HEALTH: Breast Cancer- Symptoms, Types, Stages, Prevention, Treatment, How To Examine Your Breasts

This post contains:
1. Definition of breast cancer
2. Types of breast cancer
3. Symptoms of breast cancer
4. Prevention of breast cancer
5. Stages of breast cancer
6. Foods that prevent breast cancer
7. Breast cancer treatment
8. How to carryout self examination for breast cancer

Breast cancer is a malignant tumor that starts in the cells of the breast. A malignant tumor is a group of cancer cells that can grow into (invade) surrounding tissues or spread (metastasize) to distant areas of the body. The disease occurs almost entirely in women, but men can get it too.
Breast cancer can begin in different areas of the breast — the ducts, the lobules, or in some cases, the tissue in between. 
There are different types of breast cancer including: 
  • Non-invasive breast cancer (in situ): Cancerous cells remain in a particular location of the breast, without spreading to surrounding tissue, lobules or ducts.
  • Invasive (infiltrating): Invasive breast cancer occurs when cancer cells from inside the milk ducts or lobules break out into nearby breast tissue. Cancer cells can travel from the breast to other parts of the body through the blood stream or the lymphatic system. 
  • Recurrent breast cancer: Recurrent breast cancer is breast cancer that comes back after initial treatment. Although the initial treatment is aimed at eliminating all cancer cells, a few may have evaded treatment and survived. These undetected cancer cells multiply, becoming recurrent breast cancer.
  • Metastatic breast cancers- Metastatic breast cancer is also classified as Stage 4 breast cancer. The cancer has spread to other parts of the body. This usually includes the lungs, liver, bones or brain.  
Some other types of breast cancer include; sarcoma of the breast, medullary carcinoma, tubular carcinoma, mucinous carcinoma, metaplastic carcinoma, adenocystic carcinoma, phyllodes tumor and angiosarcoma.

The following are symptoms of breast cancer:  
  1. a lump in the breast – the most common first sign
  2. The woman usually finds the lump.
  3. Sometimes the lump is seen on a screening mammogram before it can be felt.
  4. The lump is present all the time and does not get smaller or go away with the menstrual cycle.
  5. The lump may feel like it is attached to the skin or chest wall and cannot be moved.
  6. The lump may feel hard, irregular in shape and very different from the rest of the breast tissue.
  7. The lump may be tender, but it is usually not painful.
  8. Pain is more often a symptom of a non-cancerous (benign) condition, but should be checked by a doctor.
  9. a lump in the armpit (axilla)
  10. Sometimes small, hard lumps in the armpit may be a sign that breast cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. Although these lumps are often painless, they may be tender.
  11. changes in breast shape or size
  12. skin changes
  13. The skin of the breast may become dimpled or puckered. A thickening and dimpling of the skin is sometimes called orange peel skin, or peau d’orange.
  14. Redness, swelling and increased warmth (signs that look like an infection) may be a sign of inflammatory breast cancer.
  15. Itching of the breast or nipple may be a sign of inflammatory breast cancer.
  16. Itchiness is often not relieved by ointments, creams or other medications.
  17. nipple changes
  18. Some people’s nipples are always pointed inward (inverted). Normal nipples that suddenly become inverted should be checked by a doctor.
  19. Discharge from the nipples can be caused by many conditions, most of which are non-cancerous (benign).
  20. Discharge from one nipple may be a sign of breast cancer, especially if it appears without squeezing the nipple (is spontaneous) and is blood-stained.
  21.  Crusting, ulcers or scaling on the nipple may be a sign of some rare types of breast cancer, such as Paget disease of the nipple.

How to prevent breast cancer

Statistics show that two-thirds of women with breast cancer are older than 50 years of age. And a larger part of the remaining group, are between 39 and 49 years old. This is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women after lung cancer. It is also the most common cancer among women, although it also affects men to a lesser degree (1 %).

Among the most important risk factors are age and family history. The risk also increases significantly for a woman who previously had breast, endometrial, ovarian or colon cancer. There is a link between this type of cancer and hormones, especially estrogen. The reproductive cycle of a woman is marked by highs and lows of both progesterone and estrogen. The chances of breast cancer increases when: a woman begins her menstruation before the age of 12, has her first child after the age of 30, reaches menopause after 55 or does not breastfeed her children. On the other hand, the fact of whether the use of birth control pills is a contributing factor is not really clear. Exposure to nuclear or therapeutic radiation is also a risk factor.

