What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the cells of the breast. It can occur in both men and women, but it is most commonly found in women. Symptoms of breast cancer may include a painless lump(initially) in the breast, changes in the size or shape of the breast.
Also, changes in the skin of the breast such as redness or thickening may be apparent. Breast cancer is the most common malignancy among women, accounting for 22.7% of all new cancer cases.
Symptoms of breast cancer
There are different types of breast cancer. However, here are some common symptoms :
- Symptoms of breast cancer may include a lump or thickening in the breast or underarm area,
- Changes in the size or shape of the breast
- Changes in the skin of the breast, such as dimpling or redness
- Fluid discharge from the nipple,
- And a new onset of pain in the breast or nipple.
However, it is important to note that many breast cancers do not present with any symptoms at all, which is why regular breast cancer screenings are important. .
Also, it is important to note that breast cancer can also be classified based on the stage of the disease. Criteria (such as whether it is in situ or invasive).
As well as , the histological grade of the tumor (such as whether it is low or high grade) can be used.
Risk factors for breast cancer.
There are several known risk factors for breast cancer, including:
- Gender: Women are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer than men. This is as a result of their exposure to more of the hormones that can trigger the development of breast cancer.
- Age: The risk of breast cancer increases as women get older.
- Family history : A family history of breast cancer or certain genetic mutations, such as (BRCA1 and BRCA2,) predisposes a woman to developing the disease.
- Personal history of breast cancer: There is a higher risk of recurrence of breast cancer in women who have had the disease in the past.
- Reproductive history: Women who have had their first menstrual period before age 12, have never had children, or have their first child after age 30 are at a higher risk of breast cancer.
- Hormone replacement therapy: Women who take hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for a long period of time may be more prone to developing breast cancer.
- Obesity: Being overweight or obese predisposes one to developing breast cancer.
- Alcohol consumption: Women who drink alcohol regularly have a higher risk of breast cancer.
It’s important to note that some of these risk factors can be modified and some cannot. However, having a risk factor, or even several risk factors, does not mean a person will definitely develop the disease.
Preventing Breast Cancer
There are several steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of breast cancer, including:
- Maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly
- Limiting alcohol consumption
- Breastfeeding, if possible.
- Avoiding hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
- Having regular mammograms and breast exams
- Eating a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- Avoiding exposure to environmental toxins like organochlorine pesticides.
Breast cancer in men
Breast cancer is less common in men than in women, but it can still occur. The signs an symptoms of breast cancer in men are similar to those in women.
Risk factors for breast cancer in men include:
a family history of the disease
, exposure to radiation,
and high levels of estrogen in the body.
Men with the inherited genetic mutations BRCA1 or BRCA2 are at increased risk for breast cancer.
Men who have been treated for prostate cancer with drugs that raise estrogen levels are also at increased risk.
Regular self-exams and mammograms can help detect breast cancer early and increase the chances of successful treatment.
What to expect.
You can expect to go through a variety of treatments, tests and appointments, when you have been diagnosed with breast cancer. These may include:
- Radiation therapy.
- Hormone therapy
A multidisciplinary team of health professionals including oncologists, nurses, radiologists will care for you. You will also have regular follow-up appointments to monitor your progress and detect any signs of recurrence, after treatment.
Also , family support is crucial at this time as treatment regimen can be overwhelming.
Finally, Breast cancer has a high fatality rate when it is not discovered early so we should make attempts at prevention.
Life expectancy in patients with breast cancer.
Life expectancy for someone with breast cancer depends on several factors, including the stage of the cancer at the time of diagnosis. Additionally, the patient’s overall health, and the effectiveness of the treatment.
For early-stage breast cancer (stage 0-II), the 5-year survival rate is generally high, with many people living for many years beyond their diagnosis. In these cases, the chance of survival beyond five years is around 90%.
For later stage breast cancer (stage III-IV) the 5-year survival rate is lower, with around 20-30% of people living beyond five years.
However, it is important to note that these are just statistics and do not predict an individual’s outcome. With advances in treatment and technology, survival rates continue to improve and many people with breast cancer are able to live long and healthy lives.
Finally, Breast cancer has a high fatality rate when it is not discovered early hence we should have a high index of suspicion.