Breast Cancer: Women’s #1 Enemy

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is one of 200 different types of cancer in the world. It affects women secondly after lung cancer then comes colon and rectum cancer in third rank and Prostate cancer in fourth (Men only).

These are the top four common types of cancer that affect people all over the world and cause a huge number of deaths and many people are diagnosed with.

Men could be diagnosed with breast cancer but it is more common in women. Men get breast cancer when they get older after 60. While women could get cancer with age.

At 20 years the risk is 0.6% while at age of 70 3.84%. So it is recommended to check yourself periodically whether by going to a doctor or self-check if you felt anything abnormal mass in your breasts.

What is Cancer?

The first thing that comes to our mind and always wonder about, what is Cancer? Cancer is when abnormal cells divide in an aggressive and an uncontrolled way. Or when a gene makes one cell or few cells to grow and multiply too much which causes what we call a tumor.

This tumor is where cancer starts. At this point, doctors check if this tumor spread to other parts of the body or still in its place.

All these phases apply to all cancers including breast cancer which is our topic in this article.

What is breast cancer?

Women’s breasts consist of fat, connective tissues and thousands of lobules tiny glands that produce milk. Tiny tubes or ducts which carry the milk towards the nipple. When the cells abnormally grow and form tumors this usually starts in the inner lining of milk ducts or the lobules. This is we call breast cancer.

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Types of breast cancer

Ductal Carcinoma in situ (DCIS): this means abnormal cell growth inside a milk duct and this type is non- invasive and didn’t yet spread out to other parts of the breast. DCIS is not a life-threatening and treated to prevent it from being invasive.

Invasive Lobular carcinoma:  this means the tumor started in lobules and may spread to other parts of the breasts and lymph nodes and other parts of the body. This type of breast cancer can occur but in small percentage not like the invasive ductal carcinoma.

Angiosarcoma: is a rare type of cancer that starts in the inner of blood vessels and lymph vessels. This endangers your immune system. It can happen anywhere in the body but mostly it happens in the skin of your head or neck.

It rarely happens in the breast, it can happen in places areas treated with radiation previously.

Inflammatory breast cancer:  is a rare type of breast cancer that quickly develops, its symptoms are red, tender and swollen breasts. It is advanced cancer which means spreading from nearby tissues to lymph nodes. African-American are at high risk of this type.

Symptoms include fast changes in one or both breasts over weeks, enlargement of breasts, discoloration, and warmness, flatten nipples, pain, and enlarged lymph nodes under the armpit.

Male’s breast cancer: all symptoms mention before applies to male breast cancer as well, it happens usually at an older age but it can come at any age. Men usually diagnosed when the cancer is more advanced.

Paget’s disease of the breast: is a rare form of breast cancer and happens first in the nipples then the dark skin around the nipple (areola) Paget’s disease of a breast has no relation to Paget’s disease of the bone.

Recurrent breast cancer: this type of cancer is cancer that comes back after treatment, it may happen after months or years after the treatment. It may happen in the same place (local recurrence) and may happen in other parts of the body (distant recurrence) also there is regional recurrence which means cancer came back in nearby lymph nodes like feeling a lump under your arm, near your collarbone, in your neck or collarbone.

Non- Invasive tumors:  means the tumor still in its place and didn’t develop to lymph nodes or other parts of the body.

Stages of cancer:

Breast Cancer: Women's #1 Enemy
Breast Cancer: Women’s #1 Enemy

The staging of cancer informs us with how fast cancer may grow and which treatment may work best. The stages start from stage 0- 4

Stage 0: which is known as ductal carcinoma in situ, this means the tumor is limited within a duct and not invaded the tissues around it

Stage 1: in this stage, the tumor is 2 cm and has not affected the lymph nodes.

Stage 2: in this stage, the tumor is 2 cm and spread to nearby nodes.

Stage 3: in which the tumor reached 5 cm and spread to some lymph nodes.

Stage 4: in this stage cancer reached to remote organs of the body like the bones, brain, lungs, and liver.

Symptoms of breast cancer

  • A pain in the breasts or the armpits that are continuous (not related to pain due to monthly period).
  • Red skin or pitting of the skin like an orange.
  • Rash on nipples or one of them.
  • Liquids that comes out of your nipples (yellow, transparent or blood)
  • Peeling, crusting, scaling or flaking in the dark area surrounding the nipple.
  • Inverted nipples
  • Lumps that feels different from the surrounding tissue.
  • Skin changes like dimpling.
  • Change in breast size or shape
  • The unusual warmth which could be a sign of the rarest and aggressive type of breast cancer called inflammatory breast cancer.
  • Lymph nodes swelling under the arm or around collarbone which could be a sign that the breast cancer spread to other parts of the body.

