Breast Cancer – Causes, Risk factors, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention

What is Breast Cancer? (Definition)

Breast cancer is a disease in which cancer cells multiply in breast tissue.

Cancer occurs when the body's cells divide uncontrollably. If the cells continue to divide uncontrollably, a mass of tissue called a tumor forms. The term cancer refers to malignant tumors. These can invade nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body.

[highlight color=”red”]Although most people think that breast cancer affects only women, men can also get it. Breast cancer in men can be more aggressive.[/highlight]

Breast Cancer Causes

The cause of breast cancer is unknown. Research studies reveal that certain risk factors are associated with the disease.

Breast Cancer Risk factors

Factors that increase the risk of developing breast cancer include:

  • Sex: female, although men can also get breast cancer
  • Age: 50 or older
  • Personal history of breast cancer
  • Family history of breast cancer
  • Changes in breast tissue, such as atypical ductal hyperplasia, radical scar formation and lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS)
  • Changes in certain genes (BRCA1, BRCA2 and others)
  • Race: Caucasian
  • Increase in exposure to estrogen throughout life due to:
    • Early onset of first menstruation
    • Late onset of menopause
    • Not having had children or having had them at an advanced age
    • Absence of breastfeeding
  • Hormone replacement therapy for prolonged periods ( administration of Prempro for more than four years)
  • Tobacco consumption
  • Increase in breast density (more lobular and ductal tissue than fat tissue)
  • Radioter apia before the age of 30
  • Alcohol abuse

Note: Studies reveal that most women with known risk factors do not manifest breast cancer. Many women who develop breast cancer do not have the risk factors mentioned above, except for age.

Breast Cancer Symptoms

When breast cancer develops, there may be no symptoms. But as it grows, it can cause the following changes:

  • A lump or thickening near the breast or in the area under the arm or in the neck
  • Change in the size or shape of the breast
  • Secretion or sensitivity of the nipple, or nipple introduced (inverted) in the breast
  • Ridges or small depressions in the skin of the breast (which resemble the skin of an orange)
  • Changes in the shape or sensitivity of the skin of the breast, areola or nipple (eg, heat, swelling, redness or scaly appearance)

Note: These symptoms may also be caused by other less serious diseases. If you experience these symptoms, you should consult your doctor.

Breast Cancer Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. You will have a physical exam.

Tests may include:

  • Clinical breast examination: the size and texture of the lump is examined manually to determine if the lump moves easily
  • Mammography: X-ray of the breast used to see lumps or other changes in breast tissue
  • Ultrasound: the use of high frequency sound waves to know if the lump is a fluid-filled cyst or a solid mass
  • Computed tomography: a type of radiography that uses a computer to obtain images of internal structures of the body
  • PET / CT: a type of diagnostic imaging study that combines techniques of positron emission tomography (PET) and computed tomography (CT)
  • Biopsy: extraction of tumor tissue to analyze it in order to detect cancer cells. Types of biopsies to detect breast cancer include:
    • Fine needle aspiration: removal of fluid or cells from a breast lump with a thin needle
    • Needle biopsy: removal of tissue with a needle from an area that seems suspicious when performing a mammogram but can not be palpated
    • Surgical biopsy:
    • Incisional biopsy: removal of a sample from a lump or suspicious area
    • Excisional biopsy: removal of the entire lump or suspicious area and an area of ​​healthy tissue around the edges
  • Evaluation of the tissue: the cancerous tissue of the breast is analyzed to verify the presence of estrogen and progesterone receptors, as well as the presence of HER2 / neu; these are used to help plan the treatment
  • Genetic tests: the blood is analyzed to detect specific genetic mutations in certain patients

Breast Cancer Treatment

Once breast cancer is diagnosed, staging tests are performed. This type of test will help detect if the cancer has spread and, if so, to what extent.

Treatments include:

Breast Cancer Surgery

  • Lumpectomy: removal of breast cancer and certain normal tissue around it. Often, some lymph nodes under the arm are also removed.
    It also receives the name of tylectomy or quadrantectomy.
  • Segmentectomy: removal of the cancer and a larger area of ​​normal breast tissue around it.
    Simple mastectomy: removal of the breast or as much of the breast as possible. The surgeon will try not to remove lymph nodes.
  • Radical mastectomy: removal of the breast, both muscles of the chest, lymph nodes under the arm and fat and extra skin. This procedure is only considered in atypical cases. It is done if the cancer has spread to the chest muscles. Currently, it is not very common in the USA. UU
  • Modified radical mastectomy: removal of the entire breast, the lymph nodes under the arm and, frequently, the lining of the chest muscles.
  • Dissection of underarm lymph nodes: removal of lymph nodes under the arm. This is done to help determine if cancer cells entered the lymphatic system.
  • Sentinel lymph node biopsy: a small amount of blue dye or a radioactive marker is placed in the area where the tumor was located. Then, the dye or marker is followed towards the armpit. The lymph nodes that acquire the substance are excised. The accuracy rate of this procedure exceeds 95% when performed by an experienced physician. Safely identify lymph nodes that may contain cancer. All remaining lymph nodes should be removed in a short time if a sentinel lymph node contains cancer. Usually, this method is performed in women who do not have palpable lymph nodes in the armpit. The potential side effects are much smaller than those of the standard lymph node dissection.
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Breast Cancer Radiotherapy

It is the use of radiation to destroy cancer cells and reduce tumors. The two main types of radiation used are:

External radiotherapy: an external source to the body emits radiation directly to the breast
Radiotherapy: radioactive materials placed in the breast in cancer cells or close to them

Breast Cancer Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy It is the use of drugs to destroy cancer cells. It can be administered in many forms, including pills, injections and through a tube. The drugs enter the bloodstream, travel through the body and kill, mainly, the cancer cells. They also destroy some healthy cells.

Breast Cancer Biological therapy

Biological therapy is the use of drugs or substances produced by the body, which can increase or restore the body's natural defenses against cancer. It is also known as biological response modifier therapy (BRM).

Breast Cancer Hormone therapy

Hormone therapy is designed to take advantage of the fact that many cases of breast cancer are 'sensitive to estrogen'. Estrogen binds to the cells 'sensitive to estrogen' and stimulates them to grow and divide. The drugs against estrogen prevent the union of estrogen. In this way, the growth of the cells is stopped and, therefore, the reappearance of breast cancer is prevented or delayed.

How to Prevent Breast Cancer

Timely detection and treatment of breast cancer is the best way to prevent death caused by the disease. Breast cancer does not cause symptoms in the early stages. It is important to have tests and screenings. These measures can help detect cancer before the symptoms appear. Here are recommendations for women who have no symptoms or a high risk of breast cancer:

  • Mammograms:

Women 40 to 49 years: recommendations vary, some recommend waiting until age 50 and others suggest testing of detection every 1 or 2 years.
Women from 50 to 74 years old: the frequency varies from annually to every two years.

  • Clinical breast examination:

Women from 20 to 39 years old: the frequency varies from annually to every three years.
Women from 40 years: every year.

  • Breast self-examination:

Women from 20 years: optional; Talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits.
If you have a higher risk of breast cancer, it is recommended that you start having mammograms before. You can decide which is the best screening schedule for you with the doctor.

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