A brief about Breast Cancer
Breast Cancer occurs in the cells of the breasts. Extensive research has been going on to decode the relation between genetics and breast cancer, its relation to other forms of cancer, and whether there are treatment options other than mastectomy.
Men and Women can both become potential victims of breast cancer. However, women are the common prey of this form of cancer, and men, quite rarely. In-depth research and structural support for spreading awareness about breast cancer have, by far, helped facilitate treatment and diagnosis of breast cancer to a considerable amount. Today, the survival rate of breast cancer patients has substantially increased, thereby decreasing the death rate of breast cancer patients due to a multitude of factors, including early detection of breast cancer, advanced treatment approaches, and comprehensive research for thoroughly analyzing and determining the disease.
What are the types of Breast Cancer?
Angiosarcoma is one of the rarest cancers found in the lining of lymph vessels and blood vessels. Lymph vessels lie in the immune system and gather viruses, bacteria, and waste products of your body, thereby disposing them off. Angiosarcoma commonly occurs in the neck skin or head skin but is said to occur anywhere in the human body. Angiosarcoma, in rare cases, can develop in other delicate skin regions of your body, one being the breast. Other deeper areas where it can form are the heart and liver. Furthermore, angiosarcoma can occur in patients whose bodies went through radiotherapy. The treatment of angiosarcoma entirely depends on the region of cancer. Radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and surgery are the fundamental methods of treating it.
Symptoms of Angiosarcoma
- Swelling in the skin around cancerous cells.
- A lesion that can start bleeding on scratching.
- A lesion, similar to a bruise that can expand over time.
- A swollen purple region, just like a bruise.
Ductal Carcinoma in situ (DCIS)
DCIS or Ductal Carcinoma in situ is a particular type of condition where abnormal cells start growing in the milk duct of the breast. DCIS is said to be the earliest and fundamental condition of breast cancer. It does not spread to the other parts of the body from the milk duct, thereby having a minimal chance of becoming invasive. A mammogram is a type of cancer screening done for detecting a breast lump. DCIS isn’t as harmful as other cancer forms; however, one needs to do specific tests for its treatment. A few of the methods of DCIS treatment are radiotherapy, breast-conserving surgery, and combined surgery with radiotherapy for eliminating infected Breast tissues.
Symptoms of DCIS
- Formation of a breast lump.
- Bloody nipple discharge.
Inflammatory breast cancer
Inflammatory breast cancer occurs infrequently compared to other cancer types. This cancer advances swiftly by swelling up the affected breast while making it red and tender. Inflammatory breast cancer chiefly occurs when the skin’s lymphatic cells get blocked by cancer cells, thereby covering it with a swollen red-like structure. According to research, inflammatory breast cancer is an unusual yet extreme cancer and can spread to different tissues, such as the closest lymph nodes. Inflammatory breast cancer is most often mistaken with a breast infection. Breast infections look remarkably similar to inflammatory cancer and have comparable symptoms, such as swelling and redness.
Symptoms of Inflammatory breast cancer
- Rapid swelling of one of the breasts
- Severe breast pain, causing tenderness and redness
- Expanded lymph nodes of the arms and both sides of the collarbone
- Unusual breast thickening, along with potential heaviness, and enlargement
- Breast color changes, making it look like a bruise.
- Nipple flattening
Invasive Lobular Carcinoma
Invasive Lobular carcinoma is a rare type of cancer that builds in the lobules (milk-producing glands) of the breast. Invasive Lobular carcinoma occurs when the cancer cells break out of the origin of the lobule while spreading to sensitive areas of your body, such as the lymph nodes. Invasive Lobular carcinoma contributes to a small yet crucial portion of all types of breast cancers. The most basic and effective type of breast cancer originated in the invasive ductal carcinoma (breast ducts).
