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Cancer is the abnormal, uncontrolled growth of cells in a particular body part. With continued growth, pieces of this tissue travel through the blood to different body parts and continue to grow in the new area. This is known as metastases. Breast cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer and affects about 1 in 8 women in the USA. Read on to know more details of breast cancer – breast anatomy, causes, symptoms, risk factors, detection, prevention, and of course treatment.
Anatomy: The main function of the breast is lactation through its milk-producing tissue that are connected to the nipple by narrow ducts. In addition, there is surrounding connective tissue, fibrous material, fat, nerves, blood vessels and lymphatic channels which complete the structure. This is essential to know as most breast cancers develop as small calcifications (hardened particles) in the ducts or as small lumps in the breast tissue which then continues to grow into cancer. The spread can happen through lymphatic or blood flow to other organs.
Warning signs/symptoms: The following are some symptoms that need to be watched out for if you have a predisposition to breast cancer.
- A lump in either of the breasts or armpits
- Change in size, shape, or contour of either breast
- Redness of your breast or nipple
- Discharge of clear or bloody fluid
- Thickening of breast tissue or skin that lasts through a period
- Altered look or feel of the skin on the breast or the nipple (dimpled, inflamed, scaly, or puckered)
- One area on the breast that looks very different from the other areas
- Hardened area under the breast skin
Either one or a combination of these should be an indication to get a detailed checkup done. Early diagnosis results in controlling the disease with minimal treatment and reduced complications.
Causes and risk factors: The exact cause for breast cancer is yet to be pinned down. However, risk factors are clearly identified, and women with risk factors need to watch out for warning signs.
- Family history: Of all the risk factors, the family history is the most important. Breast cancer runs in families, and if there is a first-degree relative with the breast cancer, the chances of developing it are almost double. Two genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 are the carriers of the disease, and this testing can be done in women to identify if they are at risk.
- Family history of other cancers: Even if there is no breast cancer, if there are other cancers that run in the family, watch out.
- Age: Women over 50 are at higher risk of developing breast cancer.
- Race: Caucasian and Jewish women are at higher risk of breast cancer than African-American women.
- Hormones: Greater exposure to the female hormone estrogen increases the chances of developing breast cancer. Women who use birth control pills for contraception and hormone replacement after menopause are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
- Gynecologic milestones: Women who have abnormal menstrual milestones need to watch out. These include those who attain menarche before 12 years of age, get pregnant after 30, attain menopause after 55, and have menstrual cycles shorter than 26 days or longer than 29 days.
- Obesity and alcohol abuse are also likely to increase a woman’s chances of developing breast cancer.
Stages: Starting from stage 0, higher stages indicate advanced disease.
- Stage 0: The growth which has begun in the milk-producing tissue or the ducts has remained there (in situ) and not spread to any other area, including the rest of the breast.
- Stage I: The tissue slowly becomes invasive and has begun to affect the surrounding healthy tissue. It could have spread to the fatty breast tissue and some breast tissue may be found in the nearby lymph nodes.
- Stage II: The cancer at this stage grows considerably or spreads to other parts. There are chances that cancer may grow and also spread.
- Stage III: It may have spread to the bones or other organs but small amounts are present in up to 9 to 10 of the lymph nodes in the armpits and collar bones which makes it is difficult to fight.
- Stage IV: The cancer is widespread to far-flung areas like the liver, lungs, bones, and even the brain.
Screening: This is one of the most effective ways to identify the disease in its early stages. This will help in controlling cancer from spreading with minimal treatment.
- Self-examination: A thorough self-examination to look for changes in terms of shape, size, colour, contour, and firmness should be learned by all women. Watch for any discharge, sores, rashes, or swelling in the breasts, surrounding skin, and nipple. Examine them while standing and when lying down.
- In most women, annual screening mammograms are advised after the age of 40. However, in women who have a strong family history or genetic makeup, it is advisable to have screening mammograms starting at age 20 every 3 years and then annually from the age of 40.
