Table of Contents
Breast Cancer: Symptoms, Stages, Types, and More
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What is breast cancer?
Cancer develops when changes in genes, known as mutations, take place. These genes are responsible for regulating cell growth. Because of the alterations, the cells are able to divide and replicate in an unregulated manner.
Cancer that originates in the breast cells is known as breast cancer. In most cases, cancer begins to develop in one of the two areas of the breast known as the lobules or the ducts.
Milk is produced in glands called lobules, and ducts are the passageways that transport milk from the glands to the nipple of the mammary gland. In addition to the fatty tissue and connective tissue found in the breast, cancer can also develop in the fatty tissue.
Cancer cells that are not under control will frequently invade other healthy breast tissue and have the potential to spread to the lymph nodes located beneath the arms. Once cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, it is able to access a pathway that will allow it to spread to other areas of the body.
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Indicators and manifestations of breast cancer
It is possible that breast cancer will not produce any symptoms in its early stages. In many instances, a tumour may not be large enough to be felt, but mammography will still reveal an anomaly if there is one.
If a tumour can be felt, the first indicator is typically the development of a new lump in the breast that was not previously present. On the other hand, not every lump is a sign of malignancy.
A wide range of symptoms may be present depending on the subtype of breast cancer. There is a high degree of overlap between many of these symptoms, although some of them may be unique. The following are some of the most prevalent signs and symptoms of breast cancer:
a breast lump or tissue thickening that is fresh, in addition to having a different feel than the surrounding tissue.
ache in the breasts
skin on the breast that is red or discoloured and pitted.
breast enlargement in its entirety or in certain areas
a discharge from the nipple that is not breast milk.
a discharge of blood coming from your nipple.
a condition characterised by the peeling, scaling, or flaking of the skin on your breast or nipple.
a shift in the form or size of your breasts that occur all of a sudden and for no apparent reason.
the nipple inverted
alterations in the way that the skin on your breasts looks and feels.
a mass or swelling that is located under your arm
Even if you experience one or more of these signs, however, it does not necessarily signify that you have breast cancer. For example, a benign cyst can be the source of pain or a lump in your breast. Cysts can also produce breast lumps.
However, if you feel a lump in your breast or have other symptoms, you should make an appointment with your primary care physician for further testing and evaluation.
Gain a better understanding of the potential symptoms of breast cancer.
Different kinds of breast cancer
There are a number of subtypes of breast cancer, but generally speaking, they fall into one of two categories: invasive or noninvasive. Breast cancer that has not spread to other parts of the breast is called breast cancer in situ.
Cancer that is noninvasive has not spread from the original tissue, in contrast to cancer that is invasive and has moved from the breast ducts or glands to other regions of the breast.
The following are the types of breast cancer that fall under these two groups, which are the most frequent varieties of the disease:
Ductal cancer in situ. Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is a noninvasive condition. When you have DCIS, the cancer cells that are present in your breast are restricted to the ducts, and they have not yet spread into the surrounding breast tissue.
Lobular cancer in situ. LCIS stands for lobular carcinoma in situ, which refers to a type of breast cancer that develops in the glands that produce milk. As is the case with DCIS, the cancer cells have not spread into the tissue that surrounds them.
Invasive ductal carcinoma. The most typical kind of breast cancer is known as invasive ductal carcinoma or IDC for short. This particular subtype of breast cancer starts in the milk ducts of your breast and subsequently spreads to neighbouring breast tissue. After the breast cancer has migrated to tissue that is outside of your milk ducts, it can start to spread to other neighbouring organs and tissue. This can happen very quickly.
Invasive lobular carcinoma. The term “invasive lobular carcinoma” (ILC) refers to cancer that begins to form in the lobules of your breast and has spread to the surrounding tissue.
The following are some more, less frequent kinds of breast cancer:
Nipple Paget disease is a kind of Paget disease. This particular subtype of breast cancer starts in the ducts of the breast, but as it progresses, it starts to harm the skin and the areola of the breast as well.
