Breast Awareness & Early Detection
What is Cancer?
The division of abnormal cells in an uncontrolled manner is defined as cancer. Cancer is caused due to one or more mutations to genes that control cell division. More than 200 types of cancers have been reported. Some examples of cancer are breast cancer, skin cancer, leukaemia or blood cancer, brain cancer, head and neck cancer, etc.
What is Breast Cancer?
Cancer of the breast tissue is called breast cancer and is one of the most common cancers in women. About 2 million cases of breast cancer have been reported throughout the world in 2018.
Since the incidence of breast cancer is high, it is necessary for every woman to learn about the associated risk factors, symptoms and early detection methods to catch breast cancer in the early stages for better outcomes.
Anatomy of the Female Breast
The female breast is made of adipose tissue, lobes, lobules, and milk ducts.
Adipose Tissue: Adipose tissue consists of fat cells and contains a network of fibrous connective tissue, ligaments, nerves, blood vessels, lymph nodes, and lymph vessels.
Cancer may arise in fat cells or fibrous connective tissue.
Lobes and Milk Ducts: The lobes are made of lobules. The ducts carry milk from the lobules to the nipple in lactating women.
Cancer may arise in the lobes, lobules or milk ducts and can spread to the nearest lymph nodes.
Risk Factors of Breast Cancer
Some of the risk factors include:
Genes: Women with BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations are more likely to suffer from breast cancer than women without BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations.
Age: Age is an important factor in developing breast cancer. As you age, the risk of developing breast cancer increases.
Alcohol and Tobacco: Women with the habit of excess alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking are more prone to breast cancer.
Early Menstruation and Late Menopause: Women who attain menstruation before age 12 and menopause after age 55 are more prone to breast cancer.
Family History or Personal History: If you had breast cancer previously or anyone in your family suffered from breast cancer, you are at higher risk of developing breast cancer.
Lack of Exercise and Being Overweight: Being obese is another important risk factor in developing breast cancer. Being physically inactive may lead to breast cancer in women.
Pregnancy: Women who were never pregnant or became pregnant after the age of 35 are at higher risk of breast cancer.
Hormone Replacement Therapy: Women taking hormones such as oestrogen or progesterone are prone to breast cancer.
Dense Breast Tissue: This type of tissue can make it more difficult to diagnose early breast cancer.
Symptoms of Breast Cancer
See your doctor today if you have any of these symptoms:
- A lump in your breast which is different and thicker compared to other tissue of your breast
- Change in the shape and size of your breast
- Puckering or dimpling of the skin around your breast
- Red rash near the nipple
- Inverted nipple
- Breast skin appearing red and pitted
- Change in shape of the nipple or liquid squeezing from the nipple
- Swelling and pain in your armpit
- Pain in the breast or armpit
Early Detection of Breast Cancer
The earlier you detect breast cancer, the easier it is to manage the complications. If any of the above symptoms persist, your doctor will order a mammogram and ultrasound for confirmation of breast cancer.
Mammogram: X-ray of your breast to check for tumours is known as a mammogram.
Ultrasound: Creating pictures of the deep tissues of your breast through sound waves to locate a tumour is known as breast ultrasound.
If these two tests fail to detect breast cancer, your doctor will order an MRI or a biopsy of the breast.
Prevention of Breast Cancer
The following measures may help reduce your risk of breast cancer:
- Maintaining a normal weight
- Being physically active
- Eating fresh fruits and vegetables every day
- Avoiding alcohol and smoking
- An appointment with a genetic counsellor to understand your family history
- Avoiding artificial hormones