Breast cancer is the second deadliest cancer among women. But it has been noted that with increased awareness and thereby early detection and improved treatment, the number of deaths has reduced. Breast cancer occurs due to cancerous cells in the breast tissue. Read on to find out some breast cancer symptoms and how mammography helps in diagnosis. Learn how breast cancer survivors can move on to lead a normal life.
Signs and symptoms of breast cancer
The cells in the breast generally grow and rest in cycles, like all the parts of the body. These periods of growth and rest are genetically controlled in the cell's nucleus. But when there is an abnormality, the genes lose their ability to control the cell's growth and rest cycles.
This leads to uncontrolled growth of breast cells. Genetic abnormalities can be inherited or acquired during the course of the aging process. It has been seen that as you grow older, your chances of getting cancer increase. People who have already been diagnosed with breast cancer have a higher risk of getting it again.
Again, family history plays an important role. Those with relatives and multiple generations of family members affected by cancer are at greater risk to inheriting the cancer gene abnormality. Early breast cancer is not easily diagnosed because it has no symptoms and is rarely painful. Regular self breast examinations can help in detecting any breast lump or discharge. Look out for these signs of breast cancer:
- Lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm area.
- Prominently visible veins on the surface of the breast or peeling and scaling should not be ignored
- Yellowish green discharge can be a possible breast cancer symptom
- Change in size, shape and appearance need to be carefully observed, as it can be a potential symptom of breast cancer.
The signs of breast cancer are usually detected after menopause though they may have begun developing much earlier. More than 75% of the breast cancer cases are in the age group over 50. Women who have children before they turn 30 have lesser risk of contracting breast cancer symptoms.
If you notice any breast cancer symptoms, you need to contact your doctor who might suggest a mammography to aid diagnosis. In addition, an ultrasonography can help determine if the lump is filled with fluid or is solid. An initial mammography may not be adequate to detect the malignancy or otherwise of a breast lump. This imaging helps in detecting small tumors called Ductal Carcinoma in situ (DCIS).
Mammography involves low-dose X rays that are used to view and examine the breasts. This procedure can help detect breast cancer up to two years before it can result in obvious breast cancer symptoms. The American Cancer Society (ACS), the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American College of Radiology (ACR) have recommended that women over the age of 40 must get a mammography screening done every year.
Breast cancer survivor
A breast cancer survivor has to overcome the pain of the treatment and the disease. Increasingly sophisticated pain medications help alleviate the suffering of the breast cancer survivor. The emotional toll that breast cancer takes not only on the survivor but also on the families and friends is exhausting. Breast cancer survivors share their feelings and emotions with many support groups.
There are many breast cancer survivor discussion groups and forums where you can find guidance, support and an opportunity to interact with women who have been through this ordeal. Women who have had their breasts removed feel incomplete and unattractive. Many breast cancer survivors find that this incident has made or broken their marriage or relationship. Support and love from the family and friends is critical during this harrowing time.
Inflammatory breast cancer
Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare form of breast cancer affecting just about 1 or 2 of every 100 diagnosed cases. The cancer cells block the smallest lymph channels in the breast thereby causing them to become inflamed. The breasts also become swollen and hot to touch. The symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer can appear suddenly and can be confused with mastitis, which is an infection of the breast. The symptoms can range from pitted skin to ridges and thickening of the skin of the breast.
A mammogram to detect inflammatory breast cancer can be extremely painful. Chemotherapy is the first treatment for this form of breast cancer. Neoadjuvant chemotherapy controls the condition in the breast and reduces the swelling. The chemotherapy then attacks any cancer cells that have spread outside the breast.
Breast cancer information
A body Mass Index (BMI) of more than 30 can lead to increased risk of breast cancer, especially in postmenopausal women. Important breast cancer information is that obese women are nearly 55% more likely to develop cancer. Estradiol is a potent human estrogen hormone that is produced by the ovaries and post menopause they are formed within the body's fatty tissues.
Obese women produce high levels of estradiol in their postmenopausal stage, which can lead to cancer of the breast. Lesser body fat helps in maintaining estradiol production in check.
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