October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and in honor of that we are dedicating this post to providing you with a comprehensive guide to breast cancer. This post will cover everything from the basics of the disease, to diagnosis and treatment options, to ways you can support someone who is battling breast cancer.
We hope that this information will provide you with a better understanding of breast cancer, and help you to be more informed if you or someone close to you is affected by it.
What is Breast Cancer?
Cancer occurs when changes called mutations take place in genes that regulate cell growth. The mutations let the cells divide and multiply in an uncontrolled way.
The accumulating cells form a mass called a tumor. A malignant tumor is cancerous, meaning it can grow and invade nearby tissues. A benign tumor means the opposite; it cannot grow or invade other tissues.
Breast cancer is a type of cancer that forms in the cells of the breasts. Though breast cancer most commonly affects women, men can also be diagnosed with the disease.
Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer
There are a few different signs and symptoms of breast cancer, which may include:
- A lump or thickening in the breast or underarm area
- Changes to the skin on the breast, such as dimpling, puckering, redness, or scaling
- Nipple discharge that isn’t milky or yellowish
- Nipple tenderness or pain
- A nipple that begins to turn inward
- Skin on the breast, nipple, or surrounding area that begins to peel, itch, crust, or ulcerate
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to see a doctor right away. It’s also important to keep in mind that these symptoms can also be caused by conditions other than cancer, such as an infection or a benign cyst.
Types of Breast Cancer
There are several types of breast cancer, and they’re broken into two main categories: invasive and noninvasive. Noninvasive breast cancer is also known as breast cancer in situ.
Invasive breast cancer starts in the milk ducts or lobules and then spreads to the surrounding tissues. Invasive breast cancer is further divided into several types, including:
Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS): This is the most common type of noninvasive breast cancer, accounting for about one in five new breast cancer diagnoses. DCIS is breast cancer that’s found in the milk ducts but hasn’t spread outside of them.
Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS): LCIS is breast cancer that starts in the lobules but hasn’t spread to the surrounding tissues. It’s usually found alongside other types of breast cancer.
Invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC): This is the most common type of invasive breast cancer, accounting for about 80 percent of all new breast cancer diagnoses. IDC starts in the milk ducts and then spreads to the surrounding tissues.
Invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC): ILC starts in the lobules and then spreads to the surrounding tissues. It’s less common than IDC, accounting for about 15 percent of all new breast cancer diagnoses.
Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC): This type of breast cancer is rare, accounting for only about one to five percent of all new breast cancer diagnoses. IBC is characterized by redness and swelling of the breast, caused by cancer cells blocking the lymph vessels in the skin.
Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC): This type of breast cancer does not have receptors for estrogen, progesterone, or HER-², which means that hormone therapy and drugs that target HER-² are not effective treatments. TNBC is more common in younger women, African American women, and Hispanic women.
What Are Breast Cancer Stages?
There are four main stages of breast cancer:
Stage 0: This is the earliest stage of breast cancer, and is also known as carcinoma in situ. In this stage, the cancer cells are confined to the milk ducts or lobules and have not spread to other tissues.
Stage I: This is early-stage breast cancer, and the tumor is small (no larger than two centimeters in diameter) and has not spread to the lymph nodes.
Stage II: In this stage, the tumor is larger than two centimeters but has not spread to the lymph nodes.
Stage III: This is considered advanced-stage breast cancer, and the tumor may be any size but has spread to the lymph nodes.
Stage IV: This is the most advanced stage of breast cancer, and the tumor has spread to other parts of the body, such as the lungs or brain.
If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, your doctor will likely use these stages to determine your treatment plan. It is important to remember that breast cancer is treatable, and there are many options available. Speak with your doctor about what treatment plan is right for you.
The stages of breast cancer are important to understand, as they help determine the best course of treatment. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with breast cancer, be sure to talk to your doctor about the different stages and treatment options. With early detection and treatment, breast cancer is a very treatable disease.
Is It Possible for Male to Get Breast Cancer?