Phyllodes tumour. Connective tissue in the breast is the site of growth for this extremely uncommon subtype of breast cancer. The vast majority of these tumours are noncancerous, but a few of them are cancerous.
Angiosarcoma. This is a type of cancer that develops in the breast and grows on the blood arteries or lymph vessels.
Your treatment options and likely prognosis, in the long run, are both influenced by the sort of cancer you have.
Acquire more knowledge concerning the many types of breast cancer.
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Breast cancer with an inflammatory component
Breast cancer with inflammation, often known as inflammatory breast cancer or IBC, is an uncommon yet aggressive subtype of breast cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), invasive breast cancer caused by IBC accounts for only 1 to 5 percent of all breast cancer cases.
Because of this disorder, cells clog the lymph nodes that are located close to the breasts, which prevents the lymph vessels in the breast from draining normally. IBC does not result in the development of a tumour but rather causes the breast to enlarge, get red, and feel very heated. It’s possible that your breast will look wrinkly and lumpy, almost like an orange peel.
IBC is known to be quite aggressive and has the potential to advance rapidly. Because of this, it is essential to get in touch with your physician as soon as possible if you experience any symptoms.
Learn more about inflammatory bowel disease (IBC) and the symptoms it can cause.
Breast cancer that is triple negative
Another extremely uncommon kind of breast cancer is known as triple-negative breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, it affects only around 10 to 15 percent of people who have breast cancer (ACS).
A tumour must exhibit all three of the following features in order for a doctor to make a diagnosis of triple-negative breast cancer:
It does not have any oestrogen receptors. These are the receptors on the cells that the hormone oestrogen binds to, also known as attaches to. If a tumour contains oestrogen receptors, then oestrogen has the potential to encourage the growth of cancer.
It does not include any progesterone receptors. These cells, known as receptors, are the ones that progesterone uses to bind to itself. When a tumour contains progesterone receptors, the hormone progesterone has the potential to encourage the growth of the malignancy.
It does not contain any additional proteins that operate as human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) on its outside. A protein known as HER2 is responsible for the progression of breast cancer.
If a tumour satisfies all three of these requirements, a diagnosis of triple-negative breast cancer is made. This form of breast cancer is characterised by a greater propensity for rapid growth and dissemination compared to other types of breast cancer.
Because hormone therapy for breast cancer is ineffective in treating triple-negative breast cancer, the disease is notoriously difficult to treat.
Gain an understanding of the available treatments and the likelihood of survival for triple-negative breast cancer.
progression of breast cancer phases
Breast cancer is classified into phases by the size of the original tumour and the degree to which it has spread outside of the original site.
Cancers that are huge in size or that have spread to neighbouring tissues or organs are considered to be at a more advanced stage than cancers that are still localised within the breast. In order for doctors to stage breast cancer, they need to know:
depending on whether or not the malignancy is invasive.
how extensive the cancer is.
whether the lymph nodes are involved in the process.
if the cancer has progressed to tissue or organs in the surrounding area.
There are five primary stages of breast cancer, numbered from 0 to 4.
Breast cancer in its earliest stage
Stage 0 is DCIS. DCIS is characterised by the presence of cancer cells that have not migrated beyond the ducts of the breast into the surrounding tissue.
Breast cancer in its first stage
The primary tumour is less than 2 centimetres (cm) broad, which denotes stage 1A. There is no involvement of the lymph nodes.
Cancer has spread to surrounding lymph nodes and has reached stage 1B. Either there is no tumour present in the breast or the tumour is less than 2 centimetres in diameter.
Breast cancer in the stage 2
The tumour is less than 2 centimetres in diameter and has spread between one and three lymph nodes in the immediate area. Alternatively, the tumour is between 2 and 5 centimetres in diameter and has not migrated to any lymph nodes.
The tumour is between 2 and 5 centimetres in diameter and has spread to one to three axillary (armpit) lymph nodes, or it is greater than 5 centimetres in diameter and has not progressed to any lymph nodes. This is considered to be stage 2B.
