Breast Cancer: Symptoms, Stages, Causes, Medicines & Treatments
Commonly asked questions about breast cancer:
- What is breast cancer?
- How common is breast cancer?
- What are the types of breast cancer?
- What are the risk factors of breast cancer?
- What are some drugs that may cause breast cancer?
- What are some symptoms of breast cancer?
- What are the treatments of breast cancer?
- How to prevent cancer
- What drugs are used to treat breast cancer?
What Is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is the second most common cancer that prevails among females. Men are least affected by this condition.
Before going into the details of breast cancer, let’s first discuss the general anatomy of a female breast. Glands, ducts, lobules, lobes, connective tissue septa, fat, and nipples are the main components of the mammary glands. Most of the cancer cells arise in these breast ducts.
Breast Cancer Statistics
How common is breast cancer?
Approximately one in every eight women is likely to develop cancer of the breasts anytime in her life in the United States, according to BreastCancer.org. The risk for the disease in case of males is one in 1000.
In 2016, approximately 246,000 new invasive breast cancer cases — and 61,000 non-invasive breast cancer cases — are expected to be discovered in women in the United States alone. The mortality rate in women of the United States due to breast cancer in 2015 was an estimated 40,450. These rates are known to be more prevalent among women younger than 50 years.
African American women younger than 45 years old are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, as compared to their white counter parts. In addition, African American women are more prone to die from breast cancer than any other ethnic group.
According to NHS, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United Kingdom. Approximately 50,000 female subjects were diagnosed with the invasive type of this ailment in 2011.
Types of Breast Cancer
- Ductal carcinoma In-situ (DCIS)
- Invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC)
- Invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC)
- Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC)
- Paget disease of the nipple
- Phyllodes tumor
What are the Types of Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer can be divided into seven different types:
What is ductal carcinoma in-situ breast cancer (DCIS)?
‘In-situ’ refers to a condition wherein the cancer cells remain confined to a part, and do not spill out into the surroundings. The Mayo Clinic reports that it is the earliest form of the disease.
Intraductal cancer, ductal intraepithelial neoplasia (DIN), pre-invasive as well as non-invasive cancer, are some interchangeable terms used to describe this earliest form of the disease. In the United Kingdom, every year, about 4,800 subjects are diagnosed with DCIS.
What is invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC)?
It is the most common type of all the breast cancer forms. According to breastcancer.org, it represents 80 percent of all breast cancer cases. Its risk increases with the growing age.
In this condition, the cancer cells start from the ductal cells and spread into the surrounding fat tissues. Metastasis is common in invasive ductal carcinoma, which tends to occur by means of blood and lymph fluid. IDC is the most prevalent breast cancer type among men, too.
Invasive ductal carcinoma rarely gets caught up as a lump in the mammary gland.
What is invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC)?
This is the most common type of breast cancer.
The American Cancer Society states that this type of breast cancer has been reported to affect about 180,000 women in the United States alone every year.
ILC can affect women of any age group, however, its risk tends to increase with the advancing age. It tends to occur even later than invasive ductal carcinoma, somewhere during the early 60s, rather than mid or late fifties, as that seen in the case of IDC.
What is inflammatory breast cancer (IBC)
IBC may be the most prevalent form among the other unpopular breast cancer types.
In this condition, the breast cancer cells are aggressive enough to block the lymph vessels that run in the breast’s skin. IBC progresses in a matter of weeks or months, which is pretty rapid.
The cancer.gov says that inflammatory breast cancer often gets discovered in a patient when it has reached its Stage 3 or 4.
As compared to other forms of the disease such as invasive lobular carcinoma, invasive ductal carcinoma and ductal carcinoma in-situ, IBC gets discovered at rather younger ages, probably owing to its aggressive nature.
What is Paget disease of the nipple?
The origination of this form of breast cancer takes place at the ductal cells, which then quickly move to affect the areolar as well as the nipple area. The Paget disease of the nipples makes around just one percent of the disease’s overall cases.
According to cancer.gov, this breast cancer form is usually associated with the presence of any tumor or cancer in the gland, which most commonly tends to be either invasive breast cancer or the DCIS. (1)
The age at which the condition is mostly diagnosed is 57 years at an average. However, it may also be found in the adolescents as well as those in their eighties. (2)
What is a phyllodes tumor?
Phyllodes tumor is also known as the ‘cystosarcoma phyllodes.’ This breast cancer type is relatively rare and often tends to affect the stroma or the connective tissue of the gland. Women belonging to any age may get them, however, such tumors tend to occur more during the thirties or forties, according to Cancer.org.
A phyllodes tumor mostly presents as a harmless-appearing lump, but it may also hurt. Hence, any unusual breast lump must immediately receive medical attention.
In most cases, the mainstay of treatment for phyllodes tumor is surgery.
What is angiosarcoma?
Angiosarcoma is the rarest of all breast cancer types.
It may be discovered in a lymph or blood vessel that is related to the mammary gland. Those of the lymph vessels are called as ‘lymphangiosarcomas’, and of the blood vessels are termed as ‘hemangiosarcomas’.
This tumor mostly evolves as a result of radiation treatment, mainly within 10 years of the treatment session. Angiosarcoma, like IBC, is also ranked among the aggressive and quickly spreading breast cancers.
What are the Risk Factors for Breast Cancer?
Several risk factors present in the environment, as well as in an individual’s genes, are responsible for the rising incidences of the disease. Some of these factors are in the person’s control, whereas others cannot be influenced by any means, such as age.
There are some inevitable as well as evitable breast cancer risk factors that can be present and influence the likelihood of being diagnosed with breast cancer:
Cancer cells get the opportunity to form firm grounds in an aged body when an immune system becomes weakened. According to DrugLawsuitsSource.com, several invasive carcinoma cases of a breast are diagnosed around the age of 55 years.
