Breast cancer is caused by uncontrolled growth of the cells of the breast. Breast cancer is usually known to begin either in the milk producing glands (lobules) or in the ducts that carry milk from lobules to the nipple. This cancer may spread to the adjacent healthy breast tissue and also to the underarm lymph nodes. Once the lymph nodes are affected, the cancer cells are carried to different parts of the body through the lymphatic fluid; this results in development of multiple tumors. Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer observed in women. However, a few breast cancer cases have been reported in men too.
Signs and Symptoms of breast cancer
The signs and symptoms that help in detecting breast cancer are as follows:
- Presence of a lump or thickening on the breast or underarms
- Tenderness of the nipples
- Change in the texture of the breast skin, nipple or areola- red, dry, scaly or swollen with ridges or pitting (orange peel appearance)
- Nipple is turned inward or inverted
- Unusual discharge of fluid from the nipples
- Dimpling in the skin of the breast
- Asymmetry of the breasts
- Unexplained swelling or shrinkage of a breast
Self-examination is the best way to detect cancer early. You need to follow the following steps to examine your breasts-
- Stand undressed in the front of a mirror and look at your breasts with arms on your hips. Check for the following:
- Changes in shape, size and position of the breasts,
- Presence of sores, dimpling or discoloration over the skin of the breasts,
- Peeling, or changes in the position of the nipple.
- Raise your arm and look for the same changes. Also check for any abnormal discharge from the nipples.
- Lie down and feel your breasts. Use right hand to examine the left breast and vice versa. Use your finger pads to make soft, small circular movements to examine each quarter of your breasts. Examine the entire breast from below the collarbone to top of the abdomen and from the armpits to your cleavage. Check for the presence of any thickening or lump
- Finally, feel your breasts in standing position. Follow the same steps as performed in lying.
If you notice any changes in the breasts, it is time to consult the doctor for screening
The diagnostic tests for breast cancer include
- Biopsy: It is a procedure wherein a small sample of the breast tissue is excised from the area of concern and is studied under the microscope. The test would indicate whether cancer cells are present or not. Moreover, if cancer is confirmed, biopsy can also help in determining the characteristics of the cancer based on which the treatment can be planned.
- Mammogram: It is an X -ray of the breast which helps to detect the presence of lumps in breast even before they are felt by touch. A positive mammogram should be followed by other diagnostic procedures to confirm breast cancer.
- Breast ultrasound: Ultrasound scanning uses sound waves to give a detailed image of the breast. Once the presence of tumor is confirmed on a mammogram, an ultrasound can help to determine if the tumor is a solid mass or a fluid filled cyst. However, it is not helpful to determine if the tumor is cancerous.
- MRI scan: A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan is performed that uses magnetic and radio-waves for detailed imaging of the breast and surrounding structures. The test helps to locate the tumor, determine the size and the extent of spread of tumor.
Staging of breast cancer
Breast cancer can be divided into various stages based on the size of the tumor and extent of spread. Staging of breast cancer is important to determine which treatment is the best for the patient and whether the treatment is successful or not. The following tests help to determine the stage of cancer:
- Breast MRI/ CT/ PET scan
- Bone scan
- Complete blood cell (CBC) count
- Chromosomal mutations (assessed by genetic tests)
Treatment of breast cancer
Depending on the location and the stage of cancer, breast cancer can be treated by the following methods:
Chemotherapeutic drugs are used to kill and prevent the growth of cancer cells.
High-intensity radiations are used to kill the cancer cells either in a single part or the entire body. This therapy is usually recommended in combination with chemotherapy for better treatment.
Surgery is performed to remove either a cancerous lump on the breast (lumpectomy) or the complete removal of the breast (mastectomy). The surgery for breast cancer may also include removal of the affected lymph nodes.
Hormone therapy: It is also called as hormone-blocking therapy that inhibits the release of certain hormones that can aggravate the growth and spread of breast cancer. This therapy is also used in combination with other treatment procedures such as surgery to prevent the recurrence of cancer.
- Early detection: Regular self-examination of the breast and annual screening for cancer (especially after the age of 40) helps in early detection and thus better treatment of breast cancer
- Lifestyle measures: Healthy diet, good sleep, and decreased stress helps boost the immunity and prevents the risk of developing breast cancer.
Why choose Apollo Diagnostics?
We have the expertise of 34 + years in healthcare. Our labs are equipped with EQUAS (External Quality Assurance System) and loaded with full automated machines to ensure error free reports, with a quick turnaround time, and at an affordable price. For your convenience, we offer free home collection of samples.
For appointments, please call 4444 2424.
- Breast cancer. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/breast-cancer/symptoms-causes/syc-20352470. Accessed on 21/10/2017
- Do you know the 12 Signs of Breast Cancer? https://www.worldwidebreastcancer.org/. Accessed on 21/10/2017
- Breast cancer. https://labtestsonline.org/understanding/conditions/breast/. Accessed on 21/10/2017
- http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/testing/types/ultrasound. Accessed on 21/10/2017
- Stages of breast cancer. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/understanding-a-breast-cancer-diagnosis/stages-of-breast-cancer.html. Accessed on 21/10/2017