Breast cancer in its third stage
It is possible that the cancer has progressed to between four and nine axillary lymph nodes or that it has increased the internal mammary lymph nodes. There is no set size for the main tumour.
The tumours are more than 5 centimetres in diameter. The malignancy has progressed to any of the breastbone nodes as well as one to three axillary lymph nodes.
When a tumour has advanced to stage 3B, it has spread to the skin or chest wall, and it may or may not have spread to up to 9 lymph nodes.
Cancer has spread to 10 or more axillary lymph nodes, lymph nodes near the collarbone, or internal mammary nodes. This indicates that the patient is at stage 3C.
Breast cancer in its fourth stage (metastatic breast cancer)
A woman with breast cancer in stage 4 may have a tumour of any size. Cancer cells from it have moved to lymph nodes both nearby and further away, as well as to organs further away.
The testing that your physician performs will establish the stage of your breast cancer, which will in turn influence the treatment that you receive.
Male breast cancer
Men do have breast tissue just like women do, even though there is typically less of it in men’s breasts. Even though it’s much less common, breast cancer can also affect men.
According to the ACS, the incidence of breast cancer in black men is approximately seventy times lower than that of black women. When compared to white women, the incidence rate is one hundred times lower in white men.
Having said that, the breast cancer that is found in men is every bit as dangerous as the breast cancer that is found in women. Additionally, it exhibits the same symptoms. If you are a guy, you should report any changes to your breast tissue or any new lumps to your doctor and follow the same monitoring guidelines that are given to women.
Survivorship percentage for breast cancer
The percentage of people who survive breast cancer varies greatly depending on a variety of factors.
When it comes to cancer treatment, the type of cancer a patient has and the stage of the disease at the time of diagnosis are two of the most crucial aspects to consider. Other potential contributing factors could include the following:
the rate at which the cancer is spreading.
According to findings published in, the death rate of persons of colour who have been diagnosed with breast cancer is significantly greater than that of white people. Disparities in medical care may be one possible explanation for this phenomenon.
The percentage of those who survive breast cancer is, thankfully, going up.
In 1975, the American Cancer Society reported that the 5-year survival rate for breast cancer in women was 75.2 percent. However, the survival rate was 90.6% for female patients diagnosed between the years 2008 and 2014.
There is a significant disparity in the 5-year survival rates for breast cancer patients based on the stage of the disease at the time of diagnosis. They range from a high of 99 percent for tumours diagnosed early and confined to a low of 27 percent for cancers diagnosed late and metastatic.
Investigate the survival rates and the elements that go into determining them more thoroughly.
Breast cancer has been diagnosed.
In addition to a breast exam, your doctor will perform a comprehensive physical assessment on you in order to evaluate whether or not the symptoms you are experiencing are the result of a benign breast ailment or breast cancer. In order to better understand what is causing your symptoms, they may also request that you undergo one or more diagnostic tests.
The following tests can assist your doctor in making a breast cancer diagnosis:
Mammogram. Mammograms are the imaging test that are utilised most frequently for the purpose of seeing beneath the surface of a woman’s breast. The American Cancer Society recommends annual mammograms for all women over the age of 40 who have never been diagnosed with breast cancer. A mammogram will be requested by your doctor if they have any reason to suspect that you may have a tumour or other worrisome location. In the event that your mammography reveals an abnormal area, your primary care physician may suggest further examination.
Ultrasound. In a breast ultrasound, sound waves are used to create an image of the tissues that are located deep within the breast. Your doctor can use an ultrasound to differentiate between a solid mass, such as a tumour, and a benign cyst. This distinction is important.
Your physician may also recommend further tests for you to undergo, such as an MRI or a breast biopsy.
Acquaint yourself with the several alternative diagnostic methods that are available for breast cancer.
a biopsy of the breast
If your physician has reason to think that you have breast cancer based on the results of tests such as a mammography or an ultrasound, they may perform a test that is referred to as a breast biopsy.
During this portion of the examination, your physician will take a tissue sample from the area that is causing concern and send it out to be analysed.