Symptoms of Invasive Lobular Carcinoma
- Thickening of the breast
- A region of swelling and heaviness of the breast
- A peculiarly inverted nipple
- Inflammation of the area around the affected region
Lobular Carcinoma in Situ (LCIS)
LCIS or Lobular Carcinoma in Situ is an unusual condition where abnormal cells rapidly build in the lobules (milk glands) of the breast. According to experts, LCIS isn’t a form of cancer. However, if diagnosed with it, it leads to a potential risk of being affected by cancer. LCIS shows up on mammograms very infrequently. This condition is usually detected through breast biopsy treatment while detecting different conditions like a breast lump. Women diagnosed with LCIS have a substantial risk of becoming affected by invasive breast cancer. Seeking professional help is a must for potentially reducing the risk of obtaining breast cancer in the future.
Symptoms of LCIS
- LCIS does not consist of potential symptoms or signs. One can discover it only while doing a biopsy for detecting unusual regions on the mammogram and breast lumps.
Paget’s disease of the breast
Paget’s disease is one of the rarest types of cancer originating in the nipple. It furthermore expands to the areola (the dark circle of the skin around the nipple). Paget’s disease of the breast is comparatively different from Paget’s disease of the bone, which is based on a metabolic bone condition. Paget’s disease of the breast is commonly detected in women aged 50 and more. Women diagnosed with Paget’s disease of the breast most often have potential ductal breast cancer at the cancer origin. They can also have invasive breast cancer. A recent survey conducted suggests that there were limited cases of Paget’s disease of the breast close to the nipple.
Symptoms of Paget’s disease of the breast
- Thickening of the breast
- Formation of a breast lump
- Inverted or flattened lump
- Redness on the breast
- Scary or flaky nipple skin
- Bloody nipple discharge
- Agitating itching
- Hardening of the nipple skin or areola
Recurrent Breast Cancer
Recurrent breast cancer is the type of cancer that reappears after primary cancer treatment. The initial breast Cancer treatment aims to remove the cancer cells. However, in many cases, a few of these cancer cells tend to survive by invading cancer treatment. Due to this, the surviving cancer cells, along with the undiscovered cells, expand, causing recurrent cancer. Recurrent cancer usually reappears after months or even years of the initial treatment. It can reoccur in the original area or spread to other sensitive areas of your body. Although recurrent breast cancer can be devastating and life-threatening, medications can substantially regulate the disease for a longer time.
Symptoms of recurrent cancer
- A distinctive breast lump or swelling of your breast
- Bloody nipple discharge
- Inflammation of the skin surrounded by the affected region
- Pain around the nipple area
Male Breast Cancer
Breast cancer rarely occurs in the breast tissues of men. Although breast cancer comparatively occurs more in women, men can also get affected by it. Male breast cancer can often affect older men. Younger men diagnosed with this type of cancer have a better chance of curing. Male Breast Cancer Treatment includes a type of surgery to eliminate breast tissue. Many medications also involve radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
Symptoms of Male Breast Cancer
- Bloody nipple discharge
- Change in the appearance of the nipple
- Swelling, reddening, and scaling of the nipple
- Inverted nipple
- Swelling of the area surrounded by the breast region
- Thickening of breast tissues or a painless breast lump
What are the early signs of breast cancer?
Potential breast cancer symptoms and signs are as follows.
- Change in the appearance, shape, and size of the breast
- Formation of a breast lump or thickening of the breast
- Dimpling, redness, and itchiness of the surrounded skin or nipple skin
- A strangely inverted nipple
- Purple discoloration on the breast
- Scaling, peeling, flaking, or crushing of the breast skin or areola
What are the causes of Breast cancer?
Once females hit the adolescence stage, their breasts start developing connective tissue, fat, and an array of lobules. Once the breast gets affected by cancer, the cells rapidly start multiplying. The tumor takes in energy and nutrients, thereby depriving the cells around it.