- Women in high-risk categories should have screening mammograms every year and typically start at an earlier age.
- Ultrasound screening can also be given in addition to mammograms.
- Breast MRI is another way to screen for breast cancer if the risk is greater.
Breast Cancer Prevention: Now that there is so much awareness about causes and risk factors, there are definitely ways to prevent or delay the onset of the disease.
- Exercise and a healthy diet with reduced amount of alcohol are definitely effective in minimising the chances of developing cancer.
- Tamoxifen is used in women who are at high risk for breast cancer.
- Evista (raloxifene) which is used to treat osteoporosis after menopause. It is also widely used in preventing breast cancer.
- In high-risk women, breasts are surgically removed to prevent the development of cancer (preventive mastectomy).
Treatment: As with all cancers, treatment would depend on the stage at which it is identified and include a combination of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. As noted earlier, if you are at risk, look out for warning signs as early diagnosis is the key to maximum recovery.
The womb or the uterus is a muscular structure that is fixed in its place by the ligaments and the pelvic muscles. If these ligaments or muscles become weak or stretch, they no longer will be capable of holding the uterus, resulting in a prolapse. Uterine prolapse happens when the uterine slips or sags from its usual position into the birth canal or vagina. The main indications of uterine prolapse are recurrent bladder infections, constipation, a tug at the pelvic area, the cervix or uterus protruding out of the vagina, problems during sexual intercourse, increased discharge and vaginal bleeding.
What causes it?
1. Age is the most important reason for this condition to manifest itself.
2. A dip in the estrogen level as this hormone keeps the pelvic muscles strong.
3. Damage to the pelvic tissues and muscles due to pregnancy or during childbirth can also contribute to this condition.
4. A woman who has undergone multiple vaginal births is at an increased risk of this condition.
5. Any physical activity that exerts pressure on the pelvic muscles can also result in this disorder.
6. Chronic constipation and obesity, over time, can lead to this disorder.
How it can be treated?
1. Nonsurgical methods:
- Shedding the extra kilos helps reduce stress from the pelvic structures. This helps to avert this disorder.
- Avoid lifting heavy objects throughout the course of the treatment.
- Pelvic floor exercises or Kegel exercises help build up the vaginal muscles.
- Estrogen replacement therapy or Hormone Replacement Therapy can help relieve the symptoms of this disease.
- Wearing a pessary (an instrument that is placed into the vagina and fits under the cervix) helps to push up and stabilize the cervix and the uterus.
2. Surgical treatments:
- Uterine suspension- In this case, the surgeon inserts the uterus back into its former position by reattaching the pelvic ligaments by the use of surgical techniques.
- Hysterectomy- Here, the surgeon removes either the whole or just a part of the womb.
Breast Cancer can be detected at various stages. Some women might feel a difference in their breast area, with a lump or kind of a skin rash around the nipple or they could see that their nipple has become inverted, so then the treatment procedures would be different. The different stages of cancer and their respective treatment procedures are discussed below:
Stage I Breast Cancer - Treatment
In this case, breast cancers are at their nascent stage, either they have not spread to the lymph nodes or might have spread to only a small area. Treatment options are as follows:
- Surgery: The main treatment for breast cancer in stage I is surgery. These types of cancers get treatment with either breast-conserving surgery or mastectomy. There are some cases when breast reconstruction can also be done along with the surgery to get rid of cancer.
- Radiation therapy: When doctors feel the need to do a breast construction surgery, then radiation therapy is normally given after surgery. This helps in lowering the chance of cancer getting relapsed. Older women, aged close to 70 years, should go for breast reconstruction surgery without radiation therapy, provided the following conditions are true:
- The lump was 2cm or less across and it has been completely removed.
- None of the lymph nodes removed contained cancer.
- The cancer is either ER or PR-positive and hormone therapy is conducted.
