Breast cancer is cancer that forms in the cells of your breast. The kind of breast cancer depends on the cells in the breast.
A breast has three parts. Those parts are lobules, ducts, and connective tissue. Breast cancer can begin in any of these parts of the breast. The lobules are the glands that function as producing milk. The ducts are tubes that carry produced milk to your nipples. The connective tissue that involves fats gives breasts their size and shape.
It is possible for breast cancer to spread outside your breast through blood and lymph vessels. If breast cancer spreads to another part of your body, this process is called that cancer has metastasized.
It should be remembered that everyone can have different symptoms. It is possible for some people to not show any symptoms at all.
Some of the most common symptoms of breast cancer include:
- Change in the breast size
- Change in the appearance of the breast
- A breast lump
- A newly inverted nipple
- Peeling of the pigmented area of skin which surrounds the nipple
- Redness of the skin over the breast
- Pain in the breast
- Nipple discharge
The patients must be informed that these signs can occur in combination with other conditions that are not cancer.
Every breast is unique. That is a breast type that appears normal for you may not be normal for another woman. Studies have shown that most women around the world stated that their breasts feel lumpy or uneven. It should also be remembered that breasts tend to change with aging, childbirth, weight fluctuations, and taking certain medications.
There can be several reasons that you may experience lumps in your breast, including cancer. However, fibrocystic breast condition and cysts are the most common causes of breast lumps. Therefore, it would be best for you to consult a professional.
A person can be diagnosed with cancer due to a combination of several factors. Being a woman and getting older are the main factors that influence your risk. It should be noted that women who are older than the age of 50 are at risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer. The other risk factors include:
- Genetic mutations
- Having dense breasts
- Reproductive history
- Family history of breast or ovarian cancer
- Previous treatment of radiation therapy
- Usage of diethylstilbestrol
You can make changes in your daily life in order to help reduce your risk of breast cancer. Some of the changes include:
It would be best for you to consult a doctor about when to begin cancer screening tests and exams. Your doctor will talk to you about the benefits and the risks of the screening process. Then, you can decide the best strategy for yourself. It is possible for patients to get screened for breast cancer at a clinic or hospital. You can schedule an appointment any time you feel nervous about the conditions of your breast. Some health insurance plans can cover mammograms every two years for women after the age of 40.
A mammogram is a process of scanning the breast via X-ray. Mammograms are the best approach to find breast cancer early for many women. Having regular mammogram screenings can lower the risk of severe breast cancer symptoms.
Breast Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
MRI, or breast magnetic resonance imaging, uses magnets and radio waves in order to take pictures of the breasts. MRI can be used along with mammograms in order to screen breasts.
Clinical Breast Exam
A clinical breast exam is a process of examining the breast physically by a doctor or a nurse to feel for lumps or other changes.
Postmenopausal hormone therapy may increase your risk of breast cancer. This is why limiting such therapy would be ideal for you.
It is possible for some women to experience discomfort during menopause. You can, however, get the lowest dose of hormone therapy to reduce the risk of breast cancer.
Studies have shown that women who follow the Mediterranean diet with extra-virgin olive oil and mixed nuts have a lower risk of getting diagnosed with breast cancer. The Mediterranean diet mostly focuses on plant-based food. Therefore, it is also possible to maintain a healthy weight through the Mediterranean diet.
Estrogen-blocking medications can reduce the risk of breast cancer. Those medications can include selective estrogen receptor modulators and aromatase inhibitors. However, patients should be informed about the adverse effects of these medications.
Some women may choose to have a prophylactic mastectomy. Prophylactic mastectomy is a surgical intervention that removes healthy breasts surgically. It is also possible to undergo prophylactic oophorectomy to prevent possible cancer risks. Prophylactic oophorectomy is the surgical approach that removes healthy ovaries.
Your doctor will order additional tests in order to diagnose breast cancer. Ordering additional tests does not always mean that a patient has cancer. They can also be the tests that are used to eliminate every possible risk. Those tests are:
- Breast ultrasound
- Diagnostic mammogram
- MRI (Magnetic resonance imaging)
The stage of breast cancer depends on several conditions, such as the spread of cancer to nearby lymph nodes or other parts of the body, the size, and location of the primary tumor, tumor grade, and present certain biomarkers. It is vital to know the breast cancer stage in order to plan the best treatment strategy.
