What is Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer is a type of cancer that originates in the breast tissue as a malignant tumor. The two major types of breast cancer are ductal and lobular carcinoma, each of which’s name is derived from whether the cancer cells originated from the ducts or the lobules. While breast cancer generally affects women, this could also be found in men.

When Should You Seek A Doctor?

Symptoms may not be visible in the early stage of breast cancer. Most people only find themselves affected by the condition after being tested in a mammography. A breast lump found around the armpit or in the upper collarbone may also be a sign of breast cancer. Nipple inversion, skin changes, and breast discharge may also occur as breast cancer symptoms.

Once these symptoms are experienced, it is important that you immediately seek a medical professional to have yourself checked for breast cancer. In some cases, these symptoms could be another condition and not breast cancer. To diagnose breast cancer, the doctor may require a breast ultrasound and a biopsy to determine if the cells in the breast are cancerous or not.

What are the Tests for Diagnosing Breast Cancer?

Initially, the doctor will check for abnormalities or lumps in both breasts and in different positions. When the doctor feels the need for further testing, you may undergo one or more of the following exams.

  •  Mammogram. This breast cancer-screening tool checks for cancer cells through x-ray. It is advised for women over 40 to have a mammogram exam at least once a year. The results could be obtained after 2 weeks.
  • Breast ultrasound. This type of ultrasound determines if the abnormality in the breast cells is composed of solid mass or a cyst filled with fluid, which also determines if the condition is cancerous or benign.
  • Biopsy. In this procedure, a small amount of breast tissue is extracted to determine the presence of cancer cells through lab testing. This also helps detect the grade of the breast cancer and other types of cells that are involved in the cancer.
  • Breast MRI. A magnetic resonance imaging machine utilizes radio and magnetic waves to produce images of the inside of the breast. Before this procedure is done, dye is injected through the breast. An MRI will also help detect if cancer cells are also present in the other breast and the area of the breast affected by cancer.

What are the Treatments for Breast Cancer?

Local and systemic treatments for breast cancer are available. For local treatments, the cancer cells are destroyed or removed through surgery or radiation therapy. Surgery could be lumpectomy or mastectomy. In radiation therapy, high radiation levels are used to eliminate cancer cells and prevent their development while keeping healthy cell damage to a minimum.

For systemic treatments, the cancer cells throughout the entire system are controlled or destroyed using any of the following procedures:

Hormone therapy. Also termed as endocrine therapy, the patient takes medications to prevent the hormones from facilitating cancer cell growth. Post- and pre-menopausal women are given tamoxifen, a drug that blocks estrogen activity. Aromasin, Arimidex, and Femara may also be given to post-menopausal women. Vaginal dryness and hot flashes may be experienced as side effects to these drugs.

Chemotherapy. This is often required after the patient has undergone mastectomy or lumpectomy. In this treatment type, drugs are given to the patient either orally or intravenously. This treatment is administered in cycles, in which a recovery stage the follows. The entire treatment procedure lasts from a few months to a whole year, which period will depend on the medications given.

Biological Therapy. This treatment utilizes the immune system to eliminate cancer cells with high HER2 levels through medications such as Tykerb, Perjeta, or Herceptin.

Symptoms and Various Types of Breast Cancer

Cancer is one of the major diseases that is claiming lives in many countries and growing at a very alarming rate. One strain of cancer that has been there for many years is breast cancer. Breast cancer is described as a cancer that starts in the tissue of the breast and there are two strains of breast cancer which are ductal carcinoma which begins in the ducts that transport milk from the breast to the nipple and most breast cancers are of this type and the lobular carcinoma strain which begins in various breast parts known as lobules which produce milk.

In very rare situations breast cancer can manifest in other breast. A lot of cancers of the breast are sensitive to the hormone know as estrogen which causes tumor of the cancer to grow and such a cancer is referred to as ER positive cancer.