Signs of breast cancer include:
- A lump or thickening in the breast which feels unlike the adjacent breast tissue.
- Bloody discharge from the nipple.
- The nipple may get inverted.
- An alteration in the shape, size or appearance of the breast.
- The skin over the breast gets dimpled and may turn reddish.
- The pigmented area of skin around the nipple may flake or peel.
Risk Factors For Breast Cancer
Breast cancer occurs when some cells start growing abnormally. The cells divide more quickly than the healthy ones and they build-up, forming a mass. Breast cancer usually begins with cells in the milk-producing ducts.
Hormonal, lifestyle and environmental factors may increase your risk of breast cancer. It’s been postulated that breast cancer develops by a complex interaction of the genetic makeup and the environment.
Risks for breast cancer include:
- Women are more prone than men to develop breast cancer.
- Your risk of breast cancer increases with age.
- A personal history of breast cancer. If you’ve had cancer in one breast, you have an increased risk of developing cancer in the other too.
- A family history of breast cancer.
- Inherited predilection for malignancy.
- Starting period at a younger age.
- Beginning menopause at an older age.
- Postmenopausal hormone therapy.
- Having your first child at an older age after 35 years.
- Radiation exposure
- No pregnancy
- Drinking alcohol
Treatment Options For Breast Cancer
Your doctor will help you decide the most suitable treatment option for you, based upon the type of breast cancer, the size and the stage. Your doctor will consider your overall health as well as your preferences.
Most women undergo surgery and receive additional treatment such as – radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and hormone therapy.
- Surgical intervention
- Lumpectomy: The tumor mass and a small margin of surrounding healthy tissue is excised.
- Mastectomy: Removes all the breast tissue.
- Contra-lateral prophylactic mastectomy: Both the breasts are removed if they have a very increased risk of cancer in the other breast because of a genetic predisposition or strong family history.
Consider a referral to a plastic surgeon before your breast cancer surgery. Your options include – reconstruction with a breast implant (silicone or water-filled) or reconstruction using your own tissue.
Chemotherapy makes use of drugs to kill the cancer cells. Chemotherapy is administered before surgery in women with big breast tumors. They help shrink the tumor to a size that is easier to remove with surgery.
- Radiation therapy
Radiation therapy employs high powered beams of energy to annihilate the malignant cells. Typically, it is done using a large machine which aims the energy beams at your body, i.e. external beam radiation. Radiotherapy is also done by introducing radioactive material inside your body, i.e. brachytherapy.
- Hormone therapy
Hormone therapy is used to treat breast cancers which are sensitive to hormones. These cancers are known as estrogen receptor positive and progesterone receptor positive cancers.
Hormone therapy is used in combination with other therapies to diminish the chances of the malignancy returning. In case the cancer has spread, hormone therapy helps shrink and control it.
These medications act by preventing estrogen from attaching to the estrogen receptor on the cancer cells, retarding the growth of the cancer and killing the malignant cells.
Some of the medications stop the body from making estrogen after menopause; however, they can be employed only in postmenopausal women.