There are a few different breast biopsies that can be performed. Your doctor will collect a sample of the tissue from your body using a needle for some of these tests. After making an incision in your breast to get the sample, they will do this with some of you.
The sample of tissue will be sent off to the laboratory by your doctor. If the sample comes back positive for cancer, the laboratory will be able to perform additional tests on it to determine the specific type of cancer that you have.
The treatment of breast cancer
The stage of your breast cancer, the extent to which it has penetrated, if at all, and the size of the tumour that has developed all play a significant role in defining the type of treatment that you will require.
Your primary care physician will first evaluate the size, stage, and severity of your cancer. The stage of your cancer indicates the likelihood that it may progress and spread. After that, we may have a conversation about the available therapy alternatives.
The majority of patients who have breast cancer are treated with surgery. Additional treatments, such as chemotherapy, targeted therapy, radiation therapy, or hormone therapy, are given to a significant number of patients.
Breast cancer can be removed using a variety of surgical procedures, including the following:
Lumpectomy. The tumour and some of the tissue surrounding it are removed during this treatment, while the remainder of the breast remains unharmed.
Mastectomy. During this operation, the breast will be removed in its entirety by a surgeon. During a double mastectomy, both breasts are surgically removed.
Sentinel node biopsy. During this procedure, a number of the lymph nodes that are draining drainage from the tumour are removed. These lymph nodes are going to be examined further. In the event that they do not have cancer, you may not require further surgery to have further lymph nodes removed.
Dissection of the lymph nodes in the axilla. In the event that cancerous cells are found in the lymph nodes that are removed during a sentinel node biopsy, your physician may remove additional lymph nodes.
Contralateral preventative mastectomy is the operation. Some women choose to have a contralateral preventive mastectomy in spite of the fact that breast cancer may only be present in one of their breasts. During this procedure, your healthy breast will be removed in order to reduce the likelihood of you having breast cancer in the future.
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Therapy with radiation
Beams of extremely powerful radiation are used in radiation therapy in order to specifically target and destroy cancer cells. The vast majority of radiation therapies employ the utilisation of external beam radiation. This method involves placing a huge machine on the patient’s body while it is being operated on.
Irradiating cancer while it is still located within the body is now possible thanks to recent developments in cancer treatment. This form of radiation therapy is referred to as brachytherapy, as stated by Breastcancer.org.
Surgeons will insert radioactive seeds or pellets into the patient’s body close to the location of the tumour in order to perform brachytherapy. Cancer cells are targeted for destruction while the seeds remain in place for a limited amount of time.
Chemotherapy is the administration of drugs with the purpose of killing cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be the only treatment that a patient receives, but in most cases, it is administered in conjunction with other procedures, particularly surgical procedures.
Some patients will first undergo surgery, and then they will undergo further therapies, like as chemotherapy or radiation. This type of treatment is known as adjuvant therapy. Others might have neoadjuvant therapy, which is a combination of chemotherapy and surgery, in order to reduce the cancer before it is removed surgically.
In certain circumstances, the administration of chemotherapy comes before surgical procedures. It is hoped that the treatment will cause the tumour to decrease, and that this would result in the operation not having to be as intrusive.
Because chemotherapy can cause a wide variety of unpleasant side effects, it is important to talk to your medical professional about your worries before beginning treatment.
Treatment with hormones
Your doctor may recommend hormone therapy for you if your particular kind of breast cancer is one that is responsive to hormones. Both oestrogen and progesterone, which are both hormones produced by women, have been shown to play a role in the development of breast cancer tumours.
The effectiveness of hormone therapy can be improved by either inhibiting the synthesis of these hormones by your body or blocking the hormone receptors found on cancer cells. The progression of your cancer may be slowed down or maybe stopped entirely if you take this action.
There are treatments that are tailored to target particular abnormalities or mutations that can be found within cancer cells.
One such medication is Herceptin (trastuzumab), which can inhibit the synthesis of the HER2 protein in the body. Because HER2 is necessary for the growth of breast cancer cells, taking a medicine that inhibits the synthesis of this protein may help limit the progression of the disease.
