Breast Cancer – What is it?
Cancer occurs when changes in growth-regulating genes happen. These changes are called “mutations”. The mutations may lead to uncontrollable growth of unwanted cells.
Breast cancer occurs in the breast. It is caused by mutations in the mammary glands. The cancer may either form in lobules (where the milk is produced) or breast ducts (the pathways that supplied milk to the nipple) or fatty tissue within the breast.
The diagnosis of breast cancer is through mammograms, biopsy, and specialised testing. Breast self-examination may help in detection too.
Causes of Breast Cancer:
Breast cancer occurs when the cells start growing rapidly and abnormally. These cells keep accumulating, forming a mass or lump. This kind of abnormal cell growth may be because of various factors such as hormones, lifestyle, and environmental factors. However, it is not evident why a few people, in spite of having the least risk factors, suffer from breast cancer.
It is possible that breast cancer may be caused by a difficult-to-understand interaction of genes and environment.
Also, as per experts, about 5-10% of breast cancers could be inherited, the gene mutations are passed through generations of a family. This would increase the chances of both breast and ovarian cancer.
Symptoms of Breast Cancer
Cancer symptoms may vary from person to person. While a few people may not show any symptoms at all, some people may experience warning signs or symptoms. Here is a list of these
- Lump in breast or in armpits.
- Swollen breasts
- Irritation or dimpling of breast skin.
- Flaky skin on the breast or nipple area.
- Nipple discharge (blood discharge)
- Possible change in size or shape of the breast
- Painful breasts.
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Inverted nipples
Although these are the symptoms of breast cancer, there may be other reasons too if you experience these symptoms.
Treatment of Breast Cancer
There are various types of breast cancer treatments.
As the name suggests, local treatments are local. They treat the tumor without causing any harm to the rest of the body.
Local treatment could be some type of surgery to remove harmful tumorous cells. However, based on the type of breast cancer and stage of breast cancer, it might be accompanied with other sorts of treatments too. This could be before or after surgery. For example, radiation for breast cancer.
Generally, cancer drugs are considered as systemic treatments. These drugs can reach any cancer cells in any part of the body. It can either be given through the mouth or injected into the bloodstream of the patient.
Systemic treatments depend on the type and stage of breast cancer. Some of the different types of systemic treatments include: Chemotherapy, Hormone therapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy
Common Treatment Approaches
Typically, the suggested treatments would be based on the type and stage of the cancer or any other special consideration. However, there may be myriad factors involved in deciding the treatments such as overall health and personal preferences of the breast cancer patient.
Blog Written by
MBBS, MS, DNB
Consultant: GI Surgeon, Laparoscopic Surgeon, Bariatric & Surgical Oncologist