Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in the world. There are more than 55,000 new cases in the UK each year and the disease claims the lives of 11,500 women. In the US, it strikes 266,000 and kills 40,000 each year. But what causes it and how can it be treated?
What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer develops from a cancer cell that develops in the lining of a milk duct, or lobule, in one of the breasts.
When breast cancer has spread to surrounding breast tissue, it is called ‘invasive’ breast cancer. Some people are diagnosed with “carcinoma in situ,” where no cancer cells have grown beyond the duct or lobule.
Most cases develop in women over the age of 50, but younger women are sometimes affected. Breast cancer can develop in men, although this is rare.
Staging means how big the cancer is and whether it has spread. Stage 1 is the earliest stage and stage 4 means the cancer has spread to another part of the body.
Cancer cells are ranked from low, meaning slow growth, to high, meaning fast growth. High-grade cancers are more likely to come back after being treated first.
What Causes Breast Cancer?
A cancerous tumor starts from an abnormal cell. The exact reason why a cell becomes cancerous is unclear. Something is thought to damage or change certain genes in the cell. This causes the cell to become abnormal and multiply “out of control”.
Although breast cancer can develop for no apparent reason, there are some risk factors that can increase the chance of developing breast cancer, such as: B. Genetics.
What are the symptoms of breast cancer?
The usual first symptom is a painless breast lump, although most breast lumps are noncancerous and are fluid-filled cysts that are benign.
The first place where breast cancer usually spreads is in the armpit lymph nodes. If this occurs, you’ll develop a swelling or lump in an armpit.
How is breast cancer diagnosed?
- Initial assessment: A doctor examines the breasts and armpits. They may do tests like a mammogram, a special X-ray of breast tissue that can indicate the possibility of tumors.
- Biopsy: In a biopsy, a small sample of tissue is taken from a part of the body. The sample is then examined under a microscope to look for abnormal cells. The sample can confirm or rule out cancer.
If you are confirmed to have breast cancer, further tests may be needed to determine if it has spread. For example, blood tests, an ultrasound of the liver, or a chest X-ray.
How is breast cancer treated?
Treatment options that may be considered include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and hormone treatment. A combination of two or more of these treatments is often used.
- Surgery: Breast-conserving surgery or removal of the affected breast, depending on the size of the tumor.
- Radiation therapy: A treatment that uses high-energy rays focused on cancerous tissue. This kills cancer cells or stops cancer cells from multiplying. It is mainly used in addition to the operation.
- Chemotherapy: A treatment for cancer through the use of anti-cancer drugs that kill or stop cancer cells from multiplying
- Hormone Treatments: Some types of breast cancer are influenced by the “female” hormone estrogen, which can stimulate cancer cells to divide and multiply. Treatments that lower the levels of these hormones or stop them from working are often used in patients with breast cancer.
How successful is the treatment?
The outlook is best for those diagnosed when the cancer is small and has not spread. Surgical removal of a tumor at an early stage can then offer good chances of recovery.
The routine mammogram offered to women in their 50s and 70s means more breast cancer is being diagnosed and treated at an early stage.
Visit breastcancercare.org.uk, breastcancernow.org or www.cancerhelp.org.uk for more information