According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), breast cancer is a disease in which cells in the breast grow out of control and is the most common form of cancer among American women, aside from skin cancer.
The American Cancer Society estimates that there is around a 13% chance for the average woman in the United States to develop breast cancer at some point in her life. It is vital that women get regular screenings for breast cancer because the earlier that breast cancer is caught the easier it is to treat.
Breast Cancer Overview
Breast cancer cells will typically form a tumor, which can often be discovered during a breast exam. It is important to note that both men and women can develop breast cancer at any point in their life, but it does predominantly occur in women. Women are more at risk for breast cancer if they are age 50 or older and/or have mutations in the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes, which can affect the gene’s ability to suppress tumor growth.
Breast cancer tumors, which are malignant tumors, can start in multiple areas of the breast and spread throughout the rest of the body through blood and lymph vessels. Many people may not realize it, but there are several types of breast cancer, which is classified based on the area of the breast that it starts.
There are three main areas in the breast, including lobules, ducts, and connective tissue. The ducts are tubes that carry milk to the nipple and most breast cancers begin there. The lobules are the glands that produce breast milk and cancer can often develop in this area, as well.
Types of breast cancer are:
- Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)
- Invasive lobular carcinoma
- Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS)
- Inflammatory breast cancer
- Male breast cancer
- Paget’s disease
Symptoms of Breast Cancer
People can experience different symptoms, which can also depend on the type of breast cancer they have. Some people do not have any symptoms at all, but if they do appear then you should see a doctor as soon as possible.
Symptoms or warning signs can manifest as:
- A new lump in the breast, armpit, or area near the collarbone.
- Thickening or swelling of parts of the breast.
- Pain in the breast or nipple area.
- Sudden changes in the size, shape, or appearance of the breast that are unrelated to weight gain or breastfeeding.
- An inverted nipple.
- Nipple discharges other than breast milk, which can also be blood.
- Peeling, scaling, crusting, or flaking of the skin surrounding the nipple, known as the areola, or breast skin.
Keep in mind that these symptoms can be related to other conditions and you should not panic if they develop. Changes in the breast can be related to your menstrual cycle, having children, medications, and aging. However, you should still seek out medical assistance for the above changes, as an exam can definitely tell you if it’s cancer or not.
If you know you are at an increased risk for developing breast cancer or want to actively keep an eye out to catch early stage cancer then there are things you can do. Genetic testing can show if you have inherited a gene change, which increases the risks of breast cancer, and is definitely a good option if there is a family history of breast cancer or a known family member with a gene mutation.
Yearly breast exams can be performed by a gynecologist and breast cancer screenings with mammograms can help find breast cancer early.
Treatments for Breast Cancer
Medical interventions for breast cancer can include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, targeted drug therapy, and immunotherapy. Surgery can possibly remove the tumor, if the cancer has not spread throughout the body, and radiation can specifically target the tumor. These types of treatments are known as local treatments, as they do not affect the rest of the body. Systemic treatments, such as chemotherapy, use drugs to target cancer cells all over the body and can be taken orally or injected directly into the bloodstream.
Breast cancer treatments can be really rough on the body and some alternative therapies can help relieve some of the side effects. Acupuncture, which involves placing hair-thin needles into acupuncture points on the body, can stimulate the nervous system to help with fatigue, hot flashes, nausea and vomiting, and pain. When engaging in alternative therapies it is best to seek medical advice from a physician.
Don’t Forget to Check Us Out
If you are interested in integrative medicine, which combines conventional medicine and complementary therapies, and healthcare that focuses on your individual needs call Shakthi Health and Wellness Center today! Dr. Jyothi Rao is a highly skilled and experienced physician who can effectively evaluate your symptoms and optimize your body’s vitality. Call and speak to our concierge staff to schedule your appointment today.