- Chemotherapy and other drugs: Women who have either ER or PR-positive hormone receptor, doctors would recommend them to go for hormone therapy. The therapy is given for 5 years. In case the tumor is larger than 1cm across, adjuvant chemotherapy is recommended.
Stage II Breast Cancer-Treatment
This is the stage when cancer has spread to some nearby lymph nodes. The treatment methods followed are:
- Surgery and radiation therapy: This second stage of cancer gets treated with breast-conserving surgery or mastectomy. The lymph nodes nearby get checked either with a sentinel lymph node biopsy or an axillary lymph node dissection. Women, on whom BCS have been conducted, get treated with radiation therapy after surgery.
- Neoadjuvant and adjuvant systemic therapy: This is another method followed for treating stage II cancer. It is a good option for women with large tumors as they shrink the tumor before conducting surgery. Chemotherapy, HER2 targeted drugs and Hormone therapy all form part of treatment in this stage II.
Stage III Breast Cancer – Treatment
In stage III breast cancer, the size of a tumor is more than 5 cm, with cancer spreading on to the nearby lymph nodes. The treatment procedures followed are:
- Neoadjuvant therapy: Generally the stage III cancers are treated with neoadjuvant chemotherapy. Radiation therapy is also given after surgery, followed by breast reconstruction surgery.
- Starting off with surgery: Another treatment option for this stage is to get started off with surgery. The tumors are quite large and they even grow on to nearby tissues, which means women need to get a mastectomy. Women having large breasts can even go for Breast Reconstruction Surgery, in case cancer has not spread on to the nearby tissues.
In case you have a concern or query you can always consult an expert & get answers to your questions!
The incidence of breast cancer is increasing worldwide, especially in the western world due to a variety of factors like diet, genetics and lifestyle, including body weight. Other predominant factors are ovarian function and oestrogen exposure, pregnancy, and lactation. It is the second most common carcinoma in women and it occurs mostly after the age of 30. It’s most commonly seen in the age group of 40-60. Even though there is so much of awareness about this cancer, there is a high incidence of this cancer going undetected.
This cancer is treatable if detected early. For this, we need to know its common symptoms, which are
- Lump in breast i.e. presence of a hard mass in the breast with no defined margins
- Bleeding from nipple
- Nipple retraction
- Redness and pain
If left undetected, cancer in the breasts can spread to the bones, liver and even the brain.
We all know that Homeopathy, a popular holistic system of medicine cures by using the principle of ‘Like cures like’. Homeopathy relies on a specialised remedy based on the physical, psychological and emotional symptoms of a patient. This is the reason that self-medication fails abysmally in homoeopathy. The homoeopathic medicines for breast cancer in this article thus should be used just as a reference and you should consult a good homoeopath for a complete cure. Several proven homoeopathic remedies are available to treat symptoms of breast cancer like:
- Conium Mac: It is an excellent cure for breast cancer, especially when the breasts are hard and tender. The breast becomes rock-hard and there is a stinging pain in this type of breast cancer which starts in the milk ducts and spreads to outer regions. This type of breast cancer is tackled by Conium Mac.
- Baryta Carb: This homoeopathic drug is used when the breast is enlarged and inflamed. The mammary gland is also hard and stony plus sensitive to touch. The milk glands in this type of cancer become enlarged and tender. Blood from the nipple is another indication for use of Baryta carb.
- Hydrastis Can: The patient has to swell of the mammary glands and complains of pain and tenderness. Her nipples are engorged, have cracks and a watery discharge.
- Iodine: This homoeopathic remedy works mostly on the enlargement of the breasts which may be malignant or malign. In this type of cancer, the mucous membrane of the mammary glands as well as the breast tissue gets inflamed. The breast tissue becomes enlarged and hard and presents with nodes.
- Phytolacca: A hard, irregular tumour with retracted nipples is the main indication for this homoeopathic remedy. A sore that extends from the breasts to the arms is another predominant feature. In case you have a concern or query you can always consult an expert & get answers to your questions!