There is no known way to prevent breast cancer, but prevention is the best way to detect the disease in time. For this reason, it is important to do breast self-examinations and visit a gynecologist for medical checkups, which include mammograms. (From the age of 35)

The following stages are used for breast cancer: 0 through IV
  • Stage 0 (carcinoma in situ) describing non-invasive cancers that have not spread.
  • Stage I is when cancer has formed.
  • Stage II describes invasive breast cancer.
  • Stage III describes invasive breast cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes.
  • Stage IV describing invasive cancers that have spread outside the breast to other parts of the body.
According to the National Cancer Institute, the 5-year survival rates for breast cancer in different stages are:
  • Stage 0: 100%

  • Stage I: 100%

  • Stage II: 93%
  • Stage III: 72%
  • Stage IV: 22%

The diagram below shows symptoms of breast cancer: 

Foods that may prevent breast cancer:
  • Pumpkins: yellow peppers and cantaloupe melons: Orange or yellow coloured fruit and vegetables are a rich source of betacarotene - which is the precursor of vitamin A and a potent antioxidant which helps fight off highly-reactive molecules that can harm our body and lead to severe diseases such as breast cancer.
  • Oily fish: Oily fish such as mackerel, sardines, trout and salmon have all been linked to a lower incidence of breast cancer. Evidence shows that eskimos who have a high intake of oily fish have no incidence of breast cancer. This is thanks to the presence of omega-3 fats.
  • Pulses: wholemeal bread and rice: Fibre contained in pulses and wholemeal foods help excrete oestrogens out of our bodies. Too many oestrogens from our own hormones and hormone-like substances found in plastics and chemicals can trigger cell division in our breast tissue. Evidence shows that too much cell division can lead to breast cancer.
  • Cabbage: Broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower and kale - all members of the cabbage family are said to be highly toxic towards cancerous cells. This is because they contain cancer-fighting compounds known as indole-3-carbinol which is thought to deactivate oestrogen, and in turn, help reduce the risk of breast cancer.

Breast cancer Treatment:
Tests that detect breast cancer include:

Physical exam and history : An exam of the body to check general signs of health, including checking for signs of disease, such as lumps or anything else that seems unusual. A history of the patient’s health habits and past illnesses and treatments will also be taken.
• Clinical breast exam (CBE): An exam of the breast by a doctor or other health professional. The doctor will carefully feel the breasts and under the arms for lumps or anything else that seems unusual.
• Mammogram: An x-ray of the breast.  The breast is pressed between two plates. X-rays are used to take pictures of breast tissue.
• Ultrasound exam: A procedure in which high-energy sound waves (ultrasound) are bounced off internal tissues or organs and make echoes. The echoes form a picture of body tissues called a sonogram. The picture can be printed to be looked at later.
• MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): A procedure that uses a magnet, radio waves, and a computer to make a series of detailed pictures of both breasts. This procedure is also called nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (NMRI).
• Blood chemistry studies : A procedure in which a blood sample is checked to measure the amounts of certain substances released into the blood by organs and tissues in the body. An unusual (higher or lower than normal) amount of a substance can be a sign of disease. 
• Biopsy : The removal of cells or tissues so they can be viewed under a microscope by a pathologist to check for signs of cancer. If a lump in the breast is found, a biopsy may be done. 
There are four types of biopsy used to check for breast cancer:
  1. Excisional biopsy : The removal of an entire lump of tissue. 
  2. Incisional biopsy : The removal of part of a lump or a sample of tissue. 
  3. Core biopsy : The removal of tissue using a wide needle. 
  4. Fine-needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy : The removal of tissue or fluid, using a thin needle.

The treatments used for breast cancer include
  • Surgery
  • Radiotherapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Hormone therapy
  • Biological treatments
Breast cancers can be:
  • Low grade – grade 1 (slow growing)
  • Intermediate grade – grade 2
  • High grade – grade 3 (faster growing)
Low grade cancers tend to grow more slowly than high grade. High grade cancers are more likely to come back after they have first been treated. But the grade can only give a guide to how any individual cancer will behave and individual cancers may behave differently.

How to carry out self examination for breast cancer:


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