October is recognized worldwide as Breast Cancer Awareness month. As we might all know, breast cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the tissue of the breast.
There are two types of breast cancer;
*Ductal carcinoma which starts in the ducts that carry milk from the breast to the nipple. Most breast cancers are of this type and,
*Lobular carcinoma which starts in the parts of the breast, called lobules that produce milk.
It must be noted that, cancer can also starts in other area of the breast. Cancer of the breast can be either invasive or noninvasive.
Invasive means the cancer has spread from the milk duct to other tissues in the breast. Noninvasive means it has not yet invaded other breast tissue.
Causes of breast cancer:
Factors you cannot change include:
- Age and gender — As one gets older, the risk of developing cancer increases. Most advanced breast cancer cases are found in women over age 50. Women are 100 times more likely to get breast cancer than men. Yes men!
- Family history of breast cancer — You may also have a higher risk for breast cancer if you have a close relative who has had breast cancer.
- Genes — Some people have genes that make them more likely to develop breast cancer. If a parent passes you a defective gene, you have an increased risk for breast cancer. Women with one of these defects have up to an 80% chance of getting breast cancer sometime during their life.
- Menstrual cycle — Women who got their periods early (before age 12) or went through menopause late (after age 55) have an increased risk for breast cancer.
Other 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. ):
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) — You have a higher risk for breast cancer if you have received hormone replacement therapy with estrogen for several years or more.
- Radiation — If you received radiation therapy as a child or young adult to treat cancer of the chest area, you have a much higher risk for developing breast cancer. The younger you started such radiation and the higher the dose, the higher your risk — especially if the radiation was given during breast development.
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
Signs and Test
The doctor will ask you about your symptoms and risk factors. Then the doctor will perform a physical exam, which includes both breasts, armpits, and the neck and chest area.
- Breast MRI to help better identify the breast lump or evaluate an abnormal change on a mammogram