Breast cancer develops in the breast cells. It can develop both in men and women, although it is more often in women. The breasts are made up of fatty connective tissue and thousands of tiny glands called lobules, which produce milk. The milk, in breastfeeding mothers, is delivered to the nipple through tiny tubes called ducts.
Breast screening has helped so far to reduce fatal outcomes. The earlier the cancer diagnosed, the better the prospects for survival. In small number of cases, breast cancer is discovered after it has metastasized.
Secondary breast cancer, also called advanced or metastatic cancer, isn't curable, so the treatment is focused on symptom relief.
There are several types of breast cancer:
- Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is the earliest form of breast cancer; cancer cells of this type are in the ducts of the breast, while in situ means that these cells haven't started to spread into the surrounding breast tissue
- Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) is not breast cancer; there are changes to the cells lining the lobes; in most cases, LCIS does not turn into breast cancer, although regular monitoring is necessary because there is a slight chance of LCIS changing into breast cancer
- Invasive breast cancer is most common; in this type, the cancer cells have spread outside the ducts or lobules into surrounding breast tissue
- Invasive ductal breast cancer occurs in 80% of the cases
- Invasive lobular breast cancer
In addition, there are uncommon types of invasive breast cancer:
- Inflammatory breast cancer is when cancer cells grow along and block the lymph vessels in the skin of the breast
- Paget’s disease of the breast looks like eczema on the skin of the nipple. Women with Paget’s disease may have DCIS or invasive breast cancer
The symptoms of breast cancer are:
- Breast lump
- a change in the size or shape of one or both breasts
- bloody discharge from either of the nipples
- a lump or swelling in either of the armpits
- dimpling on the skin of the breasts
- a rash on or around the nipple
- a change in the appearance of your nipple, such as becoming sunken into your breast
- breast pain
The cause of breast cancer is not exactly known. It is suggested that there is a combination of genetic and environmental factors. So far, it known that breast cancer genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 can increase the risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer.
The risk factors for developing breast cancer are:
- gender – more likely in women
- family history
- inherited genes
- beginning of menstrual period before 12
- radiation treatment
- not being pregnant
- postmenopausal hormone therapy
- drinking alcohol
- obesity, which causes more estrogen (estrogen increases the risk)
Prevention of breast cancer may be possible when reducing the factors of risk. This involves leading a healthy life in terms of healthy diet, healthy weight, regular exercises, reduction of fatty food and alcohol.