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An Overview Of Breast Cancer

            Breast cancer is the most common and frequently diagnosed life-threatening cancer in the women. Due to lack of awareness, many myths and misconceptions surround breast cancer. So, the only best way to prevent and treat breast cancer at the earliest is to get aware of it and act accordingly. Here is an overview of breast cancer which lets women know about the facts and relieves them from the fear in their hearts.

What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer occurs when the cells in the breast tissue change and keeps multiplying. These abnormal cells accumulate together and form a tumor. When these abnormal cells spread to the other parts of the breast or to the other areas of the body, the tumor is considered to be cancerous.

What are the causes of breast cancer?

Though the reason behind the damage of cells in the breast isn’t clearly understood. The main cause of breast cancer is the genetic mutation in the DNA of breast cancer cells. These genetic mutations might develop randomly over time or inherited or can result from environmental exposures or lifestyle factors.

What are the symptoms of breast cancer?

Some of the signs and symptoms of breast cancer which women might experience may include:

  • A change in size or shape of the breast

  • Lump in the breast or armpit either with or without pain.

  • Pain in breast or nipple or armpit

  • Redness of the skin either on breast or nipple

  • A discharge of blood-stained or clear fluid from the nipple

  • Inverted nipple

  • Peeling or flaking or scaling of breast skin

  • Swelling or thickening or shrinkage is seen especially in one breast

Why is a regular screening of breast cancer important?

           There are no early warning signs of breast cancer, which makes it really important to get regular screening tests. Screening tests evaluate a normal person who does not have any symptoms or signs of cancer and check if there is underlying cancer. Every woman should understand that, even if she develops a lump in her breast, it may not be sizeable for a long time. By the time a breast lump becomes detectable, it would be a second stage or more of cancer.

Clinical breast examination and mammography are the two main screening tests for breast cancer. Getting these tests at regular intervals can help in early detection of breast cancer which in turn prevents the disease to get worse. The higher the risk of disease, the greater the frequency of getting screening tests.

How can breast cancer be diagnosed?

When any abnormality is found in the mammography reports of a woman, she may ask to undergo any of the following diagnostic tests for further evaluation of the disease:

  • Breast exam
  • Diagnostic Mammogram
  • Breast ultrasound
  • Biopsy
  • Breast MRI

What are the treatments for breast cancer?

All treatments of breast cancer mainly have two goals:

  • To remove cancer from the body

  • To prevent the disease from recurring

The treatment for breast cancer varies from person to person based on following factors:

  • The type of cancer
  • Size of the tumor
  • Stage of the cancer

Different types of breast cancer treatments include:

  • Hormone therapy:  Uses drugs to prevent hormones, especially estrogen from boosting the growth of breast cancer cells.
  • Chemotherapy: Uses drugs to kill the cancer cells.
  • Radiation therapy: Uses High-energy waves to kill cancer cells.
  • Surgery: Breast-conserving surgery or lumpectomy is a surgery performed to remove a tumor and the tissues around it. Mastectomy is the surgery performed to remove the whole breast, mostly in the later stages of breast cancer where the destruction of cancer cells or controlling the disease is not possible.

What are the risk factors for breast cancer?

Being aware of breast cancer risks helps to prevent some of them and stay protected from the disease to some extent. Below mentioned are some of the risk factors for breast cancer:

  • Age:  The risk of breast cancer increases as one gets older.
  • Family History: People who have a close blood relative with breast cancer increases the risk of developing the disease.
  • Menstruation: Start of menstrual periods before age 12 might increases the risk of breast cancer. In a similar way, women whose menopause begins at an older stage are more likely to develop breast cancer.
  • Weight: Women who are overweight or obese are at higher risk of developing breast cancer. This may be due to the fat cells which are responsible to produce and raise the estrogen levels after menopause. Also, being overweight increases the blood levels of insulin which can affect the risk of breast cancer.
  • Alcohol consumption: The risk of breast cancer rises with the alcohol intake. Women who drink two or more alcoholic beverages a day have much risk of developing breast cancer when compared to non-drinkers.

How can breast cancer be prevented?

While one cannot prevent breast cancer completely, the chances of developing breast cancer can be lowered by making certain healthy lifestyle changes. Some of them include:

  • Maintain a healthy weight

  • Limit alcohol intake

  • Choose to breastfeed your baby

  • Limit postmenopausal hormone therapy
  • Have a balanced diet

  • Get regular breast cancer screening tests & clinical breast examinations

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