Expert TalkExpert Talk: Breast Cancer 101 - Types, Signs, Risk Factors, Diagnosis &...

Expert Talk: Breast Cancer 101 – Types, Signs, Risk Factors, Diagnosis & Treatment

Breast Cancer is the most common type of cancer that has plagued the lives of millions of women around the world. According to the WHO, in the year 2020 alone, more than 2 million women were diagnosed with breast cancer, out of whom more that 6,85,000 succumbed to the disease.  As October is observed as Breast Cancer Awareness Month around the world, let us understand what the causes are, signs and treatment options for the disease as early detection can help save millions of lives.

In collaboration with The Channel 46, Dr B. Unnikrishnan, Dean & Professor, Kasturba Medical College, Mangalore, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Manipal

Dr Ramesh Holla, Associate Professor of Community Medicine, Kasturba Medical College, Mangalore, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Manipal

discusses the types, symptoms, risk factors, diagnosis, and treatments for breast cancer.

What Is Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer is formed in some cells of the breasts which begin to grow abnormally unlike healthy cells do and continue to accumulate, forming a lump-like mass. It can occur in women and rarely in men. You are advised to reach out to your nearest doctors if you find any symptoms of breast cancer.

2 Types Of Breast Cancer

Expert Talk: Breast Cancer 101 - Types, Signs, Risk Factors, Diagnosis & Treatment

1. Invasive Ductal Carcinoma

Cancer cells begin in the ducts and then grow outside the ducts, into other parts of the breast tissue. Invasive cancer cells can proactively spread to other parts of the body. 

2. Invasive Lobular Carcinoma

These cancer cells are detected in the lobules and then spread from the lobules to the breast tissues. These invasive cancer cells can also proactively spread to other parts of the body. 

Read: 10 Myths About Breast Cancer Busted By An Oncologist

8 Warning Signs Of Breast Cancer

  1. Lump in the breast or armpit
  2. Swelling of part of the breast
  3. Irritation or dimpling of breast skin
  4. Flaky skin in the nipple area 
  5. Intense pain in the nipple area 
  6. The nipple can discharge blood
  7. Breast size change 
  8. Pain in any area of the breast

* These symptoms can vary from one condition to another which may not be cancer. Make sure to get tested by a doctor first. 

10 Risk Factors For Breast Cancer

Non-modifiable risk factors: 

1. Genetic Mutations

Women who have inherited mutations to genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, are at higher risk of breast and ovarian cancer. 

2. Reproductive History

Menstruating before age 11 and starting menopause after age 56 exposes women to hormones. 

3. Past History Of Breast Cancer Or Non-Cancerous Breast Diseases

Women who had breast cancer in the past can get breast cancer again. Some non-cancerous breast diseases can also have a higher risk of breast cancer. 

4. Family History Of Breast Or Ovarian Cancer

Women who havemultiple family members on either of her parent’s side of the family who had breast or ovarian cancer. Having a male relative with breast cancer also raises a woman’s risk. 

5. Previous Treatment Using Radiation Therapy

Women who had radiation therapy to the chest or breasts before age 30 have a higher risk of breast cancer later in life. 

Modifiable risk factors: 

6. Physically Not Active

Women who are not physically active have a higher risk of getting breast cancer. 

7. Overweight Or Obesity After Menopause

Older women who are overweight or have obesity have a higher risk of getting breast cancer than those at a healthy weight. 

8. Hormone Therapy

If the therapy is for more than five years during menopause can increase the risk of breast cancer. 

9. Reproductive History

First pregnancy after age 30, not breastfeeding your baby, and not having a full-term pregnancy can also increase breast cancer risk. 

10. Drinking Alcohol & Smoking

A woman’s risk for breast cancer increases with more intake of alcohol and smoking. 

What Are The Advantages Of Breast Cancer Screening? 

Breast cancer screening means checking a woman’s breasts for cancer before any signs or symptoms of the disease, preferably after 40 years of age. It helps in finding breast cancer early, when it is easier to treat. 

5 Breast Cancer Screening Tests For Breast Cancer

Expert Talk: Breast Cancer 101 - Types, Signs, Risk Factors, Diagnosis & Treatment

1. Mammogram

It is nothing but an X-ray of the breast. In some cases, it is the best way to find breast cancer early, which becomes easier to treat before it is big enough to cause symptoms. 

2. Breast Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

It is used along with mammograms to screen women at high risk for breast cancer. With the help of magnets and radio, waves take pictures of the breast. 

3. Clinical Breast Exam

It is done by a doctor, who uses their hands to feel for lumps or other changes your breast may suffer from. 

4. Breast Self-Awareness

Being familiar with how breasts look, and feel can help to notice symptoms such as lumps, pain, or changes in size that may be of concern

How Is Breast Cancer Diagnosed? 

1. Diagnostic Mammogram

Abnormal results on screening mammograms, doctors might do a diagnostic mammogram for the diagnosis.

2. Breast Magnetic Resonance Imaging

The scan showcases detailed images of areas inside the breast

3. Biopsy

This removes tissue or fluid from the breast to be looked at under a microscope and do more testing.

Read: Understanding BRCA1 & BRCA2 To Fight Breast Cancer With Genetic Testing

6 Treatment Options For Breast Cancer

1. Surgery 

An operation where doctors cut out cancer tissue (Mastectomy or lumpectomy) 

2. Chemotherapy

A unique medicine used to shrink or kill cancer cells. The drugs can be given both orally or intravenously (by means of a vein).

3. Hormonal Therapy

It locks the cancer cells from getting the hormones they need.

4. Biological Therapy

Drugs acting on the body’s immune system to help it fight cancer cells or to control side effects from other cancer treatments

5. Radiation Therapy

To kill cancer cells, doctors use high-energy rays which are similar to X-rays.

6. Palliative Or Supportive Care

It is specialised medical care that focuses on providing relief from pain and other symptoms of a serious illness.

Early detection is the key: Remember if detected in the early stages, the survival rates increase. Hence, it is always advisable to be on the lookout for any signs and symptoms. If you think something is amiss, consult your doctor at the earliest.

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