There are three types of breast cancer.
The clinical prognostic stage is used to assign a stage based on health history, physical exam, imaging tests, and biopsies. This stage is described by the TNM system, tumor grade, and biomarker status. The TNM system can describe the size of the primary tumor and the spread of cancer. Mammography or ultrasound is used to check the lymph nodes for signs of cancer in clinical staging.
Then, the pathological prognostic stage is used for patients who have surgery as their first treatment. This stage is based on all clinical information, biomarker status, and laboratory test results that are obtained from the breast tissue and lymph nodes that are removed during surgery.
This anatomic stage is based on the size and the spread of cancer, as described by the TNM system. This stage is used where the biomarker testing is not available.
Procedures and test that are used to stage breast cancer include:
- Blood tests
- CT (Computerized tomography)
- PET (Positron emission tomography)
- Bone scan
There is no need for every woman to have all of these tests and procedures. Your doctor will select the appropriate tests according to your specific circumstances by taking into account your new symptoms. Staging of breast cancer takes into account the degree of your cancer, the presence of tumor markers, and proliferation factors.
Angiosarcoma is a rare type of cancer that develops in the lining of the lymph vessels and blood vessels. The lymph vessels collect and dispose of the bacteria, viruses, and waste products of the body.
Angiosarcoma can develop anywhere in your body. However, it often occurs on the head and neck of your skin. Angiosarcoma can rarely develop in other parts of your body.
Signs and symptoms of angiosarcoma may vary based on where cancer develops. Angiosarcoma can lead to skin changes like purple-colored nodules or a lump in your breast. However, It can also occur in the affected arms of women who are diagnosed with lymphedema. Lymphedema is a swelling that can develop after surgery or radiation therapy to treat breast cancer.
Although doctors have identified several factors that may increase your risk of the disease, it is not clear what causes the most type of angiosarcomas.
Doctors have come to the conclusion that something causes a cell in the lining of a blood vessel or lymph vessel to develop a mutation in its genetic code. The mutation causes the cell to grow quickly to produce abnormal cells. The abnormal cells can continue living even though other cells die.
DCIS, or ductal carcinoma in situ, is the presence of abnormal cells inside a milk duct in your breast. Furthermore, DCIS is considered the earliest form of breast cancer. However, it is noninvasive. That is, DCIS has not spread out of the milk duct. Ductal carcinoma in situ is generally found during a mammogram.
Ductal carcinoma in situ does not usually have a sign or symptom. Nevertheless, it can sometimes cause a breast lump or bloody nipple discharge.
The causes of ductal carcinoma in situ are not very clear. It forms when genetic mutations occur in the DNA of breast duct cells. Those genetic mutations cause the cells to appear abnormal. However, the cells do not have the ability to break out of the breast duct.
Doctors do not know what triggers the abnormal cell growth that leads to ductal carcinoma in situ. Your lifestyle and genes, however, may play a part in the existence of this type of cancer.
Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare form of breast cancer that develops swiftly. This type of cancer makes the affected breast red, swollen, and tender.
Inflammatory breast cancer develops when cancer cells block the lymphatic vessels in the skin that cover the breast. Then, this type of cancer leads to a red and swollen appearance of the breast.
Inflammatory breast cancer is a locally advanced cancer. That is, it has spread from its point of origin to adjacent tissue or nearby lymph nodes.
This type of cancer does not form a lump like other types of cancer. Some of the signs and symptoms are
- Unusual warmth of the affected breast
- A rapid change in the appearance of one breast
- Dimpling on the skin of the affected breast
- Enlarged lymph nodes
It is not clear what causes inflammatory breast cancer. However, studies have shown that inflammatory breast cancer begins when a breast cell develops changes in its DNA. The cell is located in one of the ducts that carry breast milk to the nipple. Nevertheless, cancer can also occur with a cell in the lobules.
The changes to the DNA encourages the breast cell to grow rapidly. The accumulating abnormal cells clog the lymphatic vessels. The blockage in the lymphatic vessels causes red, swollen, and dimpled skin.
An invasive lobular carcinoma is a form of breast cancer that occurs in the lobules of the breast. This type of cancer, or also known as infiltrating lobular carcinoma, is the second most common type of breast cancer. Invasive lobular carcinoma can occur at any age. However, this type of cancer is most common in older women. It is possible for men to get invasive lobular carcinoma.
