Owing to its very low survival rates, cancer is one of the most dreaded diseases. However, recent medical advancements have improved the survival rates of cancer patients. The focus of research has shifted from ‘cure’ to ‘total survival’, ‘avoiding recurrence’ and ‘minimizing side effects’ after the treatment.
Breast cancer is one such type of cancer – in which the cells of the breasts grow out of control. Despite improved efficiency in screening and treatment methodologies, it is till date the most invasive cancer and a leading category of breast disease among women. As per Wikipedia, breast cancer accounts for about 25% of all cancer cases. And The Cancer Atlas estimates an expected 29 million cases of breast cancer worldwide by 2040 due to factors like aging and fast growth of the world population. But the good news is that advancements are continuously making the lives of women easier with total cure and reducing risks after complete cure.
One of the first signs of breast cancer is a noticeable breast swelling or breast lump that feels odd as compared to the rest of the tissue. About 80% of breast cancers are identified due to lumps. Always be on the lookout for any such possible signs or symptoms. If you spot any, be sure to consult a doctor without any delay.
Signs And Symptoms Of Breast Cancer
If you are to notice any of the further mentioned signs or symptoms, you must immediately have it checked with your doctor:
a) Breast tumor (a non-painful or painful lump in the breast)
b) Swollen breast
c) Burning sensation in the breast
d) Breast tenderness or sore breasts
e) Change in breast shape/size
f) Change in nipple position
g) Skin dimpling
h) Fluid released from the nipple
i) Inverted nipple
j) Patchy/scaly breast skin
k) Rash on the skin
Signs and symptoms in extreme cases include bone pain, shortness of breath, yellow skin, swollen lymph nodes (under the armpit or near the collarbone). On the bright side, the above symptoms do not always indicate breast cancer. They could merely be indications of smaller and more harmless conditions such as – mastodynia (pain in the breasts), signs of the menstrual cycle, PMSing, pregnancy, tight-fitting bra, workouts, breastfeeding, etc.
How is Breast Cancer Diagnosed?
On being suspected, a mammogram test is the first test that you will be put through, by your doctor. It uses low-energy X-rays to examine women’s breasts as well as men breast for any early signs of breast cancer. If the test is positive, the diagnosis is continued with a biopsy of the concerning lump for confirmation. Once confirmed, further tests are carried out to check if cancer has spread beyond the detected spot into any other parts of the body. According to these results, the possible treatment methods are decided upon.
Early Detection is Key
While there is no definitive method of preventing breast cancer, early detection provides the best chance of effective treatment. Early detection opens gates for an increased number of available treatment options, increased survival, and improved quality of life.
Self Examination is Crucial
Always remember to regularly self examine yourself for any indications of breast cancer. Next key action is that you must go for a Mammogram test done once in every 1-2 years (especially for women between the ages 40 and 75).
Types of Breast Cancer Treatment
For confirmed positive cases, most common treatment types include:
1. Breast surgery:
Types of surgeries could range across mastectomy, breast-conserving surgery, breast reconstruction, etc.
Multiple chemo sessions with the use of anti-cancer drugs/agents are given to the patient to reduce symptoms and prolong the life of the patient.
3. Radiation therapy:
Also called radiotherapy, this method uses certain high energy rays to kill cancer cells in the patient’s body.
4. Hormone therapy:
One type of breast cancer occurs due to fluctuations in certain hormones like estrogen and progesterone. Hormone therapy aims to adjust this fluctuation accordingly to help reduce symptoms.
5. Targeted therapy:
This is a stronger dose of chemotherapy. The drugs used in this treatment also enter the bloodstream but are believed to work better than chemotherapy.
How Effective are Breast Cancer Treatments?
End results always depend on various deciding factors such as type of cancer, the extent of the spread, the patient’s age, gender, the stage during detection, other health conditions, etc. However, on the brighter side, the average efficacy percentage of treatment of breast cancer is gradually increasing. Further according to Wikipedia, survival rates in the developed areas are higher than in rural areas.
Causes of Breast Cancer
While there is no clear way to determine the actual cause of breast cancer, there are a set of commonly noted factors associated with a higher risk of breast cancer, such as old age, obesity, female gender, poor physical activity, alcohol consumption, no children or having conceived late, first menstruation at an early age, hormone replacement therapy during menopause, prior history of breast cancer (a case of recurrence), family history of breast cancer (genetic inheritance) – “About 5 to 10% of cases are due to genes inherited from the parents” states Wikipedia.
Key Takeaways on Breast Care
1. Early detection is very important – Regularly self-examine any visible changes in your breasts
2. Don’t skip your mammogram – Make sure you go for the mammogram tests once in every year or max 2 years
3. Spread the word – Let all your friends and family know about the importance of early detection
Does Milk Cause Breast Cancer?
As per news updates from Medical News Today and few other trusted sources in February 2020, studies indicated that consumption of milk could be directly proportional to the risk of breast cancer. The more milk a woman consumes, the more she is prone to being a victim of breast cancer.
Breast Cancer Can Occur in Men, Too
Contrary to popular belief, breast cancer can occur in men, too. While men do not have milk-producing breasts like women, they do have breast cells and tissues which can develop cancer. However, male breast cancer is extremely rare and occurs in as little as 1 man among 1000 men.