherapy drugs.
There are some other types of hormone therapy that are less common. They were used more in the past. They are:
- Megestrol acetate
- High doses of estrogen
Unfortunately, Hormonal breast cancer therapy has lots of side effects. They are-
- Hot flashes
- Mood swings
- Vagina discharge or dryness
- Developing uterine cancer
- Blood clots
- Night sweat
- Mild nausea
- Bone pain
- Injection site pain
- Muscle pain and joint stiffness and pain
- Bone thinning
Although hormonal therapy has lots of side effects, they are limited to different kinds of hormonal therapies and it is not necessary that they will surely happen. But it is best to undergo any kind of treatment with a doctor’s advice. So patients should consult the doctor first. In case you have a concern or query you can always consult an expert & get answers to your questions!
The symptoms caused due to herniated disc can be very severe and can also cause a bit of disability. The disc of the spine is like a cushion and separates the set of bones on the backside. The discs are shock absorbers of the spine and are mainly composed of 2 parts, a soft jelly centre called the nucleus and a tough outer covering called the annulus.
Effects of Herniated Disk
A herniated or cracked disc is a severe condition and it seems to happen most commonly in the lower back. It happens when a fraction of the soft centre gets pushed through the destabilized area due to degeneration, trauma or by putting pressure on the spinal cord.
Nerves are located precisely at the back of every disc and are responsible for controlling everything in our body. While a disc gets herniated, the external covering of the disc tears and creates a bulge. The soft jelly gets shifted from the centre of the disk to the region where the damage has occurred on the disc. Most commonly, the bulge occurs in areas where the nerve is located and it causes strain on the affected nerve. It has been observed that individuals do not feel any painful sensations even if their disc gets damaged.
When is Surgery Recommended for Herniated Disc?
Surgery for herniated disc is recommended only after options like steroid injections, pain relievers, exercise and non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs do not work. If the pain persists even after these options, then it becomes important to go for surgery. There are certain risks involved in this surgery like infection, bleeding or nerve damage.
There are chances that the disc may get ruptured again if it is not removed. If you are a patient suffering from degenerative disc disease, then there are chances that problem occurs in other discs. It is very important that a patient maintains healthy weight to prevent any further complications.
The main factor that increases the risk of herniated disc is excess body weight, which causes a lot of stress on the lower back. A few people become heir to a tendency of developing this condition. Even individuals with physically demanding jobs are prone to this condition.
Activities like bending sideways, pushing, twisting, repetitive lifting can increase the risk of a herniated disk. At times, emergency surgery is also required to avoid paralysis in a patient. If you wish to discuss about any specific problem, you can consult an orthopedist.
Beet juice: apart from being a nutritional powerhouse, beet juice is a great source of nitric acid. The latter helps with blood flow in the body. A smooth blood flow, on the other hand, helps the brain in functioning properly. A study has found that people who consume beet juice have an increased circulation in the white matter resulting from an increased brain activity. This juice is sweet in taste and can be consumed every alternate day.
Berry smoothies: acai is a fruit which has a south african origin and hits the top of the list when it comes to brain assisting food. It increases the flow of the blood and dilates the blood vessels. However, this is extremely expensive. Berries also have a similar effect on the brain, but they are less powerful in nature. What can be done is to mix a little ingredient of acai in frozen berries juice and drink the same every day. Frozen berries retain the freshness and the nutritional benefits. This drink will improvise your brain and increase blood flow in the body.
Pomegranate juice: pomegranate is a great antioxidant and it very aptly limits the free radicals from damaging the brain cells. Antioxidants are also credited with increased blood flow and protection of the heart. A healthy cardiovascular system is synonymous to an increased brain function. What is surprising is the fact that pomegranate has more antioxidant content compared to red wine and green tea. Pomegranate juice can be consumed daily during the morning or afternoon.
Carrot juice: carrot is known for its healthy components that are beneficial for the eyes. Recent studies have revealed that they are great for the brain too. Like other colored vegetables, they are a great source of antioxidant and have a high content of beta-carotene. Carrot juice can reduce the inflammation of the brain cells and improve memory. Carrot juice is not at all bitter and the same can be consumed every alternate day after your meal.
Cocoa: a harvard study revealed that two cups of cocoa on a daily basis greatly helps a person in improving memory. Cocoa contains flavanols that keep the blood pressure normal and relaxes the blood vessel linings. Cocoa is also known to be a great antioxidant agent that limits the free radical to affect the brain cells. Cocoa should not be overloaded with sugar and should be consumed hot before starting your day.
postural and left paracentral disc protrusion noted at L3-L4 causing thecal compression with narrowing of bilateral lateral recess/neural forminal and indentation over bilateral exiting nerve roots.
I have disc bulge and getting pain in my left leg. I have MRI report my nerve is compressed of left leg.
Dilation and curettage procedure which is commonly referred to as D&C is a minor surgical procedure where the cervix is dilated while a special instrument is used for scraping out the lining of the uterus. It is important to know what you can expect before, after and during the process so that you can stay ahead of unnecessary worries and help the process to be smooth and fruitful.
When do doctors recommend dilation and curettage process?
You may be required to undergo the dilation and curettage procedure for one of many reasons. It can be used for removal of tissues in the uterus during or after an abortion or miscarriage or to remove little pieces of placenta after delivery. This process aids in preventing infection as well as heavy bleeding. On the other hand, it can help in diagnosing and treating abnormal uterine bleeding including polyps, fibroids, hormonal imbalances and even uterine cancer. A sample of the tissues in the uterus is tested under a microscope to check if there is any abnormal cell present.
What can you expect during the dilation and curettage process?
The D&C procedure is a minor one and takes about 15 minutes even though you will have to spend about 4 to 5 hours in the healthcare facility. Before the procedure, your doctor would check complete history, and at this point, you should tell your doctor if you suspect that you are pregnant, you are sensitive to latex or any medicines or if you have a history of bleeding disorders. You will then be given anesthesia so that you don’t feel any pain or discomfort during the procedure. Before this procedure, you will have to empty your bladder.
The D&C procedure comprises two main steps, dilation, and curettage.
Dilation involves opening of the lower part of the uterus or the cervix for allowing insertion of a slender rod. This is done to soften the cervix so that it opens and allows curettage to be performed. Curettage involves scraping of the lining and removal of the uterine contents with the help of a spoon-like instrument known as a curette. This may cause some amount of cramping, and a tissue sample would be taken out for examination in the laboratory.
After the completion of the procedure, you may experience slight bleeding and cramping. In some rare cases, adhesions or scar tissues may start forming inside the uterus, and this condition is termed as Asherman’s syndrome which can cause changes in the menstrual cycle along with infertility. This problem, if arises, can be solved with the help of surgery and therefore, you should report any abnormality in your menstrual cycle to your doctor. Consult an expert & get answers to your questions!