Breast cancer is the malignant form of tumor that develops from the breast cells and is the most common form of cancer invasive in women worldwide. This is considered second in malignancy after skin cancer in women. It starts from the inner lining of the milk ducts and spreads to the surrounding tissue. Breast is composed of microscopic cells, which multiply in an orderly manner with older cells being replaced by new cells. Uncontrolled multiplication of cells in a progressive manner is the phenomenon in cancer. Milk duct is the most common spot for the cancer to begin and this form is also known as “ductal carcinoma. While most breast cancer cases occur in women, male breast cancer is also rarely present.
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Breast cancer has two forms: invasive and non-invasive. Invasive form of breast cancer is where the cancer cells reach the nearby tissue from inside the lobules. In such cases, cancer cells reach the lymph nodes and reach other organs through metastasis. Liver, lungs and bones may get affected. The cancer cells may even reach other body parts by traveling through bloodstream or lymphatic system. Non-invasive form of breast cancer is where the cancer cells are limited to the origin i.e. inside the lobules. It is usually the pre-cancerous stage where cancer cells haven’t actually spread outside the place of origin and are “in situ”. This over a period of time develops into invasive breast cancer. The type of breast cancer determines the treatment to be carried out in each case.
For breast cancer to be diagnosed it is important that its symptoms be known. The signs of breast cancer that are evident to the patient include headache or pain. Sometimes a rash or swelling may develop. Symptoms are what the doctor can detect like thickening of the tissue in the woman’s breast. Presence of lumps is not a sure sign of cancer as lumps need not be cancerous every time. It is important to get a health check up done by professional in case of lumps. Here are some known signs and symptoms which women report before the detection of breast cancer and need be diagnosed for analysis:
1. Redness of skin
2. Lump formation in the breast
3. Pain in armpits or breast not during menstrual cycle but otherwise 4. Swelling in the armpits(lumps)
5. Nipples of breast turning sunken or inverted
6. Change in size and shape of breast
7. Rash present around the nipples
8. Thickened tissue of breast
9. Discharge which may be that of blood from the nipples
10. Peeling, scaling or flaking of skin of nipples or breast
It must be noted that these symptoms are not confirmatory indicators of breast cancer but are only a possible sign of malignancy. It may rather be a cyst or infection that causes such symptoms. In cases where diagnosis gives positive results, further treatment and course of action needs to be started by the medical professional. Determination of cancer type and its grade and also if genetic mutation is responsible for it or if it is hormone receptive is to be done. Positive breast cancer determination gives rise to the need for determining whether the cancerous cells have spread to other organs, tissues or bones. Effective treatments can cure the cancer or prevent it from spreading further. Local or systematic treatment based on the size, nature and extent of tumor is carried out post diagnosis. Surgery and radiation are means of local treatment where cancer cells are tried to be destroyed without affecting the other body parts or remaining body.
Breast-sparing lumpectomy or mastectomy in aggressive form where the entire breast may have to be removed can be done as a part of the surgery. Systematic treatments involve targeting of bloodstream in the entire body and are given through mouth to reach target cancer cells. Toxic drugs such as cyclophoshamide or methotrexate may be used in such treatments. Biological treatment is the most recent form where therapy is used to strengthen the immune system to fight the cancer cells and curb the growth of cancer cells which have protein in higher levels. Which treatment regimen is adopted for a patient depends upon the age, type and stage of cancer. Since women over 50 years of age are most likely to develop cancer, early diagnosis can prevent cancer from happening altogether in many cases. Breast cancer screening tests are recommended in women over 40 years of age which are tests done without the presence of any symptom.
Detection is done by self exams, check up by medical experts or clinical mammography. Women who have family history of cancer must undergo the early screening tests as they are at higher risk of developing the malignancy through genes. Although causes of breast cancer are not ascertained, there are many factors that can be considered for its likelihood in females. As age progresses, the risk of developing breast cancer grows. Genetics also play a major role. Breast cancer is more common in such women whose close relative had ovarian cancer. If a woman had developed the non-invasive problem ever in her life, she is quite likely to develop breast cancer again in lifetime. Breast lumps at some stage can turn into cancer later on.
For women with dense breast tissues, the chance of developing breast cancer is always higher. It is very crucial that a breast cancer gets diagnosed for the treatment to begin. The doctors have wider range of options to begin and judge the patient’s progress and prevent metastasis from occurring. Staging of cancer, i.e. the extent to which cancer has evolved in patient’s body can be determined only after its diagnosis. Further survival rates are highly dependent upon the type, stage and location of cancer. Women can keep away breast cancer by eating healthy diet, drinking less alcohol and breastfeeding their children besides being physically active in their routines. Breast cancer can be managed through surgery or chemotherapy or both in case needed. Risk of reoccurrence is a prominent factor during treatment and thus prevention is always better than cure.