Breast Cancer

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Q: What is Breast Cancer? It is a cancer that develops from breast tissue, in which abnormal growth of cells of the breast occurs, and goes out of control. These cells divide more rapidly than healthy cells, forming a lump or a mass.

Q: Are there different types of breast cancers? Yes, actually there are many different types of breast cancers, depending on the location of the tumour cells within the breast (milk ducts or lobules), and how they look under a microscope.

Q:What are invasive and non-invasive breast cancers? Non-invasive cancers do not have the ability to spread outside the breast tissue. Invasive cancers can spread to other parts of the body.

Q:What causes breast cancer? Though the exact cause cannot be pinpointed, certain factors increase the risk. Some important factors include being a woman (it is extremely rare in men), a history of someone else in the family having had it, increasing age (most occur in women over 50), having no children or having children at a late age, using oral contraceptives, hormone replacement therapy (HRT), diabetes, being overweight, working shift duties, radiation, certain chemicals, smoking, and alcohol consumption, among others.

Q:Which breast is more prone? The left breast is slightly more likely to develop cancer than the right breast. 

  • Signs and symptoms of breast cancer: Usually, the first symptom is a lump in the breast. Lumps in the lymph nodes of the armpits can also suggest breast cancer. Other findings may include skin puckering or dimpling, thickening of the breast tissue, one breast sagging lower than the other, the nipple changing its position, a rash or discharge from the nipple, and pain in the breast or armpit.
  • Stages of breast cancer: There are four stages, of which Stage 0 is non-invasive, and stages 1 to 4 are invasive. 

Q:How long does it take to develop? In some types, by the time the lump appears, it may have been there for as long as two years. 

  • Most aggressive type: A type of breast cancer that begins in the milk ducts, called invasive ductal carcinoma, is the most invasive breast cancer. Another type, called invasive lobular carcinoma, begins in the lobules and is the second most common invasive type.
  • Prevention of breast cancer: Some of the lifestyle changes, which help in prevention, include reducing weight, increasing physical activity (regular mild exercise), the mother breast feeding her children, abstaining from alcohol, and having citrus fruits, like lemons and oranges.
  • Treatment of breast cancer: the treatment modalities include medication, surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, and monoclonal antibodies.

Regular follow up care is needed. Women with breast cancer which has not spread can receive psychological therapy to reduce anxiety and depression.