Doctors have suggested that breast cancer originates when peculiar abnormal cells start accumulating in the breast region. These abnormal cells start to multiply rapidly, thereby forming a breast lump by accumulation. Cancer cells have a likelihood of expanding to other sensitive areas of your body, including lymph nodes. Breast cancer commonly originates in the invasive ductal carcinoma, also known as the milk-producing glands.
According to experts, the fundamental causes of breast cancer depend on environmental, lifestyle, and hormonal factors. However, many people fall prey to breast cancer without an identified cause. Breast cancer has a substantial chance of occurring due to the complicated interaction of the environment with your genetic factors.
Many studies suggest that 10% of breast cancer cases are associated with gene mutations inherited from your ancestors. These inherited mutated genes tend to maximize the possibility of breast cancer. BRCA1 (Gene 1) and BRCA2 (Gene 2) can considerably heighten the risk of ovarian and breast cancers.
Risk factors involved in breast cancer
Risk factors of breast cancer maximize the chances of getting affected by the cancerous growth. However, having breast cancer symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you can fall prey to it. Cancer specialists have identified risk factors based on studying women affected by breast cancer. We’ve narrowed down a few of the most commonly occurring risk factors of breast cancer.
Breast cancer has a potential risk of developing by 0.06% at the age of 20. Accordingly, the figure extends to 3.84% by the age of 70. Breast Cancer thus substantially depends on the age of the person.
Patients previously diagnosed with breast cancer.
According to studies, women who were previously diagnosed with breast cancer have a higher chance of regaining it. Furthermore, the formation of non-cancerous breast lumps can enhance the possibility of getting breast cancer. Individuals who’ve had a history of ovarian, skin, Fallopian tube, peritoneal, and breast cancer have a considerably higher risk of obtaining breast cancer.
A study done by NCI suggests that oral contraceptives substantially increases the risk of breast cancer.
Another study by ACS suggests that HRT (hormone replacement therapy), especially EPT (estrogen-progesterone therapy), increases the risk of breast cancer.
Consumption of alcohol
Studies suggest that alcohol plays a vital role in the development of breast cancer. According to NCI (National cancer institute), women consuming alcohol regularly have higher chances of getting breast cancer. Moderate alcoholics have a considerably lower chance of gaining breast cancer, with further research on the way.
Breastfeeding and Estrogen exposure
A widened exposure to estrogen can advance the risk of breast cancer. Females whose periods start at an earlier stage or who are entering menopause late can become vulnerable to breast cancer. Breastfeeding for about a year or more can decrease the risk of breast cancer due to the reduction in estrogen exposure after breastfeeding and pregnancy.
Patients undergoing cancer treatments such as radiotherapy for other cancer types have an inherent risk of obtaining cancer at a later stage.
A study conducted in 2013 suggests that women with cosmetic surgeries and breast implants had an increased risk of obtaining breast cancer. Implants play a crucial role in changing the structure of the breast tissue. The implants mask cancer cells during screening due to which one can become more vulnerable to underlying breast cancer. More extensive research is required to prove this factor.
Women who are overweight and are obese after menopause are more likely to fall prey to breast cancer due to the enhanced estrogen levels and higher sugar intake.
Prevention of breast cancer
It is imperative to make minor lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of getting breast cancer.
Breast Cancer Screening
Getting yourself professionally checked by breast cancer screening is a must when you are 25 or more. Consulting your doctor can help in detecting the underlying symptoms of breast cancer at an early stage.
Analyze your breast
Self-examination of breasts for awareness is the most crucial method of analyzing your breast by detecting lumps and other breast symptoms. Although breast awareness cannot inhibit breast cancer, it can help you examine and recognize possible risks and indications of breast cancer.
Limiting your alcohol content can help decrease the risk of getting breast cancer.
Regular exercising can undeniably help bolster your muscles while decreasing the risk of breast cancer. Exercise has several benefits. A 30-minute workout session can make your body internally and externally healthy.
Focus on maintaining a healthy weight
Obesity is one of the most common factors leading to breast cancer. Thus, maintaining the right weight for your body is vital for staying healthy and decreasing the risk of breast cancer.
