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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.
Fibroid tumour is the abnormal cell growth in the uterus and they are mostly benign. Fibroids usually affect women in the age bracket of 30 - 40. Fibroid tumours are of three types, depending on their location:
- Submucosal fibroids: The tumour develops under the lining of the uterus
- Intramural fibroids: The growth is found amongst the muscles in the wall of the uterus
- Subserosal fibroids: The growth develops on the wall of the uterus right in the pelvic cavity
Causes behind it
The exact cause of fibroids in not known clearly. But certain factors have been discovered that might influence their formation. These factors include:
- Hormones: Progesterone and estrogen are the hormones responsible for recreating the uterine lining during every menstrual cycle. These hormones might trigger the formation of tumour.
- Family history: If any member in your family; your mother, grandmother or sister has/had fibroids in their uterus, you may also develop it.
- Pregnancy: Your body produces excessive progesterone and estrogen when you are pregnant, which may cause an increase in the size of a pre-existing small fibroid. Myomectomy can be done by giving incision on the abdomen or by laparoscopy depending on the size and location of the fibroids.
Signs You are suffering from it
- Heavy bleeding along with blood clots during or between your periods
- Lower back or pelvic pain
- Elevated menstrual cramping
- Frequent urination
- Pain during sex
- Longer than normal periods
- Bloating or pressure in lower abdomen
- Enlargement or swelling of the abdomen
How it can be treated?
Your doctor will formulate the right treatment depending on your age, the mass of the fibroids and your overall health. Your doctor may choose a combination of treatment to cure your fibroids, and they include:
- Medication: Gonadotropin releasing hormones (GnRH) agonists, birth control pills and ibuprofen (anti-inflammatory medicine) are prescribed. GnRH agonists reduce the level of progesterone and estrogen in your uterus.
- Surgery: Myomectomy and hysterectomy are two common surgical procedures to treat fibroids. Myomectomy is performed by removing the fibroids only by making an incision on the abdomen. But hysterectomy completely removes the uterus. The latter is reserved for serious cases.
- Non-invasive surgery: Forced ultrasound surgery, myolysis (shrinking fibroids with laser or electric current), cryomyolysis (fibroids are frozen) and endometrial ablation (an instrument uses heat, hot water, microwaves or electric current to destroy fibroids) are some non-invasive surgical procedures. If you wish to discuss about any specific problem, you can consult a doctor and ask a free question.
The uterus is an organ situated in the pelvis of a female. It is hollow and is usually called the womb where child conception takes place. The uterus functions to help in developing the foetus until birth. Abnormal cell growth that consists of uterine tissues causes uterine cancer.
Although the exact reason for uterine cancer is not known, the risk factors usually can be seen in women with hyperplasia, obese women, and women who have never had kids. Common signs and indications of uterine cancer are unusual vaginal bleeding or discharge, pain while urinating and having sex, and pelvic pains.
Bases upon the sort and phase of cancer, and also your concerns about fertility, there are a number of uterine cancer surgical methods, including the following:
Hysterectomy: The primary focus is an operation to remove the uterus and cervix. At the point when the uterus is removed through a cut in the abdomen, it is known as a total abdominal hysterectomy. In case that the uterus is removed through the vagina, it is known as a vaginal hysterectomy.
Radical Hysterectomy: A radical hysterectomy will be necessary for only a small percentage of women since several better surgical options exist already. This kind of uterine cancer surgery includes removing the uterus, cervix and ovaries and the majority of the encompassing tissue (the parametria) and the upper part of the vagina.
Lymphadenectomy: The lymph nodes in the pelvis may likewise be removed. Your specialist may evacuate the lymph nodes as a component of a hysterectomy to deal with cancer and build up a more focused approach for the uterine cancer treatment plan.
Pelvic Exenteration: For women with repetitive or advanced uterine cancer, pelvic exenteration might be an alternative. During this kind of cancer surgery, the uterus, cervix, vagina, ovaries, bladder, rectum and surrounding lymph nodes are removed. Tissue from somewhere else in the body is used to recreate the vagina and urine and stools are passed into external packs.
Sentinel Lymph Node Mapping: Sentinel lymph node mapping (SLN) might be utilised as a part of early-stage cancer if your specialist can see from the X-ray results that there has been no undeniable spread of cancer to the lymph nodes in your pelvis. In this surgery, a blue dye is infused into the zone with cancer, which is usually close to the cervix. The lymph nodes that turn blue are removed during surgery.
- Omentectomy: The omentum is a layer of greasy tissue that covers the stomach contents like an apron. Cancer at times tends to spread to this tissue. At the point when this tissue is removed, it is called an omentectomy. This might be done during a hysterectomy if cancer has spread there or to check for possible cancer spread.
After surgery if the stage comes beyond stage 1 then patients need Radiotherapy by an oncologist.
