The first place among female cancer conditions belongs to the breast cancer. The most warning breast cancer symptoms are a lump or deformation of a breast and nipple discharge. Breast cancer treatment consists of surgical intervention, radiation and different types of therapies (hormonal, chemotherapy). Below we will discuss the specific characteristics of this disease and its treatment options in detail.
The breast is made up of glands called lobules that can make milk and thin tubes called ducts that carry the milk from the lobules to the nipple. Breast tissue also contains fat and connective tissue, lymph nodes, and blood vessels.
WHAT IS THE MOST COMMON TYPE OF BREAST CANCER?
The most common type of breast cancer is ductal carcinoma. It develops in the cells of the ducts. Breast cancer can also develop in the cells of the lobules and in other tissues in the breast. Breast cancer that has spread from where it began in the ducts or lobules to surrounding tissue is known as invasive breast cancer.
When cancer cells invade the surrounding tissue (stroma), it can gain entry into the circulatory and lymphatic system and into other organs in the body. A metastatic tumour may be formed when these cancer cells reach a new site. The lungs, bones and liver are the most commonly affected.
BREAST CANCER SYMPTOMS
Breast cancer usually has no symptoms in the early stages. As a tumor develops, you may notice these signs:
- Presence of a lump in the breast or underarm that persists even after your menstrual cycle. Normally, this is the first apparent symptom of breast cancer. Malicious lumps are usually painless, even though some may cause a prickly sensation. Mammogram can detect lumps long before they can be seen or felt.
- Swelling in the armpit is another of very common breast cancer symptoms
- Tenderness or pain in the breast (While lumps are usually painless, pain or tenderness can be a sign of breast cancer)
- A noticeable flattening or indentation on the breast (may indicate a tumor that cannot be seen or felt)
- Changes in the size, contour, texture, or temperature of the breast – reddish, pitted surface like the skin of an orange may be one of the advanced breast cancer symptoms.
- Changes in the nipple (nipple retraction, dimpling, itching, a burning sensation, or ulceration). Paget’s disease causes a scaly rash of the nipple and may be associated with an underlying breast cancer.
- Unusual discharge from the nipple that may be clear, bloody, or another color. Normally caused by benign conditions but could be due to cancer in some cases
- Marble-like area under the skin
- An area that is clearly different from any other area on either breast
BREAST CANCER TREATMENT OPTIONS
The first step is to take out the tumor in most people. This can be done through an operation called lumpectomy, sometimes known as breast-conserving surgery. It removes only the part of your breast that has cancer. Procedure that removes the whole breast is known as mastectomy. Discuss the pros and cons of both types of surgery with your doctor. Most of the time, removal of the entire whole breast does not work better or prolong lifespan.
High-energy waves are used to kill cancer cells. Most women under age 70 who have a lumpectomy get radiation treatment as well. This treatment helps to destroy any cancer cells that the surgeon couldn’t remove. This method may be recommended if the disease has spread. Radiation can come from a machine outside your body or alternatively, you can get tiny seeds that give off radiation placed inside your breast where the tumor was.
Back in the days, people had radiation every day for many weeks. However, it’s been discovered that it works just as well to get the same total amount of radiation in less time. It’s safer and causes fewer side effects. Consult with your doctor if a shorter therapy is an option for you.
Drugs are taken as pills or through an IV to treat the disease throughout your body. It may be administered after surgery to kill any cancer cells left behind. It may also be administered before surgery to make tumors smaller. This treatment works well against cancer but it also can harm healthy cells. This can cause side effects such as hair loss, mouth sores, and nausea.
- Hormone Therapy: In some cases of breast cancers, estrogen and progesterone can make cancer cells grow. Hormone therapy helps to block these hormones.
- Targeted Treatments: This treatment helps to fight the changes in cells that lead to cancer. Some cells have too much of a type of protein and makes them grow too much. Drugs can help to block how these proteins work. This treatment often has fewer side effects than treatments that affect the entire body like chemotherapy.
SIDE EFFECTS OF BREAST CANCER TREATMENT
Most treatments for breast cancer have side effects. Side effects like nausea normally go away when the therapy stops. However, some side effects may show up later (late effects). They can include:
- Symptoms of menopauses
- Trouble getting pregnant
- Trouble sleeping
- Changes in how your breasts look
- Trouble thinking clearly (chemo brain)
WHAT ELSE SHOULD YOU KNOW?
Your doctor and you will decide on your treatment type. When you’re deciding, think about:
- The risks: Discuss with your doctor about the pros and cons of each option
- Side effects: How will the side effects affect your quality of life?
- Whether you really need it: Some cases, patients do well with milder or shorter treatments
DIAGNOSING BREAST CANCER
Medical history and physical exam
If you think you may have signs and breast cancer symptoms, visit your doctor immediately. Questions about your symptoms, any other health problems, and possible risk factors for benign breast conditions or breast cancer will be asked by your doctor.
Your breasts will be thoroughly checked for lumps or suspicious areas wand to feel the texture, size, and relationship to the skin and chest muscles.Changes in the nipples or the skin of your breasts will be taken note of. Lymph nodes in your armpit and above your collarbones may be palpated (felt) as enlargement or firmness of these lymph nodes might indicate spread of breast cancer. A complete physical exam may also be performed to judge your general health and whether there is any evidence of cancer that may have spread.
- Mammograms: An x-ray of the breast used to look for breast changes in women who have no signs or symptoms of a breast problem. This screening test usually takes 2 views (x-ray pictures taken from different angles) of each breast. Diagnostic mammograms can get a closer look of changes. More pictures will be taken of the area that may be cancerous.
- Breast ultrasound (sonography): Sound waves are used to outline a part of the body. It helps to look at some breast changes such as those that can be felt but not visible on a mammogram. It can also tell the difference between fluid-filled cysts and solid masses.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the breast: Radio waves and strong magnets are used instead of x-rays. Energy from radio waves is absorbed and released in a pattern formed by the type of body tissue and by certain diseases. A computer translates the pattern into a very detailed picture. A contrast liquid called gadolinium is injected into a vein before or during the scan to show clearer details.
- Biopsy procedures: A biopsy is completed when mammograms, other imaging tests, or the physical exam shows a breast change that may be cancer. A biopsy is the only way to tell for sure if it’s cancer. A sample of the suspicious area is taken out and tested in the lab.