Avoid postmenopausal hormone therapy.
Postmenopausal therapy can substantially increase the risk of breast cancer. Making use of limited doses of hormone therapy is best advised for reducing the exposure to breast cancer.
Diagnosis of breast cancer
The diagnosis of breast cancer is made after detecting abnormalities in routine screening of the breast. There are a multitude of diagnostic procedures.
A breast test involves detecting breast lumps and other substantial symptoms of breast cancer. The patient has to stand in different positions while placing the arms in different positions.
Imaging tests are the most primary yet fundamental tests done to recognize cancer symptoms.
It is an X-Ray used for the initial breast cancer screening. Mammogram showcases different images that help doctors detect possible abnormalities and lumps.
Ultrasound, as the name suggests, makes use of sound waves for differentiating between liquid-filled cysts and solid mass.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging is similar to a mammogram and produces distinctive images to identify abnormalities and other symptoms of breast cancer. MRI is commonly done after an ultrasound or MMI for further analysis of cancer detection.
A biopsy consists of an analysis of extracted sample tissues in laboratories. A biopsy helps detect the cancerous cells of the breast. Furthermore, biopsy helps in detecting the type of cancer. Diagnosis of biopsy includes staging cancer for tracing-
- The tumor size
- Whether it is noninvasive or invasive
- Affected areas
What are the treatment options for Breast cancer?
Breast cancer treatments solely depend on the cancer types, stage of cancer, age, health, hormone sensitivity, and other similar factors. The most common yet fundamental breast cancer treatments are as follows.
- Radiation therapy
- Hormone therapy
- Biological therapy
Cytotoxic chemotherapy is the most recommended therapy for treating cancer. Cytotoxic drugs play an indispensable role in killing cancer cells. Many cancer treatments involve adjuvant chemotherapy to kill the cells after the surgery. Many doctors regulate chemotherapy before removal-surgery to shrink the tumor for its easy removal.
There are a multitude of surgery types when it comes to treating breast cancer. The surgery type depends on individual preferences and the stage of diagnosis.
It is the removal of the tumor, along with a limited amount of unaffected tissues surrounded by it. Lumpectomy helps in preventing the cancer cells from spreading to other regions of the body. Lumpectomy is often preferred for cancer treatments with small tumors.
Mastectomy is the removal of ducts, lobules, nipple, areola, fatty tissue, and some skin. Most surgeons eliminate muscles located in the chest wall and lymph nodes while performing mastectomy.
Sentinel node biopsy
Breast cancer usually spreads to the primary lymph nodes called sentinel lymph nodes. Breast cancer can easily spread to the other parts of the body from the lymphatic system. If doctors detect cancer in sentinel lymph nodes, removal of the surrounding and close by nodes is necessary.
Axillary lymph node dissection
Removal of different armpit lymph nodes on detecting cancer cells in the sentinel node is done by this type of surgery.
After a mastectomy, many surgeons reconstruct the size of the breasts to make them look natural.
Radiotherapy usually takes place after a month of surgery and involves providing limited doses of radiation for killing the surviving cancer cells.
Drugs such as Avastin, Herceptin, and Tykerb can help eliminate cancer cells to a certain extent.
Hormone Blocking Therapy
Hormone blocking therapy comes into play for preventing breast cancer (hormone-sensitive) from coming back after the treatment. Hormone therapy is commonly used for treating progesterone receptor and estrogen receptor cancers. They are commonly used for regulating hormone-blocking therapy following the surgery but are also used for shrinking the tumor before the surgery.
Treatment based on stages
In stage 0, the cancer is restricted only to the milk ducts, thereby being non-invasive. Non-invasive means that at this stage, breast cancer does not spread to different parts of the body. Non-invasive breast cancer is usually different from that of invasive breast cancer. Stage 0 cancer is said to be precancerous and does not require any treatment. Nonetheless, it requires close observation. Some extreme cases require radiation therapy or surgery.
