Breast Cancer and its Treatment

Breast Cancer is the neoplasm of the breast tissue. It is usually common in the inner lining of milk ducts or the lobules that supply milk.

Breast cancer in women is 100 times more common than in men. It is reported to be one of the leading diagnosed cancers in women. According to breastcancer.org, 1 in 8 U.S. women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. The number of breast cancer death cases have decreased over time as a result of treatment advances, early detection of the disease, and increased campaign awareness. Although this is a good news, the occurrence of breast cancer is still at a significant number. About 22.9% of all non melanoma skin cancers in women comprise of breast cancer cases worldwide.

Causes
Breast cancer is known to occur because of cell mutation. Normally, a cell dies when it is no longer needed. When it is still essential, protein clusters and pathways protect the cells from dying. When a cell is ready to die, these clusters and pathways allow the cell to do so. In the case of breast cancer, protein clusters and pathways do not allow the cell to die. The gene along the pathways are mutated in a way that they keep their protective guard on cells, making cells incapable of dying even when they are no longer needed. This in turn will cause build up of abnormal cells and therefore will develop cancer.

The risk factors for breast cancer are the female gender, older age, high hormonal levels, lack of childbearing, lack of breastfeeding, first pregnancy at a later age, family history, and iodine deficiency. Black and white women are the most common races who are at risk of breast cancer. Black women have higher death rates than white women because they tend to have more aggressive tumors. Asians, Hispanics and Native Americans can also acquire the disease but are less likely to develop and die from breast cancer than the two races mentioned earlier. The risk of breast cancer doubles when an individual has a mother, sister or daughter who has breast cancer.

Signs and Symptoms
Breast changes are the common symptoms of breast cancer. An individual should check for changes in the breast such as a lump or thickening of an area around or near the breast and underarms. He or she should also look for changes in the size or shape of the breast, dimpling or pitting of the breast skin, inverted nipple, any discharge from the nipple especially if it is blood and scaly, and red or swollen breast skin, areola or nipple.

Diagnosis and Treatments
Breast cancer can be diagnosed by mammography, ultrasound, and MR imaging. When tests are inconclusive, fine needle aspiration and cytology are used to diagnose the disease. Most cases of breast cancer are usually treated by surgery. Chemotherapy and Radiation may be used together or individually after the surgery. For hormone positive cancers, long term hormone blocking therapy is used.

Treatment for breast cancer depends on the stage:
– Stage 1 cancer is usually treated with lumpectomy (removal of lump) and radiation. Chemotherapy is not common during this stage.
– Stage 2 and stage 3 are usually treated with lumpectomy, mastectomy (removal of breast), chemotherapy and sometimes radiation. – For stage 4 cancer, all treatments are used in combination such as chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, and targeted therapies.

Prevention
Being physically active, drinking less alcohol, breastfeeding, and maintaining healthy weight are preventive measures for breast cancer. When mutations are detected early, prophylactic mastectomy may be performed to prevent the occurrence of cancer.

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