Breast cancer is among the three most common types of cancers. It is the most common kind of cancer in women, even though it can develop in men as well. Another important fact to take into account is that this is the second most lethal type of cancer in women, after lung cancer. Given all these facts, it is worth learning more about this condition, its characteristics, causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and prevention.
The breast consists of milk producing glands. They are connected to the opening of the skin in the nipple by ducts. This gland and duct structure is connected by tissue consisting of fat and fibrous tissue. There are also blood vessels, lymph nodes and nerves in this part of the human body, just like in any other part.
Most commonly breast cancer occurs in the milk ducts and in the milk glands. It is characterized by changes in the cells that make them abnormal. These abnormal cells grow rapidly and uncontrollably to form carcinomas. The tumors in the ducts are called ductal carcinomas, while the ones in the glands are called lobular carcinomas.
There are different stages of the development of the cancer in the breast. It starts as a small lump, a confined tumor, or with calcium deposits. If these remain unnoticed, the cancer starts to spread to the rest of the breast. When the tumor reaches the lymph nodes, its abnormal cells can travel to other tissues and organs through the blood stream. In turn, patients with advanced breast cancer have can have abnormal growths in the lungs, liver or bones.
The exact causes of breast cancer are unknown. However, researchers have identified the main risk factors that increase a woman’s chances of getting the condition. Women who have had benign tumors in the breast are more likely to develop the condition. Those who have first-degree relatives with the condition are at two to three times more likely to develop breast cancer. The presence of the genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 also increases the risk. Recent research shows that women exposed to higher level of estrogen are at greater risk as well. Smoking, alcohol consumption, weight gain and obesity and lack of exercise are also considered risk factors, even though they are less significant.
Most breast cancer symptoms are not present in the early stages of the development of the tumor. The first warning sign is usually a lump that can be felt in the breast or in the underarm area. The lump is not painful, but it is persistent even after menstruation. At later stages, the lump can become painful. Swelling in the armpit is another common symptom. In general, any flattening or denting of the Dr Vikas Goswami breast is a warning sign. This is also applicable to changes in the texture and skin as well as the temperature of the breast. Any notable changes in the nipple and discharge from the nipple are also common symptoms of this condition.
Breast cancer is diagnosed with mammography. This is a special x-ray designed to identify any changes in the breast tissue and abnormal growths, in particular. Before such a test is done, the physician examines the breast to determine whether mammography is necessary or not.