Breast cancer

The Pink Disease

Author: Kejan Saeed

One of the most common invasive forms of cancer amongst women is breast cancer. Breast cancer is a prevalent condition mainly affecting women, but it can also affect men. It constitutes about 25% of all cancers occurring in women. In 2012, 1.7 million women were diagnosed with breast cancer. Breast cancer is bound to occur in all age groups, but the highest incident is between the age group of 65 to 69 years. The cause of breast cancer is often an interaction between inheritance, hormonal factors and lifestyle.

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What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer (also known as cancer mammae in Latin) is a malignant tumor, which occurs in the breast glandular tissue. The tumor occurs when some cells in the glands lose self-control and starts growing abnormally. The cells begin to divide and grow without control and without inhibition. This happens because the inherited material such as the DNA, which controls the activity of the cells, are damaged. Changes in the genetic material that are responsible for the development of cancer are called mutations. The growing cells with mutations can form a tumor in the breast or metastazie through the blood.

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How does the disease progress?

When you are diagnosed with breast cancer, it is usually based on the finding of a knot in the breast tissue. In many cases, those who are diagnosed with breast cancer are treated with surgery. However, there is a possibility that the disease can reappear again in the operated breast or, if the breast has been removed on the wall of the chest. A new tumor may also appear as metastases in the lymph nodes. If the cancer passes into the blood, it can spread to the bones and internal organs such as the lungs, liver and the brain. The occurrences of the new tumor can develop at very different times beginning from a couple of weeks and up to a several years after the cancer has been removed. In addition, you can have long periods of time when the disease is at rest. In the long run, breast cancer is considered to be a very serious disease, but through treatment there are many opportunities for delaying the development of the disease and increasing the survival rate.

Factors which increases the risks of being diagnosed with breast cancer:

  • Early first menstrual period and late menopause which causes the woman to have a high amount of estrogen
  • Not giving birth to children or giving birth to children after the age of 35 years.
  • Small physical activity
  • Overweight
  • Overtime night work shifts
  • Alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Heritage

Factors which decreases the risks of being diagnosed with breast cancer:

  • Giving birth to more than one children
  • Naturally breastfeeding
  • Consistent physical activity

Symptoms of breast cancer:

  • Pain/lump in the breast or chest
  • Itchy breasts
  • Pain around upper back, shoulder and neck area
  • Changes in breast shape, size or appearance
  • Change in nipple appearance or sensitivity
  • Swelling of lymph nodes in underarms
  • Changes in color and form of the skin over the breat
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Diagnosis:

  • Mammogram: An x-ray of the breasts. This method is able to detect cancerous tumors that are too small to feel with your hands.
  • Ultrasound: Advanced image survey, especially relevant in woman with dense breast glandular tissue.
  • MRI: A test which provides good images of body parts that are also surrounded by bones and skeletons.
  • Biopsy: Removes tissue or sometimes fluid from the suspicious areas to examine under a microscope.

Treatment:

  • Surgery: Almost all breast cancer tumors can be removed by surgery. If the tumor is too large, the entire chest may be risked to be removed. If there is a risk of spread of breast cancer cells to nearby lymph nodes, then the removal of lymph nodes close to the chest will be performed. An operation for breast cancer is not always as applicable when the patient is too weak or when the tumor cannot be removed.
  • Radiation therapy: It is treatment with high-energy radiation rays (such as x-rays) or particles that destroy cancer cells. It is often used after a breast surgery or if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body such as bones and the brain.
  • Chemotherapy: Is used to prevent proliferation and local recurrences when the tumor has properties that indicates increased risks. Patients whos tumors can not be removed surgically, also often gets treated with chemotherapy. Chemotherapy can reduce the size of the tumor so that surgery is possible afterwards.
  • Hormone therapy: The aim is to keep eastrogen from binding to receptors on the tumor, which will in turn stop the tumor from growing more.
  • Targeted therapy: This involves specific drugs which block the growth and the spread of cancer cells.