Did you know being inactive, consuming alcohol and being overweight or obese can increase the risk of breast cancer? While many risk factors such as a family history of breast cancer, aging, and genetic mutations are not under our control there are factors that can be controlled to prevent the condition. Being physically active can help an individual maintain a healthy weight, which is important for women, especially after menopause as risks of getting breast cancer are higher. Studies have shown that breast cancer is common amongst women and claims many lives every year across the globe.
What is breast cancer?
When cells in the breasts start growing abnormally, the condition is known as breast cancer. The kind of cells affected is what determines the type of breast cancer. When cancer forms in the milk ducts it is known as Invasive Ductal Carcinoma(IDC) and causes lumps that can be easily felt. When it forms in lobules aka milk-producing glands, it is called Invasive Lobular Carcinoma(ILC) and is responsible for the thickening of the breasts.
What are the symptoms of breast cancer?
Symptoms of breast cancer may vary from person to person, although it is advised to keep a regular check on some of the most common signs such as:
- Redness or swelling in either of the breasts or both
- Change in size or shape of one or both the breasts
- Changes in the nipple in either one or both the breasts
- An unusual discharge from the nipple
- Any kind of pain that is felt most or almost all the time
- Feeling of lumps on either of the breasts or both
Keeping a regular check on your breasts can help you know them better and make it easier for you to notice any changes occurring with age. If you notice any of these signs it is always good to visit a doctor at the earliest to rule out the possibilities of breast cancer or any other underlying condition.
How is breast cancer diagnosed?
In case you have noticed some signs of breast cancer, your doctor can ask you to go for few tests for a proper diagnosis. Some of the most common tests are:
A mammogram, which is an x-ray of the breasts used to find out any lumps or abnormalities.
Breast ultrasound is usually suggested to people who have dense breasts as the lumps might not get detected using mammogram. Ultrasounds produce images of the inside of the breasts.
A biopsy involves taking a sample of tissue cells from the breasts with the use of a needle.
In case breast cancer is diagnosed, further tests such as CT- scans, X-Rays, and MRI might be needed to find out the areas affected by cancer or how far cancer has spread. Treatment methods of breast cancer are determined based on the stage and grade breast cancer is at.
What are commonly used treatment methods for breast cancer?
Breast cancer treatments are considered based on various factors such as the overall health of an individual, type, and stage of cancer and, in the case of women, whether they have experienced menopause. Few commonly used treatments are:
- Breast-conserving surgery, where the tumor and surrounding tissue is removed depending on the type of cancer, the affected area, amount of surrounding tissue to be removed and size of the breasts.
- Mastectomy, all of the breast tissue is removed along with the nipple. In case cancer has spread to the lymph node, a more extensive removal from under the arms might be needed.
- Reconstruction, A new breast is created to make it look almost similar to the other breast by either a breast implant or tissues from other parts of the body.
- Radiotherapy, where the radiations are used to kill the remaining cancer cells after a surgery or chemotherapy.
- Chemotherapy, an anti-cancer medicine which is used to kill the cancer cells. It can be used before or after the surgery to control the number of cancerous cells present.
- Hormone Treatment, used when breast cancer is stimulated by hormones. Using the therapy, hormone levels in the body are lowered to control the growth of breast cancer.
Dealing with cancer can be overwhelming for not just the patient but their family as well. It is always better to stay in touch with people to express your feelings and emotions. Being a part of the cancer survivors group can also help the patient feel motivated and build a positive perspective towards life.