Breast cancer

What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer is a cancerous disease that occurs in the breast tissue. A carcinoma is a collection of abnormal cells that grow and multiply abnormally.

Although breast cancer is typically a female disease, in about 1% of cases the cancer also occurs in men.

Breasts consist mainly of adipose tissue, glands and connective (fibrous) tissue. The glandular tissue in the breast is divided into several lobes called lobules, from which milk is secreted. The mammary glands are connected to the nipple by means of ducts.

In these ducts, in 80% of cases, the malignant formation appears, the medical term of which is ductal carcinoma of the breast. And carcinoma developing in the lobules is referred to as lobular carcinoma in about 10-15% of cases.

The most serious cancers are those that metastasize, i.e. they spread to other tissues, distant from the site of the tumor, through the bloodstream.

Most often, breast carcinoma metastasizes to the lymph nodes under the arm or above the collarbone on the side that is affected by the cancer. In other cases, the cancer can metastasize to the brain, liver, and bones.

What are the causes?

The causes of breast carcinoma are, in short, genetic predisposition and hormonal balance.

Family predisposition has long been known to be a risk factor for developing breast cancer. The risk is greatest if a direct or collateral relative on either the mother’s or father’s side developed breast cancer at an early age.

When assessing risk, first degree relatives such as mother, sister and daughter are most important. If a second-degree relative, an aunt or grandmother, has developed breast cancer, the risk also increases.

If a man develops breast cancer, it increases the probability for all his female relatives as well.

For women who start menstruating around age 12 and earlier or enter menopause at age 55 and older, there is a higher risk of developing breast cancer. O

brother, if menstruation starts at a later age and menopause earlier, to some extent the probability of breast carcinoma is less.

Giving birth before age 30 provides some protection against breast cancer, and if you haven’t given birth before age 30, your risk is higher.</p >

The use of birth control pills increases the risk of breast cancer, but when the use is stopped, the probability of developing cancer is equal to that of women who have never taken birth control pills.

What are the symptoms of breast cancer?

Among the most common initial stages of breast cancer are those in which there are no disease symptoms and the breasts are not painful.

This can be misleading, as the absence of pain or discomfort can make us feel perfectly healthy.

In this context, mammography plays a crucial role, as it can detect microscopic changes in tissues that are undetectable by self-examination.

One of the signals that should direct our attention is the presence of a lump or seal in the breast. In most cases, this symptom is noticed by the woman herself, but sometimes it can also be detected during a clinical examination. If this lump does not go away with time, it could be a sign of carcinoma.

Another symptom to look out for is breast discharge. Although in most cases this is not a symptom of cancer, but simply a reaction of the body, if the discharge is blood-colored or comes from only one breast, it can be a signal of carcinoma.

Inversion of breast nipples is another symptom that can be observed. Although this is normal for some women, if you notice a sudden change in the appearance of your breasts, it is important to consult a medical professional.

Also, we must remember that no symptoms should be ignored. Even if you are not sure whether the symptom is related to breast cancer or not, it is a good idea to consult a health professional.

Regular clinical examinations and mammograms are important tools for detecting the disease in early stages, when the chances of successful treatment are higher.

Treatment of breast carcinoma

Breast carcinoma is treated by surgery. Which surgery is done is determined by the size, location of the tumor, the type of tumor, and the patient’s preferences.

Breast cancer goes through several stages from stage 0 to stage 4.

  • Stage 0 – non-invasive carcinoma – no lymph nodes are affected and no metastases, no tissues other than the one in which the tumor formed are affected
  • Stage 1 – the tumor is about 2 cm and has not spread outside the breast.
  • Stage 2 – relatively small in size but has spread to nearby lymph nodes around the armpit or is larger in size but has involved the surrounding lymph tissue-
  • Stage 3 – the size of the tumor is around and above 5 cm. and it has spread in more most of the lymph in the armpit area.
  • Stage 4 – the cancer has metastasized to other organs and tissues of the body, the tumor can be of any size.

At the doctor’s discretion, additional treatment is prescribed to the patient after the operation.

Most often this is radiation therapy, chemotherapy or hormone therapy, as the doctor takes into account the stage of the carcinoma, its type and the health status of the patient.

