In the last decades, breast cancer has become a common disease, affecting people of all ages, females and males alike. Breast cancer is a wide spread medical condition against which nowadays society fights using all its resources. The statistics have shown that it is the most common form of cancer and, although scientists have discovered cures and surgeries, the best way to avoid complications is to show interest concerning this disease; a proper education in this direction can also prevent young girls from such problems.
Breast cancer may appear due to genetic factors, fat excess, stress and eating habits.
The breast cancer can start at early ages. In stage 0, the benign cells don't affect the breast tissues, and the cancer is non-invasive. In stage I, the cancer has about 2 centimeters in diameter, and it is restricted to breast; it appears as a lump in the breast.In stage II, the tumor is between 2 and 5 centimeters and spreads to axillary lymph nodes, or the tumor doesn't exist but cancer cells are found in more than three axillary lymph nodes. In stage III, the tumor measures over 5 centimeters, and the cancer cells spread to the lymph nodes. In stage IV the tumor spreads to other areas (bones, organs, distant lymph nodes).
These stages show whether the cancer is limited to one area of the breast, or it attacks healthy tissues in other areas, too. Stage IV can also represent a recurrence of a previous breast cancer that has spread to other body parts. The cancer discovered in stage 0 or I can be cured in 94% cases.
Besides the four stages, we may also hear about local, regional or distant breast cancer. The local cancer means that it affects the breast. The regional one affects the lymph nodes too, especially the axillary ones, meanwhile the distant cancer is spread in other parts of the body as well.
The axillary lymph nodes are located in the armpits. They have the function of producing lymphocytes, and they receive lymph from vessels that drain the arm, the breast, and the walls of the thorax and of the abdomen. In other words, they are in charge of exchanging fluids, nutrients and not-so-good materials between the tissues and the blood stream. Breast cancer often spreads to the axillary lymph nodes, and thus having access to the lymphatic system, spreading to other body areas.
The first symptoms of breast cancer are the appearances of lumps in the breasts or underarm. But do not mistake the breast cancer lumps with the ones that appear during menstrual cycle (These last ones disappear after the menstrual cycle). The cancer lumps are usually painless, but we can discover them on a mammogram long before they can be seen or felt. However, in several cases pain or tenderness may appear, too.
Any changes in the texture, color, shape, size, or a change of temperature, nipple retraction, itching or a burning sensation, any abnormality may be the first symptoms of this horrible disease. Although not many people know it, upper back pains may be a sign of breast cancer, too. Many women have accused pains between the shoulder blades before being diagnosed of cancer. This case appears when the tumor spreads to the glandular tissues of the breast, and pushes back towards the ribs and the spine, resulting pain felt in the back.
Men with breast cancer may notice changes in nipple texture, because one location for breast tumor is underneath the nipple.If the skin of the nipple becomes crusty or if your nipples appear inverted or flattened, you should go visit your doctor!
Breast cancer may be diagnosed at screening, which means that it is in an early stage, but when diagnosed after you experience the symptoms, it may be at a later stage.
As main treatments for breast cancer, we mention: surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy and biological therapy. Patients can have one or multiple treatments, depending on the cancer's stage and type.
The main treatment is surgery, followed by radiotherapy and chemotherapy. However, the cancer in an advanced stage is not curable and treatments only aim to achieve a remission. The breast-conserving surgery involves removing only the lump and mastectomy involves removing the whole breast.
The radiotherapy uses radiations to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy involves using some anti-cancer drugs, and it can be used both before and after the surgery. Chemotherapy is done before the surgery in order to shrink a large tumor and after it in order to destroy the cancer cells that have not been removed.
Both radiotherapy and chemotherapy have side effects, such as: irritation and darkening of the skin, fatigue, infections, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, hair loss, sore mouth.
The hormone therapy involves taking some hormones that lower the level of the natural ones in your body (oestrogen and progesterone that stimulates breast cancer). There are several different inhibitors with almost the same side effects: tiredness, nausea and vomiting, hot flushes, aching joints, headaches, even mood swing.
The biological therapy works on the same pattern. A protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) stimulates the development of breast cancer and the biological treatment stops the effect of HER2. It has almost the same side effects as the therapy mentioned above.
Breast cancer can be prevented in some measures. The easy way to prevent its development is to pay attention to your lifestyle and your eating habits. There are a few ingredients for breast cancer prevention: broccoli, salmon, olive oil, parsley and coffee. Studies have shown that women who have a diet rich in fats are more exposed to cancer. The not-so-easy way is preventive mastectomy. This solution is usually presented by the doctors when patients are exposed to high cancer risks.
All in all, taking into consideration that it is better to prevent then to fight a disease, any responsible woman should visit the doctor's office once a year. And keep in mind: a healthy lifestyle leads to a healthy body and mind!