My mother is a diagnosed case of carcinoma right breast. Her surgery has been done on 28.05.2017 at Delhi where her infected breast has been removed completely. And doctor has said after seeing biopsy report that only chemotherapy will be done radiation not required. And we started her chemotherapy at kolkata from different doctor as Kolkata is near to my hometown And her 6th and last chemo therapy is over on 11.10.2017. Biopsy report says that my mother breast cancer cell her 2/neu is 3+ and comment Her 2 gene amplification issue at18-20% of invasive breast cancer as per biopsy report. Staging is-mpT2N0Mx. The whole body scan pet has been done where its found that cancer has not spread to any other part of body. The consulting chemotherapy doctor also initially said that only chemotherapy will be done no radiation required but now when 6th last chemotherapy is over he is saying that radiation will also be done. Which will continue for 3 week 5 days each week. Please help sir/mam why he is suggesting it now? Is that for business purpose only? Whats is side effect of radiation Plss pls guide sir/mam. Thanks in advance.
The uterus is a very important organ within the human reproductive system as this is the chamber where an embryo grows into a baby. Due to a multitude of factors, the incidence of uterine cancer has been on the rise. Let's look at some of its symptoms.
Symptoms of uterine cancer
When cells within the uterus grow abnormally and turn malignant, it may be termed as uterine cancer. This may be in the form of a fibroid or tumor or be part of the uterine tissue itself. It may be caused due to a multitude of factors such as late menopause, radiation exposure, estrogen treatments and many others. Some of the common symptoms for uterine cancer could be:
a. Pain in the abdomen, lower back and especially the pelvic area.
b. Pain during urination,
c. Weight loss without any apparent reason
d. Vaginal bleeding with or without discharge
e. Pain during sex
Stages of uterine cancer:
Before we understand the stages of uterine cancer you need to know how doctors diagnose the various stages. This is done by the three following steps in the TNM method:
Tumor - Doctors try and search for tumors and locate them within the uterus, estimate its size and whether it is malignant or not.
Node - If the tumor is malignant, then doctors try to find out whether the tumor has reached the lymph nodes or not.
Metastasis - Doctors look for Metastasis which is whether the cancer has spread to other organs within the body and to what extent.
Stages of cancer - Cancer is primarily grouped in five stages from 0 to V according to the T, N and M stages mentioned below.
Stage 0 - This is a very early stage of cancer where the cells have malignant growth but are still small in number and haven't spread anywhere.
Stage I - If the cancer has developed a little but is restricted within the uterus, it is considered as stage one. This is also further divided into Stage 1A and 1B.
Stage II - When the cancer has started spreading but only to some parts of the cervix from the uterus, it is diagnosed as stage 2 uterine cancer.
Stage III - Categorized into Stage IIIA, Stage IIIB, Stage IIIC1 and Stage IIIC2, it is primarily where the cancer has spread to other organs but it is only limited to the pelvic area.
Stage IV A - When the cancer has gone beyond the pelvic area and also spread to the rectum and balder area.
Stage IV B - This is where the cancer has metastasized in the groin area or gone to other organs within the body as well.
In case you have a concern or query you can always consult an expert & get answers to your questions!
Any kind of bleeding from the uterus, which is not normal, can be termed as abnormal uterine bleeding. This refers to bleeding between periods or before periods, bleeding after having sex, spotting, abnormally heavy bleeding or bleeding after attaining menopause. If you are suffering from any of these issues, you need to consult with the doctor.
It is very important to diagnose abnormal uterine bleeding. There are several examinations and tests that have to be carried out, depending on age. For irregular spotting, a pregnancy test can be undertaken in case you think you could be pregnant. If your uterine bleeding is very heavy, a test has to be performed to check blood count. This is done to observe whether you have anemia. An ultrasound test of the pelvic region will also be advised by your doctor to know the cause of the bleeding. Several hormonal tests and thyroid function tests are required as well.
Other diagnostic tests include:
- Sonohysterography: When fluid is placed within the uterus and ultrasound images of the uterus are taken. An image of the pelvic organs is obtained.
- Hysteroscopy: It can be carried out when a device is inserted via the vagina and enables the doctor to examine the uterus internally.
- Magnetic resonance imaging: This is also used to get images of the organs.
- Endometrial biopsy: It involves insertion of a catheter to take out a tissue which is microscopically observed.
There are different types of treatment for abnormal uterine bleeding depending upon factors such as the cause of bleeding and the age of the patient.
- Medications: Several medicines are used to treat abnormal uterine bleeding. Sometimes hormonal medicines are used. Birth control pills are also used to improve the regularity of periods. Hormonal infections, vaginal creams and an IUD device releasing hormone can be used. Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are also used to control bleeding. Several antibiotics may also be prescribed.
- Surgery: In some cases of abnormal uterine bleeding, a woman has to undergo a surgery for the removal of growth such as polyps and fibroids, which results in bleeding. While some fibroids can be removed via hysteroscopy, others require different techniques for treatment.
- Endometrial ablation: It can be undertaken to control bleeding. This mode of treatment aims at reducing the bleeding permanently. In case all treatment methods fail, hysterectomy has to be carried out. This is a serious surgery and after it is performed, a woman does not have periods anymore and will not be able to conceive a child.
Abnormal uterine bleeding is a serious health condition, which may lead to severe complications. Immediate diagnosis and appropriate treatment methods should be undertaken in case of any abnormal uterine bleeding.