Breast cancer is one of the most common malignancies that afflict women about 100 times as often as it does men. It is among the deadliest cancers and is more common in developing nations. However, younger women seem to be relatively at a lesser risk since only 7% of the cases are found in women below the age of 40.
Types of Breast Cancer
Breast cancer appears in different parts of the breast like the milk ducts and the lobules. In some rare instances, breast cancer is known to appear in the connective tissue that’s made up of muscles, fat and blood vessels.
The cancer can be invasive, non-invasive, recurrent or metastatic. Breast cancer is broadly divided into 4 types:
1. Ductal Carinoma: Ductal carcinoma normally appears in the milk ducts.
2. Lobular Carcinoma: Breast cancer that appears in milk secreting lobules is known as lobular carcinoma.
3. Ductal Carcinoma in SITU: In-situ breast cancer is less dangerous because the cancer cells remain confined to the place of origin for a long time without infiltration to the surrounding breast tissues.
4. Invasive or Metastatic breast cancer: When the cancer cells spread to liver, brain, bones or any other parts of the body, then it is considered as metastatic breast cancer.
Another rare form of aggressive breast cancer is Inflammatory breast cancer in which there is no appearance of tumor but the breast turns red, swollen and tender due to inflammation caused by the blockage in lymphatic vessels by the cancer cells.
Researchers have now discovered that breast cancer can be genetically classified into 4 different types:
- Luminal A
- Luminal B
It is important to note that no breast cancer is similar, as the tumors operate as unique individuals driven by different genetic changes.
Cancer is also divided into different stages based on the size of the tumor and the spread of the cancer.
Signs and Symptoms
Usually it is very difficult to diagnose breast cancer through signs and symptoms as it is normally not visible to the eye or touch until it reaches advanced stage. Digital Mammography is the safest way of screening which can assure there is no indication of breast cancer.
Every woman can do a breast self exam especially just before the onset of her monthly periods to check out if there is any abnormality indicating presence of breast cancer. Abnormalities that could be the possible symptoms of breast cancer should be brought to the notice of the physician.
Some of the major signs to watch out for include:
- A lumpy feeling in the breast
- Unusual swelling of breast without any trauma
- Irritation in the skin of the breast
- Dimpling in the breast
- Inversion and pain in nipple
- Thickening of breast or nipple skin
- Puss like discharge from nipple
- Knotty feeling in the underarm
Earlier the standard treatment for breast cancer was mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation which took its toll on the patient. Recently, there has been advancement in medical science which is concentrating on organ preservation through surgeries known as CyberKnife and much more accurate and targeted radiation and chemotherapy.
Of late, the medical community has been open minded enough to welcome yoga and other alternative methods to support the standard treatment.
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