Radiation therapy is given to destroy tumor cells, if any remain after surgery.

Radiation therapy is a painless procedure and has relatively few side effects.

However, the breast skin can become irritated or even burn like a severe sunburn. In radiation therapy, ionizing radiation is usually directed at a specific area of ​​the breast from the outside. Internal radiation is rarely used, when the ionizing beam directly irradiates the tumor tissue in the breast.

Chemotherapy consists of taking or injecting drugs that destroy cancer cells or suppress their growth. As chemotherapy is done in cycles.

Each cycle is a period of intensive treatment, consisting of taking or injecting strong drugs, lasting several days or weeks, followed by a recovery period of 1-2 weeks.</ em>

In most cases of carcinoma, a minimum of 2 cycles of chemotherapy is prescribed, but more often 4 cycles. After each cycle, new tests are done to determine whether the tumor is completely destroyed.

Chemotherapy differs from radiation therapy in that the treatment covers the entire body of the patient, and even if there are metastases to other organs, they will be destroyed by the strong drugs that are prescribed during chemotherapy.

But the drugs used in chemotherapy have many side effects. They very much depend on the type of medication used. Side effects can be:

  • Hair loss;
  • Nausea and vomiting;
  • Loss of appetite and chronic fatigue;
  • Decreased level of white blood cells – leukocytes. This makes sufferers susceptible to infections, makes them feel run down and tired, and can bleed easily. Therefore, drugs are now available that can to some extent limit the side effects of chemotherapy on the body.

Hormonal therapy is also used, as breast carcinoma is sensitive. to the change in hormonal levels.

Hormonal therapy is used to prevent tumor recurrence or to treat an existing malignancy.

Depending on the specific case, sometimes it is useful to suppress the natural female hormones, and sometimes, conversely, to stop the growth of the tumor, it is necessary to increase the estrogen levels.

Alternative Treatment Methods

In addition to standard breast cancer treatment methods, there are alternative approaches that some people choose to use as a supplement to traditional medical therapy.

Although these methods are subject to debate and require further scientific research, they continue to be studied and used by certain patients.

One of the alternative methods is nutritional therapy. Some people with breast cancer choose to change their diet to include more organic fruits and vegetables, rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals that are thought to help the immune system.

Another approach involves selective fasting or eating regimens that have been suggested to affect the formation and development of cancer cells.

There are also methods that focus on the psychosocial aspect of the disease.

Therapies such as meditation, yoga and art therapy are used to manage the stress, anxiety and depression that often accompany a breast cancer diagnosis.

These methods help patients better cope with the emotional and psychological challenges of the disease.

However, it is important to emphasize that alternative methods should not replace traditional medical therapies, such as surgery, drugs and radiotherapy, which are scientifically based and proven.

Before starting the alternative method, it is necessary to consult a health professional to make sure that this approach is suitable for your particular case and does not interact with standard medical therapy.

How to protect yourself from breast cancer?

The main risk factors for developing breast cancer are gender, age and inherited genes.

And since women cannot reduce these risks, regular screening is recommended to enable early detection of cancer and prevent death.

One of the most important and effective strategies to prevent breast cancer is regular screening.

This process consists of several key elements that play a role in detecting changes in the breast that may be the beginning of the disease.

Self-examination of the breasts is essential and should be done at least once a month.

And although regular self-examination cannot replace a professional examination, it allows women to become more aware of their bodies and notice any irregularities or changes in their breasts immediately.

A clinical breast examination by an experienced healthcare professional is also an important part of regular screening.

A professional eye can detect changes that are more difficult to detect on your own.

For this reason, it is recommended to have a clinical breast examination at least once a year, especially after the age of 40.

Also, mammography plays an important role in regular breast cancer screening, especially for women after the age of 40.

This is an X-ray method that can reveal small changes in the breast tissue that are not felt during a self-examination.

The procedure can be uncomfortable, but its importance in the early detection of cancer cells is unquestionable.

For menstruating women, the optimal time for self-examination is after the menstrual period, when the breasts are more sensitive and tender.

Also, menopausal women should choose a specific day of the month to self-examine to ensure systematicity and consistency in their screening.

We should also not forget the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly and avoiding smoking also play a role in reducing the risk of breast cancer.

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