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What Is Breast Cancer, And How Can It Be Treated?

By ChemistsWorld On 06 Apr 2021

Cancer occurs when there are mutations in the genes that regulate cell growth. The cell is prone to divide rapidly and without control, forming a tumor. When this happens in the breast region, it is called breast cancer. Breast cancer is usually seen forming in the lobules or the duct area of the breast. Sometimes cancer also occurs in the fibrous connective tissue or the fatty tissue.

As cancer grows uncontrollably, the healthy tissue in the breast is invaded. From there, it travels to the lymph nodes, through which it can spread to the whole body.

Symptoms of Breast Cancer

During the early stages, it is hard to find breast cancer as there are no symptoms. Many symptoms are broadly similar. Though the tumor is smaller to identify, it can still be noticed in a mammogram. The usual first sign of breast cancer is a new tumor is felt in the breasts that were absent before.

The symptoms of breast cancer are broad as there are many types in it. Some symptoms of breast cancer include a lump felt in the breasts, acute pain around the chest regions, skin turning red and pitted around the breast area, swelling around breasts, nipple discharge (not breast milk), a sudden change in the shape and size of the breast, inverted nipple, and in some cases a lump is formed under your arm.

Having these above symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean that you have breast cancer. Sometimes a benign cyst can cause pain or form a lump in your breasts. However, you must see a doctor if you find any of the above symptoms in you for further evaluation.

Diagnosing Breast Cancer

Apart from the breast exam, your doctor will conduct a thorough physical evaluation to confirm whether the cause of your symptoms is a benign condition or breast cancer. To understand the situation completely, sometimes more than one diagnostic test is used.

Mammogram

This imaging test will help you check the lower surface of your breast. It is suggested to get an annual mammogram for every woman after the age of 40. If there is a suspicion that the tumor is cancerous or finds a possible spot, you will be asked to take a mammogram. When an abnormality is shown in the mammogram, you will be asked to undergo further testing.

Ultrasound

In breast ultrasound, sound waves are used to create a picture of the deep tissues under your breast. Ultrasound is helpful for your doctor to know whether it is a tumor or a benign cyst.

After these, you might be advised to take further tests like MRI or biopsy for breasts.

Treatment for Breast Cancer

Depending upon the stage and grade of your cancer, how far it has invaded, and the size of it, treatment is suggested to you. Surgery is the most commonly administered treatment. Sometimes women undergo additional treatments like the following even after getting the surgery done.

Radiation Therapy

During radiation therapy, powerful radiation beams are targeted at the cancerous cells to kill them. Radiation is done through external beams in most cases.

Chemotherapy

This is a type of treatment in which drugs are administered to destroy cancerous tissue. Chemotherapy can be done on its own, but Chemotherapy is often used alongside other procedures, majorly after a surgery.

Hormone Therapy

Sensitivity to hormones can be developed in few cases of breast cancer. Estrogen and progesterone enhance the growth of tumors in the breasts. During hormone therapy, these hormones’ growth is stunted to enter the hormone receptors of cancerous cells. Doing this will slow down the growth and possibly stop it.

Medications

Treatment through medication is concerned with dealing with the abnormalities that enhance the mutation of cancerous cells. Medications like Herceptin can stunt the body’s production of the HER2 protein, which aids the cancer cells in growth. So by taking medication, you can slowly curb cancer growth.

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