Your physician will provide you with additional information regarding any particular treatment that they advise for you.
There are many various symptoms that can be caused by breast cancer, and these symptoms can manifest in different ways in different people.
If you notice a spot or change in your breast and are concerned about it, it can be good to familiarise yourself with the appearance of breast problems that are actually cancer.
Discover more about the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, including visual representations of some of them.
Breast cancer care
Make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as possible if you find an abnormal lump or spot in your breast, or if you experience any of the other symptoms of breast cancer.
There is a strong possibility that this is not breast cancer. For instance, breast lumps could have arisen from a wide variety of other probable reasons.
But if it turns out that you do have cancer, it is important to remember that getting treatment as soon as possible is the most important thing. If it is detected at an early enough level, breast cancer in its early stages can frequently be treated and cured if it is caught quickly enough. The longer breast cancer is allowed to progress without being treated, the more challenging it is to do so.
If you have already been given a diagnosis of breast cancer, it is important to keep in mind that both cancer treatments and outcomes are continually getting better. Therefore, make sure you stick to your treatment plan, and strive to maintain a positive attitude.
How prevalent is the disease of the breast?
Breast cancer is the second most frequent kind of cancer in women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a reliable source.
The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be 281,550 new cases of invasive breast cancer identified in women in the United States in the year 2021, while there will be 2,650 instances detected in men. An additional 49,290 cases of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) were identified in females. The number of deaths attributed to breast cancer in 2021 is projected to reach 44,130, with 43,600 women and 530 men affected.
Find out more information about the prevalence of breast cancer in different countries.
Factors that raise the risk of breast cancer
There are a number of things in one’s life that can put them at a higher risk of developing breast cancer. Having any of these risk factors does not, on its own, guarantee that a person will acquire the condition.
Some risk factors, including one’s family history, are impossible to steer clear of. You have the ability to make changes to other risk factors, such as quitting smoking. The following are some of the risk factors for breast cancer:
Age. The likelihood of you having breast cancer as you get older is higher. Women older than 55 years old are the most likely to get an invasive breast cancer.
Consuming alcoholic beverages. Alcohol use disorder raises your risk.
Having dense breast tissue. Mammograms might be difficult to interpret if the breast tissue is dense. Additionally, it raises the likelihood that you may develop breast cancer.
Gender. According to the ACSTrusted Source, the risk of developing breast cancer in white women is one hundred times higher than the risk of developing breast cancer in white men, whereas the risk of developing breast cancer in black women is seventy times higher.
Genes. Those who have mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes are at a greater risk of developing breast cancer than those who do not have these abnormalities. There are numerous gene mutations that could contribute to your risk.
Precocious onset of menstruation There is a correlation between having your first period before the age of 12 and an increased likelihood of developing breast cancer later in life.
delivering a child at a more mature age. People who wait until they are 35 or older to have their first child are at an elevated risk of developing breast cancer.
Hormone replacement therapy. Those individuals who have used or are now using postmenopausal oestrogen and progesterone drugs to assist in the reduction of their signs and symptoms of menopause have an increased risk of developing breast cancer.
Inherited risk. There is a correlation between having a close female relative who has had breast cancer and an increased risk of contracting the disease yourself. Your mother, grandmother, sister, and daughter are all included under this category. Even if there is no history of breast cancer in your family, there is always a chance that you will develop breast cancer. In point of fact, the majority of people who are affected by it do not have a history of the condition in their families.
Late menopause start. It is known that women who reach menopause after the age of 55 have an increased risk of developing breast cancer.
Never having been pregnant. Individuals who have never brought a pregnancy to term or never had a pregnancy, to begin with, have an increased risk of developing breast cancer.
Breast cancer that occurred in the past. If you have had breast cancer in one breast, you have a significantly higher chance of acquiring breast cancer in the other breast or in a different part of the breast that was previously afflicted by the disease.