Most of the lumps are not harmful and could be benign tumors but you should check with your doctor to feel assured.

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How to diagnose breast cancer?

Breast Cancer
Breast Cancer

Once you feel this lump, go see a doctor who will choose the best method for you to diagnose it. These methods are:

Exam of the breast: in which the doctor examine you and check for lumps and in this method, the doctor usually asks the patient to sit or stand or to put her hand above her head or by her sides.

Imaging: which are three types. The first one is a mammogram which is a type of X-ray that is used to detect any lump or abnormal mass. The second one is an ultrasound scan which defines clearly which kind of mass this is whether it is a solid or fluid-filled cyst.

The third one is an MRI scan which depends on dye injection into the patient’s blood to find out how far cancer has spread.

Biopsy

In this procedure, a sample of tissue is taken by surgery to be analyzed and determine whether it is cancer and what type, size, invasive or non-invasive it is.

When all these are defined recovery chances will be high.

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Causes of breast cancer

Doctors and researchers are still perplexed about the exact reason of cancer. But they concluded some risk factors that lead to cancer and if we prevented it we might avoid having it all our lives.

Risk factors

  • Age and gender: if you are female and passed 20 years of age, then the chance of developing breast cancer is 0.6% while getting older 70 years of age the chance is 3.84 %
  • A history of breast cancer or breast lumps: if you were a breast cancer patient it is likely to come back again unlike other people who never have any history of the diseases.
  • Genetics: women who carry the genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 have a higher risk than others.
  • Body weight: people who are obese may develop breast cancer due to high levels of estrogen and high sugar intake.
  • Dense breast tissue: women with huge breast and higher density of tissue may develop breast cancer.
  • Estrogen exposure and breastfeeding: exposing to estrogen for long periods increase the risk of breast cancer and this exposure usually between the start of a period in young age and menopause age.

Breastfeeding for 1 year can reduce the chances of having breast cancer.

  • Drinking alcohol: alcohol plays role in increasing the risk 1.5 times as studies have shown.
  • Hormone treatments: women who use birth control pills could be at risk due to increasing levels of estrogen.
  • Radiations exposure: people who have undergone radiation treatment of cancer could develop breast cancer later in life.
  • Cosmetic implants: women with cosmetic implants who have breast cancer likely to die from the disease and 25 % higher chance of being in stage 4 in comparison to women without implants.

Treatment

Breast Cancer
Breast Cancer
  • Surgery: surgery always depends on the diagnosis and the patient. There are many types of surgery that depends on the size of the tumor and how much it spread inside the body.

First: there is lumpectomy (in which the tumor is removed and a small margin of healthy tissue around it to prevent the spread of cancer)

Second: there is mastectomy (in simple surgery the lobules, fatty tissues, ducts, areola, and nipple are removed and some skin too while in radical mastectomy muscle is removed from chest and lymph nodes in the armpit)

Third: there is sentinel node biopsy (in which doctors remove one lymph node to prevent the spread of cancer because it the breast cancer reached the nodes this will cause it to spread to other parts of the body)

Fourth: Axillary lymph node dissection (in which we remove nodes for further assurance if cancer affected a node called sentinel node)

Fifth: reconstruction surgery (in which the doctors reconstruct the breast and recreate it again to look similar to other one or look normal. In this surgery the doctor uses implants in the breast or tissue taken from another part of the body)

  • Radiation therapy: in this treatment method the patient is exposed to controlled doses of radiations that its main purpose to destroy the tumor and kill the cancer cells.

The therapy takes3- 5 sessions per week for 3-6 weeks according to the type of cancer and its extent. The session only takes few minutes.

There are adverse effects following this therapy like fatigue, dark skin of breast, lymphedema, and irritation.

  • Chemotherapy: therapy: in this therapy, the patient takes drugs that kill cancer like cytotoxic drugs if the doctor sees that cancer may come back again or risk of spread to other parts of the body. Chemotherapy may be used before the surgery if the tumor is big, this will help reduce its size and make removing it very easy. Chemo also used to reduce the estrogen production because it is one of the risk factors that causes cancer.

The adverse effects of this treatment method include fatigue, no appetite, vomiting, nausea, sore mouth, loss of hair, and susceptibility to infections.

  • Hormone-blocking therapy: this treatment method is used to prevent recurrence of hormone-sensitive breast cancers. Hormone-blocking therapy is used after surgery but some doctors may use it before to shrink the tumor size. This therapy may last up to 5 years after surgery but will not affect the non-hormone cancers. Hormone-blocking therapy uses Tamoxifen, ovarian ablation or suppression, and aromatase inhibitors. All this may affect the future fertility of women.
  • Biological treatment: in this treatment methods some drugs are used to destroy some types of cancer like trastuzumab (Herceptin), bevacizumab (Avastin), and lapatinib (Tykerb) which all used for different purposes. There can be severe adverse effects due to this type of treatment so the patient should discuss with the doctors the best ways to lower the negative effects. 