Invasive lobular carcinoma may cause any symptoms at its earliest stages. However, some of the symptoms of invasive lobular carcinoma are:
- A newly inverted nipple
- A new area of fullness or swelling in the breast
- An area of thickening in the part of the breast
- Dimpling on the breast
- Pain in the breast
- Discharge from the nipple
It is not clear what causes this type of cancer. However, researchers have stated that invasive lobular carcinoma begins when cells in lobules develop mutations in their DNA. These mutations will lead to the inability to control cell growth, which results in the cells growing rapidly. The cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body, depending on the aggressiveness of the cancer type.
Paget’s disease of the breast is a rare form of breast cancer. This type of cancer often starts on the nipple. Then, it extends to the dark circle of skin around the nipple. Paget’s disease of the breast occurs in women older than age 50. It is possible for most women with Paget’s disease of the breast that they have underlying ductal breast cancer. Paget’s disease of the breast is confined to the nipple itself only in rare cases.
Initial characteristic skin changes are the appearance of reddish and abnormally thickened skin patches or lesions on the nipple. This appearance may extend to adjacent areas of the areola. Some affected women may also experience abnormal discharge from the nipple. Additional symptoms may include itching or burning sensations of the affected area. This type of cancer usually affects one breast. However, there are rare cases in which both breasts are involved.
There are two main theories that explain the development of this type of cancer. One theory suggests that Paget’s cells break off from an underlying tumor within the breast. Then, they travel through the milk ducts to the nipples.
The second one suggests that the presence and spread of those cells represent a distinct disease process in the outer skin layer of the nipple. The cancerous changes occur without warning. This theory could explain the rare cases where no underlying malignancy is present.
Recurrent breast cancer is the type of cancer that has come back after initial treatment. The surgeon removes all cancer during surgery to remove an original diagnosis of breast cancer. However, tests for cancer are not sensitive enough to detect small groups of cancerous cells that may be leftover after surgery. It is possible for isolated groups of cells to survive radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Even a single cell may be able to multiply and grow into a tumor.
Cancer reappears in the same area in a local recurrence. Cancer could recur in the remaining breast tissue if you have undergone a lumpectomy. Cancer could recur in the tissue that lines the chest wall or in the skin if you have undergone a mastectomy.
Signs and symptoms of local recurrence are:
- A new lump
- Nipple discharge
- Skin inflammation
Signs and symptoms of local recurrence on the chest wall after a mastectomy are:
- One or more painless nodules on or under the skin of your chest wall
- A new area of thickening along or near the mastectomy scar
Recurrent breast cancer develops when cells that were part of the initial breast cancer break away from the initial tumor and hide in the breast or in another part of your body. Subsequently, these cells begin to grow again.
Treatments you may have received after the initial breast cancer was intended to kill any cancer cells that may have remained after surgery. However, sometimes these treatments are not capable of killing all of the cancer cells.
Occasionally cancer cells may be inactive for years without causing any harm. Later, something activates the cells, and they grow and spread to other parts of the body. However, it is not clear why this occurs.
Male breast cancer is a rare type of cancer that forms in the breast tissue of men. It should be noted that breast cancer often affects older men, though it can occur at any age.
Men diagnosed at an early stage with male breast cancer have a good chance of being cured. Treatment usually involves surgery to remove the tissue from the breast. Based on your particular situation, other treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy, may be recommended.
The primary symptom of male breast cancer is a lump in the breast. Men can experience that the nipple or skin may also be affected. Other signs and symptoms of male breast cancer include:
- Inverted nipple
- Discharge from the nipple
- Redness around the nipple
- Hard nipple
- Small bumps in the armpit
The same procedure that is performed in the diagnosing of breast cancer in women can be applied to breast cancer in men. Those tests are:
- Breast ultrasound
- Diagnostic mammogram
- MRI (Magnetic resonance imaging)
There are several factors why men can also be diagnosed with breast cancer. Some of those factors are:
- Older age
- Family history of breast cancer
- Exposure to estrogen
- Liver disease
- Klinefelter’s syndrome
- Testicle disease
Everyone is born with a small amount of breast tissue. Breast tissue consists of lobules, ducts, and fat. Women begin developing more breast tissue during puberty. On the contrary, men do not develop more breast tissue during puberty. However, men can also develop breast cancer since they are born with a small amount of breast tissue.
