Breast cancer is one of the most common female diseases.
Cancer starts when cells begin to grow out of control. Cells in nearly any part of the body can become cancer, and can spread to other areas of the body.
Breast cancer is a malignant tumor that starts in the cells of the breast. A malignant tumor is a group of cancer cells that can grow into (invade) surrounding tissues or spread (metastasize) to distant areas of the body. The disease occurs almost entirely in women, but men can get it, too.
According to the National Cancer Institute, 232,340 female breast cancers and 2,240 male breast cancers are reported in the USA each year, as well as about 39,620 deaths caused by this disease.
Types of breast cancer
Breast cancer is often divided into non-invasive and invasive types.
Non-invasive breast cancer
This type of breast cancer is found in the ducts of the breast and hasn’t developed the ability to spread outside the breast.
This cancer rarely shows as a lump in the breast that can be felt, and is usually found on a mammogram.
Invasive breast cancer
Invasive cancer has the ability to spread outside the breast, although this doesn’t necessarily mean it has spread.
The most significant risk factors in the development of breast cancer are considered to be the following:
- inflammatory diseases of the ovaries and uterus;
- liver disease;
- mastopathy (any disease of breast) or breast cancer history;
Signs and symptoms of breast cancer
If you notice some of the following symptoms, you should seek professional help:
- Changes in the nipple’s color and shape;
- Changes in skin color or texture;
- A lump in a breast
- A pain in the armpits or breast that does not seem to be related to the woman’s menstrual period
- Pitting or redness of the skin of the breast; like the skin of an orange
- A rash around (or on) one of the nipples
- A swelling (lump) in one of the armpits
- An area of thickened tissue in a breast
- One of the nipples has a discharge; sometimes it may contain blood
- The nipple changes in appearance; it may become sunken or inverted
- The size or the shape of the breast changes
- The nipple-skin or breast-skin may have started to peel, scale or flake.
Early detection of breast cancer is much easier to treat and has a favorable prognosis with timely treatment. Therefore, self-examination is an important component of prevention and early detection of the disease. It must be carried out in 6-12 days after the menstrual cycle: you need to check your breast and armpits standing or lying on your back.
The primary methods of diagnosis
- Mammography (the use of X-ray method) gives a very high diagnostic performance. Reliability of mammography studies for suspected breast cancer is 80-90%.
- Ductography is a method of diagnosis by introducing a contrast agent into the ducts of the mammary glands.
- Ultrasound is recommended for women over 40 years. According to different sources effectiveness of this method is 60-90%.
Treatment of Breast Cancer
Modern medicine has a thousand ways to treat patients suffering from breast cancer. The treatment options depend on the individual and are based on several factors.
Stages I and II of breast cancer include 2 options of surgical treatment:
- mastectomy or
- surgery + radiotherapy.
Stages IIB and III include:
- surgery +
- chemotherapy (before menopause) +
- Radiation therapy (in menopause).
Methods of Treatment
It takes the leading position in the treatment of breast cancer.
- Mastectomy – surgically removing the breast. Simple mastectomy involves removing the lobules, ducts, fatty tissue, nipple, areola, and some skin. Radical mastectomy means also removing muscle of the chest wall and the lymph nodes in the armpit.
- Sector resection allows you to save the breast, since only a part of the pectoral muscles affected by the tumor is removed. There is quite high risk of relapse using sector resection. Therefore, after such a surgery radiation therapy is usually recommended.
Controlled doses of radiation are targeted at the tumor in order to destroy the cancer cells. Usually, radiotherapy is used after surgery, as well as chemotherapy to kill off any cancer cells that may still be around. Typically, radiation therapy occurs about one month after surgery or chemotherapy. Each session lasts a few minutes; the patient may require three to five sessions per week for three to six weeks.
It is aimed at blocking the spread of breast tumor metastases. Chemotherapy often helps lower a breast cancer stage, also improves the results of surgery and provides control over symptoms of the breast cancer. A course of chemotherapy for breast cancer lasts 14 days. It is necessary to repeat this procedure every month.
Estrogens play a great role when dealing with breast cancer. That is why hormone therapy plays an important role in the treatment.
During chemotherapy and radiation therapy, especially during surgery, the immune system suffers, immunotherapy is designed to increase functions of the immune systems. That is why various immunomodulators are used.
Rehabilitation after treatment
Since the consequences of breast cancer treatment for many patients are associated with social and psychological difficulties, now a lot of attention is paid to rehabilitation measures. In addition to the psychological and social adaptation the use of plastic surgery is popular in order to make the breast normal.
The most important data to predict the results of treatment of breast cancer is the spread of the tumor, a number of lymph node metastases, the degree of swelling of the breast, the malignancy of the tumor.
These and many other factors determine how effective treatment will be. So, if timely treatment of stage I breast cancer is about 96%, stage II is considered 80 to 90%. Patients with stage III breast cancer are treated successfully in 60-80% of cases.
The successful treatment is considered when there is no progressive or recurrent tumor within 5 years.