Prevention

breast caner
breast caner

There is no exact prevention method but somehow healthy lifestyle could lower the risk of breast cancer and other types of cancer. We encountered some cases that didn’t expose themselves to bad habits and had cancer while other people who drink or overweight and didn’t have cancer.

But we still prefer to choose the healthy method in avoiding this disease.

To prevent breast cancer you should:

  • Reduce the alcohol consumption
  • Drink clean water
  • Cook food at a lower temperature and avoid burnt food.
  • Avoid processed grains, sugars and meat
  • Reduce toxins load
  • Adopt a healthy diet and healthy life
  • Go to the gym or exercise at home but on regular basis
  • Limit hormone therapy.
  • Preventive surgery if you are at higher risk of having breast cancer.
  • Breastfeeding your baby helps in reducing the risks of having breast cancer.

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Brief Cancer facts, figures, and history

  • 57% of all cancer happen in less developed countries and 43 % in more developed countries though cancer is often considered to be more of developed countries issue.
  • 1 million Cancer cases all over the world in 2012. 7.4 million in men, 6.7 million in women and this number is going to increase as expected to 24 million by 2035.
  • Denmark leads the world in the highest cancer cases for both men and women where they reached 338 people per100.000 in 2012
  • 9 countries have 300 per 100.000 according to age-standardized they are (Denmark, France, Austria, Belgium, Norway, US, Ireland, South Korea and the Netherlands).
  • There are about currently 3 million women living with breast cancer in the US.
  • Breast cancer is the most common in the UK.
  • Cancer is the second cause of death in the US, 1/3 of all people of US develop cancer through their life and millions are living with cancer or have had it.
  • Cancer as a word comes from the Greek word carcinoma or carcinos which used by Hippocrates “the father of medicine” because cancer’s spreading projections look like fingers of crab. While another Greek physician called Galen called cancer “oncos” but the term cancer still used. The Galen’s term is used among doctors, specialists, and oncologists.
  • Cancer history goes back to ancient Egypt, they found mummies that have signs on their bones and description of it in Edwin Smith papyrus in which 8 cases of tumors were removed from the breast and the writing says about the disease “ there is no treatment”
  • Thanks to advance and modern technology the treatment and survival are possible now.
  • Cancer may affect your sex life so you and your partner might consider an open talk about your relationship and sex life to reach a satisfying zone for both of you.
  • After breast cancer, fertility and pregnancy could be difficult because of some treatments later in life, so if you plant to have a child start talking with your doctor before treatment.

The post-cancer phase

Women who survived breast cancer know how much they suffered, how much pain, anxiety, fear, and depression they felt. All these passes by the help of family and friends, by the help of religious groups and counselors. They feel thankful every day that passes. Feel thankful though their change in looks they are able to draw a smile on their face and keep going.

 Foods that causes cancer

  • Processed Meats
  • Fried, burnt and overcooked food
  • Sugar
  • Food with high additives
  • Rice products

Foods that fights cancer

  • Leafy green vegetables like spinach and watercress.
  • Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, sprouts, cauliflower, artichoke, and beets.
  • Berries like blueberries, cherries, raspberries, strawberries, goji berries, camu camu, and blackberries.
  • Brightly oranges and colored fruits and veggies like citrus, squash and sweet potato.
  • Fresh herbs and spices like turmeric, raw garlic, basil, pepper, oregano, thyme, and parsley.
  • Cultured dairy products like raw milk, cheese, kefir, and yogurt.
  • Nuts and seeds like chia seeds, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, walnut and brazil nuts.
  • Unrefined oils like coconut oils, flax oil, cod liver oil, extra virgin olive oil.
  • Mushrooms
  • Traditional teas like green tea, oolong tea, and black tea.
  • Wild-caught fish like salmon and sardines. 

Fight your cancer with exercise

Exercise can get your life back this was a message of a woman who had breast cancer and used exercise to keep going her name was Julie Main and founded a Well-Fit program.  A 1998 study, published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning, volume 12, number 1, tracked 20 Well-Fit participants who had a variety of cancers. The researchers found that the program improved the patients’ strength by an average of 43%, doubled their aerobic endurance, and boosted their energy levels. And a 1998 study published in Oncology Nursing Forum, volume 25, number 1, showed that exercise significantly eased anxiety and depression in breast cancer survivors. Study author Michelle Segar, president of the National Center for Women and Wellness in Ann Arbor, Mich., says that the women who exercised handled stress better and felt more in control of their lives than those who didn’t.

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