Most of us knows or heard of someone with breast cancer and are curious to find out the causes and symptoms. Here is a complete review on breast cancer.
Breast cancer is a cancer that starts in the tissues of the breast.
There are two main types of breast cancer:
- Ductal carcinoma starts in the tubes (ducts) that move milk from the breast to the nipple. Most breast cancers are of this type.
- Lobular carcinoma starts in parts of the breast, called lobules, that produce milk.
In rare cases, breast cancer can start in other areas of the breast.
Many breast cancers are sensitive to the hormone estrogen. This means that estrogen causes the breast cancer tumor to grow. Such cancer is called estrogen receptor positive cancer or ER positive cancer.
Some women have what's called HER2-positive breast cancer. HER2 refers to a gene that helps cells grow, divide, and repair themselves. When cells have too many copies of this gene, cells -- including cancer cells -- grow faster. Experts think that women with HER2-positive breast cancer have a more aggressive disease and a higher risk of recurrence than those who do not have this type.
Early breast cancer usually does not cause symptoms. This is why regular breast exams are important. As the cancer grows, symptoms may include:
- Breast lump or lump in the armpit that is hard, has uneven edges, and usually does not hurt
- Change in the size, shape, or feel of the breast or nipple -- for example, you may have redness, dimpling, or puckering that looks like the skin of an orange
- Fluid coming from the nipple -- may be bloody, clear to yellow, green, and look like pus
Men get breast cancer, too. Symptoms include breast lump and breast pain and tenderness.
Symptoms of advanced breast cancer may include:
- Bone pain
- Breast pain or discomfort
- Skin ulcers
- Swelling of one arm (next to breast with cancer)
- Weight loss
Causes & Risk Factors
Over the course of a lifetime, 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer.
Risk factors you cannot change include:
- Age and gender
- Family history of breast cancer
- Menstrual cycle -- Women who get their periods early (before age 12) or went through menopause late (after age 55) have an increased risk for breast cancer.
Other risk factors include:
- Alcohol use -- Drinking more than 1 - 2 glasses of alcohol a day may increase your risk for breast cancer.
- Childbirth -- Women who have never had children or who had them only after age 30 have an increased risk for breast cancer. Being pregnant more than once or becoming pregnant at an early age reduces your risk of breast cancer.
- DES -- Women who took diethylstilbestrol (DES) to prevent miscarriage may have an increased risk of breast cancer after age 40. This drug was given to the women in the 1940s - 1960s.
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) -- You have a higher risk for breast cancer if you have received hormone replacement therapy for several years or more. Many women take HRT to reduce the symptoms of menopause.
- Obesity -- Obesity has been linked to breast cancer, although this link is controversial. The theory is that obese women produce more estrogen, which can fuel the development of breast cancer.
- Radiation -- If you received radiation therapy as a child or young adult to treat cancer of the chest area, you have a significantly higher risk for developing breast cancer. The younger you started such radiation, the higher your risk -- especially if the radiation was given when a female was developing breasts.
Tests & Diagnostics
The doctor will ask you about your symptoms and risk factors, and then perform a physical exam, which includes both breasts, armpits, and the neck and chest area. Additional tests may include:
- Mammography to help identify the breast lump
- Breast MRI to help better identify the breast lump
- Breast ultrasound to show whether the lump is solid or fluid-filled
- Breast biopsy, needle aspiration, or breast lump removal to remove all or part of the breast lump for closer examination by a laboratory specialist
- CT scan
- Sentinal lymph node biopsy
- PET scan
- Nuclear Bone Scan
Treatment is based on many factors, including type and stage of the cancer, whether the cancer is sensitive to certain hormones, and whether or not the cancer overproduces (overexpresses) a gene called HER2/neu.
In general, cancer treatments may include:
- Chemotherapy medicines to kill cancer cells
- Radiation therapy to destroy cancerous tissue
- Surgery to remove cancerous tissue -- a lumpectomy removes the breast lump; mastectomy removes all or part of the breast and possible nearby structures
- Hormonal therapy to block certain hormones that fuel cancer growth
- Targeted therapy to interfere with cancer cell growth and function
Many risk factors -- such as your genes and family history -- cannot be controlled. However, a healthy diet and a few lifestyle changes may reduce your overall chance of cancer in general.
Breast cancer is more easily treated and often curable if it is found early.
Early detection involves:
- Breast self-exams (BSE)
- Clinical breast exams by a medical professional
- Screening mammography
Most experts recommend that women age 20 and older examine their breasts once a month during the week following the menstrual period.
Women between the ages 20 and 39 should have a doctor examine their breasts at least once every 3 years.
After age 40:
- Women 40 and older should have a mammogram every 1 - 2 years, depending on their risk factors. Women should call their doctor immediately if they notice in change in their breasts whether or not they do routine breast self-exams.
- Women 40 and older should have a complete breast exam by a health care provider every year.
Mammography is the most effective way of detecting breast cancer early.
Certain women at high risk for breast cancer may have a breast MRI along with their yearly mammogram. Ask your doctor if you need an MRI.
orig post: http://health.yahoo.net/channel/breast-cancer.html