Stage 0 cancer does not involve any side effects or symptoms other than the formation of a breast lump and bloody nipple discharge. The survival rate of Stage 0 breast cancer is 99% or curable within 5 years.
The most common treatments for stages I, II, and III include chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy adjuvant or neoadjuvant surgery.
Stage I breast cancer is relatively small in size and usually does not expand to the lymph nodes. They chiefly spread to only a small portion around or near the breast in the sentinel lymph node (primary lymph node). The survival rate of stage I breast cancer is 98%-100%.
Symptoms and side effects of Stage I breast cancer include breast lump, nipple discharge, swelling of the breasts, nipple retraction, scaly breast skin, and skin dimpling. Surgery, vaccines, SLNB, and drugs are the common methods of treating Stage I breast cancer.
Stage II breast cancer is relatively larger than stage I cancer and most often spread to the lymph nodes. The size of the IIA tumor is comparatively smaller than the IIB tumor. The size of the IIB tumor can be compared to a lime or a walnut.
The survival rate of Stage II cancer is 90% to 98%. Swelling of lumps and abnormal bone pain are the most common symptoms of Stage II breast cancer. Immune Checkpoint inhibitor and SLNB can be used for treating this stage of cancer.
Stage III tumors are quite large and spread to the nearby tissues such as the breast skin or muscles, along with lymph nodes. Ulcer and swelling are the most primary symptoms of Stage III breast cancer. The survival rate of Stage III breast cancer is 66% to 98%. Immunotherapy, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy are the common treatments of Stage III breast cancer.
Stage IV breast cancer is extreme and spread to the primary lymph nodes, along with other sensitive areas of your body. Stage IV breast cancer treatment includes systematic drug therapy as cancer spreads to the brain, bones, lungs, and liver. Treatment for Stage IV cancer includes a combination of a BRAF inhibitor and a MEK inhibitor. Radiotherapy and chemotherapy are other common treatment methodologies.
Symptoms of Stage IV cancer include breast pain, fatigue, swelling, skin discoloration, bloody nipple discharge, breast lump, insomnia, and digestive issues.
Medical treatments don’t entirely help in cancer treatment and recovery. Small lifestyle changes such as scheduled routine, healthy diet, healthy sleep schedule, and regular workout can help ease the side-effects of cancer treatment. Community support, breast cancer awareness, proper diet, and metabolism wellness plans help in recovery, provided one has a positive outlook towards life.
Life in Remission
Chemotherapy and radiotherapy can be extremely overwhelming and painful. Although these treatments help heal your body, they affect it in certain ways.
Loss of appetite
Breast Cancer treatment can lower your food intake, thereby making it hard for you to get proper nutrition. To ensure providing nutrition to your body,
- Eat several smaller meals
- Try drinking smoothies or shakes as snacks
- Exercise regularly after consulting your doctor
Vomiting and Nausea
Nausea and vomiting are the major side effects of cancer treatment. One can experience dense vomiting while getting chemotherapy or after it. Consulting your doctor to heal nausea and vomiting is best advised.
- Avoid citrus and greasy food
- Eat light foods like gelato, ice chips, etc. while nauseating
- Eat room temperature foods
Cancer treatments can leave you feeling exhausted, weak, and tired. Moreover, they can also make you depressed and lower your appetite.
- Try maintaining healthy sleeping schedules. Getting 8 hours of sleep every day, along with avoiding caffeine intake, can help bolster your mood.
- Take short walks or do moderate exercise. Staying fit and regular exercising can play a vital role in eliminating fatigue and exhaustion.
In many cases, breast cancer can leave your mouth and throat completely sore. Consulting your doctor to minimize the pain is recommended.
