Breast cancer is the malignant/cancerous cell growth in the breast which ultimately takes the form of a tumor. It is one of the most common cancers around the world. Though it is more common among women, it can affect men as well.
With extensive funding, research and growth of breast awareness, the number of deaths due to breast cancer have seen a steady decline over the past few years. Early detection of breast cancer has been one of the major factors that have helped reduce these numbers.
Symptoms of breast cancer
Some of the common symptoms of breast cancer are
- A lump in the breast
- Tissue thickness in the breast that feels different than the area around it
- Breast pain
- Redness of the entire breast or changes in the skin of the breast
- Any discharge from the nipple other than milk, including blood or an inverted nipple
- Peeling, scaling, crusting or flaking of the pigmented area of skin surrounding the nipple
- Unexplained changes in the size or shape of the breasts
- Lump under the arms
If any of the above symptoms are found, one should immediately consult a doctor. It is also advisable for high-risk women (listed below) to look for these symptoms from time to time.
Causes of breast cancer
Research has shown that breast cancer is caused by abnormal cell growth in the breast. It usually starts with the milk-producing ducts and the mutated cells grow rapidly to form a lymph which can spread to other parts of the body.
Research has also determined that 5-10% of breast cancer is caused due to gene mutations which are passed on through generations of the family. A number of genes that increase the possibility of cancer have been identified. Breast Cancer Gene 1 (BCRA1) and Breast Cancer Gene 2 (BRCA2) are the most common.
In short, if you have a strong family history of breast cancer, you should consult a doctor and get your blood checked for specific mutations of BRCA.
Risk factors for breast cancer
There are several risk factors that increase the chances of breast cancer. While some are avoidable, like lifestyle habits, there are others which cannot be avoided. Some of the risk factors are
Age - There is a massive increase in the occurance of breast cancer after the age of 55.
Alcohol - Frequent and large intake of alcohol can increase the chances of getting breast cancer.
Genes - Women with mutations of BRCA1 and BRCA2 are more likely to contract cancer.
Early mensuration - If a woman mensurates before the age of 12, she is at a bigger risk of contracting breast cancer.
Giving birth to a child at old age - Women who have their first child after the age of 35 are at a higher risk of contracting breast cancer.
Inherited risk - If someone in your immediate or close family has had breast cancer, you are more likely to contract breast cancer. However, one fact to keep in mind is that more women contract breast cancer with no family history of the disease. Therefore this advise should be paid heed to.
Late Menopause - Women who have not had menopause till the age of 55 are more likely to develop cancer.
Though breast cancer is a dreadful disease, the good news is that the survival rate has increased. In fact, the average 5-year survival rate for people with breast cancer is 90% and the average 10-year survival rate is 83%. For more details on Cancer Survival Rate head on to this page.
As mentioned before, the key to survival is early detection, and for that, the Self Breast Examination is the best option. It should be done monthly on the same date of the month. More details on Self Breast Examination can be found here.