Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer Statistics

Breast-cancer is one the most common cancers that afflict the world population today, and that includes both men and women. However, deaths related to breast cancer often affect women, and as stated by the American Cancer Association, it is the number one cancer that takes the lives of women. At present, there is an estimated 178,000 cases of breast cancer that are diagnosed every year, and about 41,000 deaths are approximated for 2007. Undoubtedly this must be the most common cancer and the number of deaths due to breast cancer constitutes 60% of cancer related deaths in the world. With these figures, however, it has been observed that the trend has somehow decreased, and fewer women are becoming susceptible to the condition, because of increased breast cancer awareness and early detection.

Types of Breast Cancer/Breast Cancer Types

Like other forms of cancer, breast cancer is also classified in to different groups based on the origin tissues. In most number of cases breast cancer begins with the single or multiple cells which are disturbed from their normal forms of differentiation and they remain close to the duct’s membrane. These cells multiply and some or the other time they cross the basement membrane and grows to different individual forms which forms the breast cancer lumps.

Breast cancer is classified upon the nature of tumor that it develops. The cancer in a low grade tumor can be seen as a normal tissue but for the high grade tumor the scan pictures can reveal multiple disordered cells. Therefore the intermediate grade cancers can be identified with tissues varying between these two categories.

Breast Cancer Stages

Knowing the stage of cancer one fits into, can help patients understand their breast cancer prognosis.

Stage 0 Breast Cancer

Stage 0 is non-invasive breast cancer. The cancer cells do not spread out to other parts from the part where it started. It does not invade neighboring normal tissues. Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) , Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS) are examples of stage zero cancer.

Stage 1 Breast Cancer

Stage one breast cancer is invasive in nature. The cancer cells are no longer restricted to the part where it originated; they spread to neighboring parts as well. In this stage, the tumor can measure about 2 centimeters.

Stage 2 Breast Cancer

Stage two breast cancer is also invasive in nature. The tumor however measures between 2 to 5 centimeters. The lymph nodes, under the arm on the same side as the breast cancer are effected by the spreading cancer cells.

Stage 3 Breast Cancer

Stage three breast cancer is invasive breast cancer wherein the tumor grows larger than 5 centimeters. The tumor has spread to the breast skin and even the the internal the mammary lymph nodes. Stage 3 also includes inflammatory breast cancer. Inflammatory breast cancer is a serious and aggressive condition. The main symptoms of this is redness of a part or the entire breast. The red parts are warm to touch. The breast skin might also become puffy. The breast may grow abnormal is shape.

Stage 4 Breast Cancer

Stage four breast cancer is the most advanced breast cancer stage. It is metastatic in nature, that is, the cancer has spread beyond the original tumor site to distant organs where they grow and multiply further. The cancer cells have spread past the breast and lymph nodes and can potentially affect any region of the body. It usually spreads to the bones, lung and liver.

Causes of Breast Cancer

The causes of breast cancer can be different from a conventional cancer. The causes can include genetic mutation of DNA and exposure to ionizing radiation. Specific exposure to chemicals and drugs can mutate the immune system and inject a triggering mechanism for the cancer. Even though these facts are a general norm, there are many case studies of breast cancer where the reason was varying. But generally the factors can include childbearing options, age, dietary options and exposure to radiation and intake of tobacco. But on the contrary there are several cases of breast cancer which are hereditary.

For breast cancer it is better to prevent the onset of the disease. It can be prevented with artificial estrogen plantation. However this should be done in an adolescence stage as the effect of the plantation in a later part is quite ineffective. Like the normal cancer causing factors, smoking and excess intake of alcohol can aggravate the breast cancer risk. But various studies shows that the women of above 50 year are more prone to breast cancer.

Symptoms of Breast Cancer

Most of the reported breast cancers begin with pain in the breast and presence of painful lumps in the breast. Once this is doubted it could be confirmed with the help of a mammogram where it will show a distinguishable mass or lump in the breast. There is another kind of breast cancer called as the inflammatory breast cancer where the lymph vessels of the dermal tissues are attacked by cancer and it gives an appearance of inflamed skin. In this case the symptoms can be early recognition of skin inflammation. This will also cause severe pain and redness of the breast. Till date the most easily identified signs of breast cancer includes the considerable change of shape and appearance of breast and development of lumps. Some more breast cancer symptoms may be swelling, discharge from the nipples and skin irritation.

There are occasions when the cancer has spread beyond the target organ and cause pain and symptoms to the associated organs. These associated organs can include bones, lungs and liver. In this stage the symptoms change to weight loss and joint pains; this is referred as the metastatic breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Prevention

How can a woman prevent herself from becoming afflicted with the disease? In order to prevent breast cancer, its important to understand who are the women at risk for getting breast cancer?

Breast Cancer Risk Factors

In reality, potentially any woman can have this disease, although there are some conditions that contribute to it. If a woman starts her menses too early or too late in her life, she may be a candidate for having the cancer. Also, excessive radiation exposure, use of oral contraceptives, and pregnancies after the age of 30 may be risk factors to breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Detection

Regular gynecological examinations can help a woman determine if she is likely to have breast cancer. Also, doing a routine breast self examination (BSE) allows early detection. This can be done at home, after a shower, in front of the mirror, or while lying down. It is recommended that she does this regularly, usually after her menstruation so that her breasts are not too tender.

When a lump or abnormal growth is detected, she should consult a doctor for a mammogram or x-ray. Sometimes, when no tumor or lump is felt, it can still be viewed in a mammogram, and this may be indicative of the early stages of the cancer.

After childbirth, many pediatricians and obstetrician gynecologists recommend breastfeeding, as this is beneficial to both the child and the mother. A woman can regain her pre-pregnancy weight more quickly, and she avoids the risks of breast cancer. Also, regular exercise activities and the proper diet helps keep a woman healthy and keeps her away from the disease.

Treatments for Breast Cancer

There are a number of options for treatment of breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Surgery

Surgery is amongst the earliest forms of breast cancer treatments. However, nowadays breast cancer surgery is precise and targeted, aiming to preserve as much of the breast as possible. Whether surgery is required or not depends on the stage of cancer. The two main surgery options available are:
Lumpectomy (breast conserving surgery). Only the tumor is removed. This is followed by radiation therapy to treat the remaining breast tissue.
Mastectomy:  the whole breast is removed in this procedure. Sometimes, this is also followed by radiation. Neither of these procedures eliminate the need for "systemic" treatments like chemotherapy.

Breast Cancer Radiation Therapy

This is a highly effective method of treatment in which the breast cancer cells that remain even after surgery are destroyed This is also called radiotherapy and is a targeted method of treatment. Radiation therapy after surgery reduces the breast cancer recurrence risk rates by half or two-third.

In radiation therapy, high-energy beams are concentrated on the affected area like the breasts, lymph nodes etc. This destroys the cancer as well as normal cells that are in its path. However, while normal cells are able to repair themselves, the cancer cells are not and therefore are destroyed by the radiation.

Targeted Therapies

Targeted therapies target specific characteristics of the cancer cells. For example it might target a certain type of protein or enzyme etc that is present only in cancer cells. They therefore do not affect normal healthy cells. Example of such breast cancer drugs are Herceptin, Tykerb etc.

Breast Cancer Chemotherapy

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