Breastcancer.org states that aging is the second largest probable factor for developing this disease. The risk remains around 44 percent when the person is between 30 to 39 years of age. However, the figure rises to one in every 29th individual by the time the person reaches their 60s. One in every 29th person in their 60s is at the risk, and may not necessarily develop the disease.
Being a woman alone poses great risks. Women are 100 times more prone to be influenced by breast cancer, compared to men. Hormones are suspected to play a great role in this case, however, the exact etiology remains a mystery.
You cannot have a control over any family member who gets affected by breast cancer. But the disease can certainly control your probability of developing the ailment. Breastcancer.org reports that if a woman has an affected family member who is their first-degree relative (sister, daughter, mother), the risk factor doubles. About 15 percent of breast cancer cases are associated with a positive family history.
Your genetics play a vital role in making you prone to any ailment. In the case of breast cancer, the gene factor makes up for 5-10 percent of the cases (http://www.breastcancer.org/). BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations are the most prevalent genes responsible for producing the risk. Women containing these two gene mutations may be diagnosed with breast cancer at a relatively younger age. Mutations in BRCA 2 gene are responsible for up to 45 percent of cases.
Genetic mutation only increases risk factor, and may not necessarily produce disease in every case.
Because most instances of basal cell carcinomas do not extend deep into the skin, topical treatments can serve as effective ways to treat the disease. Creams or ointments that include imiquimod or fluoroucacil can be employed for several weeks to stunt and destroy carcinomas developing on the surface of the skin.
Menopause and puberty
The hormonal levels get greatly influenced when menopause approaches. Estrogen and progesterone begin to decline heavily and the regular menstrual cycle comes to an end. Women who experience menopause after 55 years of age are at a higher risk. The risk factor is also high in case of women who developed puberty before the age of 12 years.
Women who have had children are at a relatively lower risk as compared to those who are have never conceived any.
According to breastcancer.org, several studies support the fact that women who consume two or more alcoholic drinks a day are 50 percent more prone to develop breast cancer when compared to women who do not drink alcohol. Approximately 12 ounces of beer, 5 oz. wine or 1.5 oz of 80-proof liquor is what is defined as a drink.
What are Some Drugs That May Cause Breast Cancer?
According to DrugLawsuiteSource.com, several drugs have the potency to cause cancer. This case is also true for breast cancer.
The use of fertility drugs may increase the risk of developing breast cancer. In a research study that was published in the ‘Journal of the National Cancer Institute’ in the year 2012, female subjects who had used ovulation-stimulating drugs, especially Clomiphene Citrate, were reported to have a significant increase breast cancer risk. (4)
What are the Symptoms of Breast Cancer?
It is important for everyone to recognize symptoms of breast cancer so that early treatment can be initiated before the disease advances.
Benign cancer, generally, shows up as a lump. However, it may rarely be evident when the cancer is an invasive one. Breast self-exam must be taught to every female so that the lump is discovered early.
It may be found within the breast tissue or the armpit. The lump would be consistent and may mostly have a slurred or uneven contour. It may be silent or painful.
A notable change in the shape of one or both breasts or notable unequal breast sizes may also be a symptom of cancer.
Any abnormal discharge from the nipples, including blood and pus must be considered as a symptom.
Any kind of change in the skin contour of the breasts, such as a prolonged or frequent rash, a dimple, roughness, ulcer, dryness, etc. must be attended.
Swollen lymph nodes
The breasts drain in the nodes that are situated in the armpit, on the insides of the arm and above the clavicles. Hence, any swelling in these areas could be a swollen lymph node that might be affected by breast cancer.
Pain or discomfort in the breasts or armpits that are not cyclic could be a symptom of breast cancer.
What are the Treatments for Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is first evaluated for its stage and then treated. Here’s a list of treatments, which are usually employed in the treatment of breast cancer:
Surgery is required for most cases of breast cancer. A surgery may comprise of lumpectomy, mastectomy, sentinel node biopsy, axillary lymph node dissection or dual breast removal. The extent of surgery is determined by the extent of spread of cancer.
Hormonal therapy aims at decreasing the amount of estrogen in the body. Estrogen is essential for cancer cell growth and so, its decline may cast positive effects in the treatment. It is also used to block the action cast by estrogen on the cancer cells.
Chemo drugs may be employed in both early as well as advanced stages of breast cancer to keep the disease from recurring.
Radiation is pretty effective in killing those cancerous cells that tend to stay back even after a surgery.
How to Prevent Cancer
Cancer prevention can vary based on different research, and opinionated studies or news reports. However, these simple lifestyle changes can make a difference in the prevention of developing or forming cancer.
- Eat healthy
- Limit or stop your use of tobacco
- Have a balanced lifestyle
- Avoid risky behavior
- Visit your doctor
- Protect your skin from the sun
What Drugs are Used to Treat Breast Cancer?
The following drugs and medications are in some way related to, or used in the treatment of breast cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute:
|Abraxane||Clafen||Exemestane||Gemcitabine Hydrochloride||Lapatinib Ditosylate||Paclitaxel||Toremifene|
|Afinitor||Cytoxan||Fareston||Goserelin Acetate||Megestrol Acetate||Pamidronate Disodium||Tykerb|
|Aredia||Doxorubicin Hydrochloride||Femara||Herceptin||Methotrexate LPF||Pertuzumab||Velsar|
|Arimidex||Ellence||Fluorouracil Injection||Ibrance||Mexate||Tamoxifen Citrate||Vinblastine Sulfate|
|Capecitabine||Eribulin Mesylate||Folex PFS||Ixempra||Neosar||Taxotere||Zoladex|