Breast cancer is cancer that develops from breast tissue. Signs of breast cancer may include a lump in the breast, a change in breast shape, dimpling of the skin, fluid coming from the nipple, or a red scaly patch of skin. Breast cancer occurs almost entirely in women, but men can get it, too.
HOW IS BREAST CANCER DIAGNOSED?
Self-examination is the first screening that one can do for diagnosing breast cancer. A clinical breast exam may be done if one suspects an unusual lump. Oncologists may order for a mammogram to screen abnormal growths in the breasts. A breast ultrasound or MRI may reveal further details of the lump. Biopsy of the breast lump can confirm diagnosis of breast cancer.
HOW IS BREAST CANCER TREATED?
Breast cancer is treated using a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The standard surgeries are Mastectomy: Removal of the whole breast, Quadrantectomy: Removal of one quarter of the breast and Lumpectomy: Removal of a small part of the breast. Surgery is usually the first type of treatment which is followed by chemotherapy or radiotherapy or, in some cases, hormone or biological treatments along with medicines.
DID YOU KNOW?
Early detection is a big plus in treating breast cancer.
Breast cancer or carcinoma of the breast tissue develops when the lactiferous ducts and globules are affected. It is the leading type of cancer afflicting women worldwide though its incidence is higher among women from developed countries. Due to better healthcare facilities however, the former has greater chances of survival than their counterparts in developing countries. Breast cancer can be a result of hereditary factors, smoking, alcohol consumption, obesity, exposure to ionizing radiation, hormone replacement therapy, and lack of breastfeeding or having children at a late age.
The symptoms of breast cancer are as follows:
• A lump on the breast or lymph nodes in the armpit with a texture differing from regular breast tissue.
• Change in the shape or size of one breast.
• Dimpling of the skin.
• A change in the position, shape or inversion of a nipple.
• Rash on or around a nipple
• Discharge from the nipple
• Paget’s Disease
• Swelling below the collarbone or armpits
• Fever and chills
• Unexpected weight loss
The symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer however resemble inflammation of the breasts accompanied by itching, pain, swelling, warmth and redness of the breast and change to orange peel texture.
Breast cancer has the following stages:
• Stage 0: Pre-cancer stage. The carcinoma just sets into the lobules and ducts.
• Stage 1-3: The cancer is localized within the breast or regional lymph nodes.
• Stage 4: Advanced stage when the cancer metastasizes onto other parts of the body like the bones, liver or brain.
Diagnosis of breast cancer in the early stages mostly follows screening methods like physical examination by trained medical staff, FNAC and mammography. Mammogram is usually consulted when the usual symptoms of breast cancer are absent. Oncologists advise biopsy of the affected part of the breast for conclusive diagnosis of breast cancer.
Blood-cancer can be treated in the following ways:
• Surgery – Generally used for localized breast cancer, surgery can involve breast conserving surgery which excises cancerous and normal tissue depending on the size and position of cancer and mastectomy which involves complete removal of the breast. Surgery is also used for breast reconstruction and to detect and remove metastases.
• Radiation Therapy – It is a process of killing cancer cells with high-energy rays. It includes External (beam) Radiation and Internal Radiation.
• Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy drugs are used to kill the fast growing cells all over the patient’s body including her breast. They may be administered before or after surgery depending on the state of the cancer and the patient’s health. If the cancer is advanced, oncologists advise chemotherapy in the form of I.V drips, injections or infusions.
• Hormone Therapy- A recently developed form of treatment, hormone therapy is used when the cancer returns.
• Targetted Therapy - Targetted drugs have been developed to target and kill cancer cells throughout the body.
Breast cancer treatment is an expensive and lengthy procedure. The patient requires optimal care and medical and psychological support.
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