Complete Guide Breast Cancer - Introduction, Types, Stages, Causes and Diagnosis
January 15, 2023
Breast cancer is caused by the abnormal growth of cells that tend to proliferate uncontrollably. These cells have the ability to spread to different parts of the body, where they don't typically occur, leading to a condition known as metastasis.
Breast cancer usually starts with the milk glands, known as lobular carcinoma, or the ducts that carry it to the nipple, called ductal carcinoma. It can grow largest in your breast and easily spread to the nearby lymph nodes or via the bloodstream to other organs.
Breast cancer can grow and invade the tissues surrounding the chest, such as the chest wall or skin. There are various types of breast cancer, which grow and spread at different rates. Some may take years to progress beyond the breast, while others may spread and grow rapidly.
Who Gets Breast Cancer?
It is a common myth that only females can get breast cancer, but in reality, this is completely false. Breast cancer can also affect males, although the chances are less than 1%. Breast cancer is the second most frequently diagnosed cancer after skin cancer, and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths after lung cancer.
On average, about 1 in 8 women are at risk of developing breast cancer at some point in their lives. Studies show that two-thirds of women diagnosed with breast cancer are over 55 years of age, although cases have been reported in females between the ages of 35 to 54.
The good news is that early detection of breast cancer increases the likelihood of successful treatment. If breast cancer is detected at an early stage, before it spreads outside the breast, it can be effectively treated.
What are the Symptoms of Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer may present itself through various symptoms, including:
A mass or lump, which can be as small as a pea
Nipple discharge, which can be clear or bloody
A thickened or lumpy area in or around your breast or underarm, which may persist through your menstrual cycle
A sudden change in the shape, size or curvature of your breast
Changes in the skin of your breast or nipple, which may be dimpled, scaly, puckered or inflamed
Changes in the position or shape of your nipple
A visible area that is different from other areas on the left or right breast
A hard, marble-sized spot under your skin.
It is important to be aware of these symptoms and seek medical attention if you notice any of them. Early detection and treatment can significantly increase the chances of successful treatment.
Types of Breast Cancer
Breast cancer can be classified into various types, depending on the stage of the cancer and the location where it began. Some common types of breast cancer are:
Lobular Carcinoma in Situ (LCIS): This type of breast cancer is found in the lobules where breast milk is produced. It is not considered true cancer, but having LCIS increases the risk of developing breast cancer. Regular mammograms and exams are recommended for individuals with LCIS.
Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS):This is a non-invasive breast cancer that is confined to the milk ducts. If left untreated, it may progress to become invasive, but it can be cured.
Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC): This is the most common type of invasive breast cancer, accounting for 80% of cases. It begins in the milk ducts and invades the surrounding breast tissue.
Invasive Lobular Carcinoma (ILC): This type of breast cancer begins in the lobules but can spread to other parts of the body. It accounts for about 10% of invasive breast cancers.
Mucinous Carcinoma: This is a rare type of breast cancer where the tumors are made up of floating cells that exist in the mucin pool, which is part of the slimy, slippery substance that creates mucus.
Medullary Carcinoma: This type of breast cancer is rare and is characterized by soft, squishy tumors that resemble a part of the brain called the medulla.
Papillary carcinoma: This type of breast cancer is identified by the finger-like projections on the tumors. It is a rare type of breast cancer that commonly affects women who have gone through menopause.
Tubular Carcinoma: This type of breast cancer is slow-growing and is characterized by tube-shaped tumors.
Understanding the different types of breast cancer can help in early detection and better treatment options. If you notice any unusual changes in your breast, seek medical attention immediately.
The Breast Cancer Diagnosis
If you notice or feel a lump that is visible on the mammogram, your doctor will initiate the breast cancer diagnosis process, which includes:
Imaging Test: These tests help doctors gain a better understanding of your breast.
Mammogram: This is a detailed X-ray that provides doctors with a clear view of the lumps or problems in your breast.
Ultrasound: This test uses sound waves to create an image of your breast.
MRI: This body scan employs a magnet connected to a computer to generate detailed images of the insides of your breast.
Both males and females can develop breast cancer, but survival rates for men are generally higher than those for women. Additionally, breast cancer can be diagnosed using various methods.
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