Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is a complex disease characterised by the uncontrolled growth of cells in the breast tissue. It’s one of the most common cancers affecting women worldwide, though it can also occur in men. Understanding its types, causes, symptoms, treatment and prevention is crucial for managing the risk and addressing the condition effectively.

Types of Breast Cancer
  • Invasive vs. Non-Invasive: Non-invasive (or in situ) breast cancers have not spread beyond the ducts or lobules into the surrounding breast tissue, while invasive breast cancers have spread into surrounding breast tissue.
  • Hormone Receptor Status: Cancers are tested for their hormone receptor status, which includes estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) and progesterone receptor-positive (PR+) cancers. Hormone therapy is often effective for these types.
  • HER2 Status: Some breast cancers have a higher level of a protein called HER2, which promotes the growth of cancer cells. HER2-positive cancers may be more aggressive but can be treated with targeted therapies.
Causes and Risk Factors
While the exact cause of breast cancer isn’t fully understood, several risk factors have been identified, including:
  • Gender: Being a woman is the most significant risk factor for developing breast cancer.
  • Age: The risk increases with age.
  • Genetics: A history of breast cancer in the family, especially close relatives, or inherited gene mutations like BRCA1 and BRCA2.
  • Lifestyle Factors: Including alcohol consumption, obesity, and lack of physical activity.
  • Reproductive History: Early menstruation, late menopause, and having children late or not at all can increase risk.
Symptoms
Symptoms of breast cancer can vary but may include:
  • A lump or thickening in the breast or underarm area.
  • Changes in the size, shape, or appearance of a breast.
  • Changes to the skin over the breast, such as dimpling.
  • A newly inverted nipple or peeling, scaling, crusting, or flaking of the nipple or breast skin.
  • Redness or pitting of the skin over your breast, like the skin of an orange.
Treatment
Treatment depends on the type of breast cancer, its stage, and other factors. Options may include:
  • Surgery: To remove the tumor (lumpectomy) or the entire breast (mastectomy). Radiation Therapy: Uses high-energy waves to target and kill cancer cells.
  • Chemotherapy: Involves drugs to kill cancer cells, often used when the cancer is considered aggressive or has spread.
  • Hormone Therapy: For cancers that are hormone receptor-positive, to block the body’s natural hormones (estrogen and progesterone) from supporting the growth of cancer cells.
  • Targeted Therapy: For cancers with specific characteristics, such as HER2-positive cancers, using drugs that target those characteristics without affecting normal cells.
Early Detection Saves Lives
Early detection through regular screenings and awareness of the signs and symptoms can significantly improve breast cancer outcomes. If you have concerns about your breast health or risk factors, consult a healthcare professional for personalised advice and screening recommendations.
  • Frequently Asked Questions

Diagnosis typically involves a combination of physical exams, mammography, ultrasound, MRI, and biopsy. The biopsy, where a small sample of breast tissue is removed and examined, is definitive in diagnosing breast cancer.

  • Lifestyle Changes: Maintaining a healthy weight, engaging in regular physical activity, and limiting alcohol can reduce risk.
  • Regular Screenings: Mammograms can detect breast cancer early when it’s most treatable.
  • Genetic Testing and Counseling: Recommended for those with a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer.

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