Over the decades, breast cancer has remained a second leading cause of death in women. 1 in 3 women with cancer suffers from breast cancer. Years of clinical trials have shifted the treatment from painful mastectomy to less painful and uncomplicated surgeries. But the evolving treatment and research have been incapable to reduce incidence rates. The recent trend shows a 0.5% increase in incidence rates of breast cancer every year. According to World Health Organization (WHO), in the year 2020, 2.3 million women were diagnosed with breast cancer and 685000 deaths globally. Even with the advancement in technology and evolving therapies, there is a lack of awareness of breast cancer. Let us discuss everything you need to know about breast cancer to protect yourself and someone you know.
Understanding Breast Cancer
Breast cancer initially occurs in ducts or lobules. Confinement of the breast cancer in ducts or lobules (stage 0) has no symptoms with minimum risk of spread. But the spread of breast cancer in the surrounding tissues of ducts or lobules involves a high risk of widespread breast cancer to other distant organs of the body like the liver, lungs, and bones. Breast Cancer in the surrounding tissues of Ducts is Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)while Breast cancer in surrounding tissues of lobules is Lobular Carcinoma in situ (LCIS). The transmission of breast cancer to other parts of the body is Metastatic breast cancer.
Causes for Breast Cancer
Unfortunately, the female gender remains at great risk of developing breast cancer. 1 out of 8 women and 1 out of 1000 men are at risk of breast cancer. Certain other factors like age, harmful alcohol consumption, radiation exposure, family history of breast cancer, menstrual cycle, age of the pregnancy, and genes are considered for potential risk of developing breast cancer.
Reduce the Risk of Breast Cancer
Your lifestyle can reduce any potential risk of breast cancer or other diseases. To lower the risk follow these lifestyle changes:
- Prolonged Breastfeeding: The longer you breastfeed, the lesser risk of breast cancer.
- Stay Physically Active: Be physically active by spending around 75 minutes to 150 minutes in aerobic activity weekly as another preventive measure against breast cancer.
- Maintain body weight: Consult a doctor to maintain a healthy body weight.
- Limit Alcohol Consumption: Drink not more than one drink a day.
Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer
Avoid metastasis of breast cancer and other life-threatening risks by early detection of breast cancer. Symptoms of breast cancer differ for different people. Early identification of disease can increase the survival chances to 90%. It is important to consult a medical professional without any delay if any of these symptoms are visible.
Painless breast lump or thickening in the breast: Most of these lumps are not cancerous but immediate medical attention should be considered to mitigate any future issues.
Alteration in the appearance of breast and nipple.: Any visible change in size, shape, appearance of the breast, and alteration of skin surrounding the nipple should be consulted with the health practitioner.
Discharge from nipple: Any abnormal discharge from the nipple can be an early warning sign of breast cancer. It can also include blood.
Breast wounds or ulceration: women with persistent breast wounds and painless open sores should have a biopsy performed.
Irritation or redness: Irritation, dimpling, redness, or flaky skin on the nipple or breast can be a warning sign of breast cancer.
Symptoms in other parts of the body: Breast cancer spread to distant organs of the body and may lead to other symptoms like body pain and headache.
Remember that these symptoms may be related to other noncancerous conditions but do not risk your health by ignoring these signs.
Treatment for Breast Cancer
In recent years, advancement in clinical treatments and theoretical studies of breast cancer has increased the effectiveness of treatment of breast cancer. Some of the common preventive methods are:
Mastectomy: This surgical process involves complete removal of the breast including lymph nodes and muscles in the chest wall. This surgery has been superseded by other less extensive surgeries. Mastectomy is not common but may still be needed for large cancers.
Lumpectomy: The majority of women with early-stage of breast cancer can get treated with lumpectomy or partial mastectomy. In this, only tumors and fewer amounts of tissues are removed. It is followed by radiation therapy to avoid any recurrence of breast cancer.
Sentinal node biopsy: Fewer complications can involve tracing and removal of a few lymph nodes that can potentially spread breast cancer. This removal of lymph nodes is a Sentinal node biopsy.
Endocrine therapies: These involve the detection of hormones and balancing them with therapies such as tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors.
Radiotherapy: Radiotherapy plays an essential role at every stage of breast cancer. In the early stages, it can reduce the risk of spreading the disease which may later need a mastectomy. Even after mastectomy, it might reduce the chances of recurrence of cancer.
Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is one of the most effective ways to treat cancer. It can be done without hospital admissions if there are fewer complications.
The purpose of Understanding Breast Cancer
The purpose of spreading awareness about breast cancer is to minimize its current mortality rate. The government needs to strengthen the health system and support further research on breast cancer to achieve this purpose. We want to provide public health education to understand how breast cancer has remained the biggest challenge, especially for a country with limited resources. Keep away from any misconceptions or stigmatization of breast cancer. Early detection and rapid diagnosis can improve the management of breast cancer in the future.