Types of breast cancer diagnosed in men are:
This type of cancer is also known as ductal carcinoma. Approximately all male breast cancer is considered ductal carcinoma.
This type of cancer is also known as lobular carcinoma. Even though lobular carcinoma is rare in men, it is still possible to develop this type of cancer.
Other, rarer types of breast cancer that can occur in men include Paget’s disease of the nipple and inflammatory breast cancer.
Your doctor will determine the breast cancer treatment options according to the type of breast cancer, its stage, its grade, and their sensitivity to hormones. He or she will also consider the overall health of the patients and their preferences.
It is possible for several women to receive additional treatment after surgery for breast cancer, such as hormone therapy, chemotherapy, or radiation. It is possible for patients to receive chemotherapy before surgery in certain situations.
Your surgeon will remove the tumor and small margin of adjacent healthy tissue during a lumpectomy. Lumpectomy is also known as breast-conserving surgery or wide local excision. This type of surgery may be suggested for removing small tumors. Some people who have larger tumors may receive chemotherapy before surgery in order to shrink a tumor. It is possible to remove the tumor after chemotherapy.
This type of surgery will remove all of the breast tissue. Your surgeon can remove all of the breast tissue, including the lobules, ducts, adipose tissue, and even nipple or areola. However, there are new surgical approaches to improve the appearance of the breast, such as skin-sparing mastectomy or nipple-sparing mastectomy.
Your surgeon will discuss the role of removing the lymph nodes to determine whether cancer has spread to your lymph nodes. Those lymph nodes are the first to receive the lymph drainage. Lymph drainage is caused by tour tumors.
Your surgeon will remove additional lymph nodes in your armpit if cancer is found in the sentinel lymph nodes.
Some women who are diagnosed with cancer in one breast may decide to have the other breast removed, especially if they have an increased risk of cancer in the other breast due to genetic predisposition. However, most women will never develop cancer in the other breast.
Radiation therapy to treat cancer uses high-powered beams of energy to kill cancer cells. X-rays and protons are one of those high-powered beams of energy. Radiation therapy is usually performed via a large machine. However, this type of treatment can also be performed by placing radioactive materials inside your body. This kind of approach is called brachytherapy. Radiation therapy may also be recommended by your doctor to the chest wall after a mastectomy.
Radiation therapy can last from one week to six weeks, depending on your treatment. Your doctor will determine the best treatment option for you according to your situation, your cancer type, and the location of the tumor.
Chemotherapy utilizes drugs in order to destroy fast-growing cells. Your doctor may recommend chemotherapy after surgery in order to decrease the chance of recurrence if your cancer has a high risk of returning or spreading.
It is possible for some women with larger breast tumors to receive chemotherapy before breast surgery. The goal of chemotherapy at this point is to shrink the tumor to the size that makes it easier to remove with surgery. Chemotherapy can also be performed for women whose cancer has spread to other parts of their bodies.
Hormone therapy, or hormone-blocking therapy, is performed to treat breast cancers that are sensitive to hormones. Your doctor will refer to these cancers as estrogen receptor-positive cancers and progesterone receptor-positive cancers.
It is possible for you to receive hormone therapy before or after your surgery. It is also possible for your doctor to perform hormone therapy after other treatments to decrease the chance of recurrence of cancer. Hormone therapy can shrink down cancer if cancer has already spread.
Treatments that are used in hormone therapy are:
- Medications that block hormones from attaching to cancer cells
- Medications that stop the body from making estrogen after menopause
- Surgery or medications to stop hormone production in the ovaries
Treatment that uses targeted drugs to attack specific abnormalities within your cancer cells. Your doctor will test your cancer cells to see whether you can benefit from targeted therapy drugs. There are some medications that are used to reduce the risk of the recurrence of cancer, whereas other medications are used to slow the growth of the tumor.
Your immune system is used in immunotherapy to fight cancer. The disease-fighting immune system of your body may not attack cancer cells since cancer cells produce a protein that blinds the immune system cells. However, immunotherapy functions by interfering with that process.
Palliative care is specialized medical care. That is, palliative care will focus on providing relief from pain and other signs of a serious illness. Palliative care can be used during chemotherapy or radiation therapy.