The prevention of breast cancer
Following a healthy lifestyle, obtaining frequent screenings, and taking any preventative actions your doctor prescribes will help lower your risk of developing breast cancer. This is true even though there are certain risk factors that cannot be controlled by the individual.
elements related to lifestyle
There is a correlation between certain lifestyle choices and an increased risk of breast cancer.
People who are obese, for instance, are at a greater risk of having breast cancer than those who maintain a healthy weight. You might be able to reduce both your weight and your risk by consuming a diet rich in nutrients and by engaging in regular physical activity as frequently as you can.
According to the American Association for Cancer Research, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol also raises your risk of developing cancer. This can include drinking more than two alcoholic beverages on a daily basis or engaging in binge drinking.
If you drink alcohol, you should discuss with your physician the amount of alcohol that is safe for you to consume.
Checkups for women with breast cancer
Regular mammograms may not be able to prevent breast cancer, but they can help minimise the likelihood that the disease will be missed in its early stages.
The American College of Physicians (ACP) has these broad suggestions for breast cancer prevention for women who have an average chance of developing the disease:
women in their forties and fifties. It isn’t suggested that you get a mammogram every year, but you should discuss your preferences with your doctor.
women ranging in age from 50 to 74. It is advised that women get mammograms every other year.
Women who are at least 75 years old. Mammograms are no longer recommended by medical professionals.
In addition, the ACP advises against having mammograms performed on women who have a life expectancy of ten years or fewer.
These are only some suggestions, though.
Different recommendations have been provided by the ACS. The American Cancer Society recommends that women:
begin to be offered the opportunity to participate in annual tests from the age of 40
45 years old is the starting age for annual screenings.
55 years of age is the cutoff for screening once every two years.
Because the specific guidelines for mammograms vary from person to person, you should consult with your physician to determine whether or not you should receive routine mammograms.
Treatment that is preventative
Because of your family history, there is a possibility that you will develop breast cancer at some point in your life.
For example, if one of your parents has a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, you have a greater chance of inheriting that mutation yourself. This considerably increases the likelihood that you may develop breast cancer.
If you are at risk for developing this mutation, you should discuss your diagnostic and preventative treatment options with your primary care physician. It is recommended that you get tested in order to determine whether or not you have the mutation.
And if you find out that you already have it, talk to your physician about any preventative measures you can take to lower the likelihood that you will get breast cancer in the future. One of these steps could be a preventative mastectomy, sometimes known as the removal of a breast through surgical means. You could also minimise your risk of developing breast cancer by undergoing chemoprophylaxis or by taking medicine like Tamoxifen. Both of these options are available.
Breast exams are another method that can be used to screen for potential breast cancer symptoms in addition to mammography.
A breast self-exam is something that a lot of individuals do. It is recommended that this examination be performed once every month, at the same time of day each month. In order for you to be aware of any changes that may take place in your breasts, the exam can help you get more comfortable with how your breasts normally look and feel.
Keep in mind, however, that the ACS considers these checks to be optional. This is due to the fact that recent research has not demonstrated a clear advantage of physical exams, regardless of whether they are performed at home or by a doctor.
Exam of your breasts by your physician
The instructions for breast self-exams that were presented earlier are also applicable to breast exams performed by your primary care physician or another qualified medical practitioner. They are completely harmless, and your primary care physician may perform a breast exam on you during your yearly checkup.
If you are experiencing symptoms that are causing you concern, it is in your best interest to get a breast exam from your primary care physician. During the exam, your physician will examine both of your breasts in search of any unusual areas or indications that could point to breast cancer.
In addition, your doctor may examine other areas of your body in order to determine whether or not the symptoms you are experiencing could be caused by another ailment.
Bringing attention to breast cancer
People in every region of the world are becoming more knowledgeable about the challenges that are associated with breast cancer.
People have gained knowledge as a result of efforts to raise awareness of breast cancer by:
what their potential dangers are if any
how they might lower the amount of risk they are exposed to
what signs they ought to be looking out for.
what types of screening they really ought to be getting.
The month of October is designated as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but many people continue to raise awareness throughout the year.