- Eat smaller size foods
- Don’t consume spicy, salty, and citrusy foods
- Consult your doctor for medication to calm mouth soreness
Many women notice slight weight gain due to extensive breast cancer treatments. Dieting if you gain weight can be risky. Consulting your doctor is best advised. Many women diagnosed with breast cancer can gain weight from
- Lack of exercising
- Hormone changes
- Depression and anxiety
Not all breast cancer treatments involve loss of hair. The loss of hair is directly dependent on the chemotherapy type. Some women might notice thinning of hair while others might lose chunks of hair, along with eyebrows and eyelashes. The process can be steady or instant, depending on your cancer treatment. Making use of hair wigs can be helpful if you feel uncomfortable. However, on the brighter side, your hair will regrow properly after the cancer treatment is over.
Breast cancer treatments such as radiotherapy, ixempra, and radiotherapy can cause skin discoloration, making it look like a bruise. Many pain medications are said to cause skin discoloration. Skin discoloration can also be the cause of other side effects like a rash. Skin discoloration usually fades away after cancer treatment.
Urine discoloration takes place after cancer treatment. Usually, urine discharge is cloudy or darker. Bloody urine is another extreme side effect; consulting your doctor is extremely necessary in such cases. Sentinel lymph node surgeries include injecting blue dye into your system due to which it can drain out in the form of urine. Dehydration can also lead to darker urine. However, this does not indicate any harm to your body. Make sure to keep your body hydrated consistently
Weak vision is a rare side effect of cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, hormonal therapies, and other targeted therapies. A few of the eye problems you might experience are conjunctivitis, itchy and red eyes, watery eyes, double vision, and blurry vision.
- Blink frequently while using smart devices
- Wear your glasses rather than lenses to ease irritation
- Don’t rub your eyes as it can spread germs into the eyes.
Vaginal dryness usually occurs in women after menopause. Breast cancer in women with natural menopause and early menopause can cause vaginal dryness. The estrogen levels considerably drop due to which the vagina membranes get thinner, tight, and produce minimal lubricating fluid. Vaginal dryness usually occurs due to various cancer treatments including hormonal therapy and chemotherapy
- Use a lubricant to avoid the vagina from drying
- Make use of a vaginal moisturizer
Additional Side effects
Furthermore, the side effects of cancer treatments include sweating, swelling, change in smell and taste, urinary tract infection, scar tissue formation, runny nose, skin sensitivity, seroma, etc.
How Can we help?
Cancer is undeniably a deadly disease that can take your livelihood away. However, taking small lifestyle measures can help you heal mentally to an extent. Practicing constant self-care routines can help you stay healthy. Eating healthy food and nourishing your body internally can undeniably help bolster your mood during and after the treatment. Thus, make sure to eat healthily and nourish your body entirely.
Stay fit yourself
Exercise is the most vital component of staying healthy, boosting your body, keeping calm, enhancing muscle strength, along with gaining several other benefits. However, don’t go overboard. Moderate exercise can help make you feel better after a traumatizing treatment. Basic workout sessions that do not include heavy lifting can help cancer patients stay mentally and physically strong.
Breast cancer can be incredibly stressful and overwhelming. It can moreover, mess with your mood, distract you, and affect your overall health. However, staying calm can help minimize your stress, along with keeping you fit and healthy for a longer time. Staying mindful, asking for support from your loved ones, practicing gratitude, and meditating are few of the factors that can help you stay calm and composed.
Cancer-proof your home
Making minor lifestyle changes can miraculously help in keeping you healthy in the long run. A healthy surrounding is an indispensable component of cancer-proofing your home. Therefore, being aware of the environmental hazards, along with taking relevant measures, minimizes the risk of cancer. Radon-treating your home, replacing the cookware, choosing secure home decors and furnishings, and utilizing cancer-proof supplies for cleaning can help make your house sustainable for living.
Get community support
We have an extensive community offering comprehensive support to people dealing with breast cancer. Opt for our support services or open up to any supportive community to keep your mind refreshed and stay connected with people you can relate to. We provide diversified cancer programmes to ease your journey of cancer. Visit our official website to gain more insights on what we do.