Although it is much less common, men can also get breast cancer. Male breast cancer makes up less than one percent of all cases of breast cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2019, around 2600 men will be diagnosed with the disease.
Risk factors for male breast cancer include a family history of the disease, exposure to certain chemicals, and obesity. Men with a history of gynaecomastia (enlargement of the breasts) are also at an increased risk. If you notice any changes in your breast tissue, be sure to talk to your doctor.
While male breast cancer is much less common than female breast cancer, it is still important to be aware of the disease and its symptoms. Early detection is key to successful treatment, so be sure to talk to your doctor if you have any concerns.
Breast Cancer Survival Rate
The survival rate for breast cancer depends on a number of factors, including the stage of the disease, the type of breast cancer, and the treatment options. In general, the earlier the disease is caught, the better the chances of survival.
For instance, if the cancer is found in its earliest stages (Stage 0 or Stage I), the five-year survival rate is nearly 100 percent. However, if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body (Stage IV), the five-year survival rate plummets to 22 percent.
Diagnosis of Breast Cancer
There are two types of breast cancer diagnosis: screening tests and diagnostic tests.
Screening tests are used to find cancer before it causes symptoms. The most common screening test for breast cancer is a mammogram, which can detect tumors that cannot be seen or felt.
Diagnostic tests are used to determine whether a suspicious area is cancerous. The most common diagnostic test for breast cancer is a biopsy, in which a small sample of tissue is removed and examined under a microscope.
What Are Breast Cancer Treatments Available?
There are a variety of different breast cancer treatments available, and the best treatment for you will depend on the stage and type of your cancer, as well as your overall health.
Some common breast cancer treatments include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and targeted therapy.
Surgery is the most common treatment for breast cancer. The type of surgery you have will depend on the stage and type of your cancer, as well as your overall health.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. It is often used after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells.
Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. It is often used in combination with other treatments, such as surgery or radiation therapy.
Hormone therapy uses drugs to block the action of hormones. Hormones can help cancer cells grow. This type of therapy is often used to treat breast cancers that are hormone-sensitive.
Targeted therapy uses drugs to target specific molecules involved in the growth and spread of cancer cells. This type of therapy is often used in combination with other treatments, such as chemotherapy.
Clinical trials are research studies that test new treatments. They offer the opportunity to receive cutting-edge therapies that are not yet available to the general public. Clinical trials are an important option for people with all stages of breast cancer.
Risk Factors for Breast Cancer
There are many risk factors for breast cancer, some of which you can control and others that you cannot.
You cannot change your:
- Family history
You can change your:
- Exercise habits
- Alcohol intake
- Smoking habits
Breast Cancer Prevention
There are some lifestyle changes you can make to lower your risk of developing breast cancer.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Exercise for at least 30 minutes every day.
- Limit your alcohol intake to no more than one drink per day.
- Don’t smoke.
- Breastfeed, if possible.
- Wear sunscreen and avoid exposure to too much sunlight.
- Get regular breast cancer screenings.
The earlier breast cancer is detected, the easier it is to treat. There are two main types of breast cancer screenings: mammograms and clinical breast exams.
- A mammogram is an X-ray of the breasts that can detect changes that may be cancer.
- A clinical breast exam is a physical exam of the breasts by a healthcare provider.
Both mammograms and clinical breast exams are important for early detection, but they are not perfect.
It’s also important to know your own body and to report any changes in your breasts to your healthcare provider.
Awareness is key when it comes to breast cancer. The earlier you can detect the disease, the better your chances for survival. That’s why we’ve put together this comprehensive guide to everything related to breast cancer- from risk factors and detection methods, to treatment options and survivorship.
We want you to be as informed as possible about this important health issue, so please share this guide with your loved ones and help us spread the word about early detection!
If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with breast cancer, our team of experts are here to support you every step of the way. Please don’t hesitate to reach out for information or assistance- we want to make sure that no one faces this challenge alone.