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Breast Cancer Causes & Treatment: A Comprehensive Guide

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What is Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer is a cancerous tumor that is found in the tissue surrounding the breast area. The breasts can get two types of cancers. One of those is ductal carcinoma which starts in the tubes (ducts) of the breast that moves milk to the nipples. Most breast cancers fall under this category. The other type of cancer is lobular carcinoma which starts at the parts of the breast called lobules which produce the milk. Rare cases can see cancers begin formation in other parts of the breasts as well.

Cancers can be both invasive and non-invasive. Invasive means that it spreads from the duct or lobule to other tissues in the breast. Non-invasive means tit has not yet invaded other breast tissue. Non-invasive breast cancer is also called “in situ”. Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS) or intraductal carcinoma is a breast cancer in the lining of the milk ducts, and not yet invaded the nearby breast tissue. However, if left intreated, it may invade that tissue later on in the growth process. Lobular-carcinoma-in-situ (LCIS) is a marker for an increased risk of more invasive cancer in the same or both breasts.

Many breast cancers are sensitive to estrogen. Estrogen can cause these cancers to grow, as these cells possess estrogen receptors on their surfaces and are considered ER-positive cells. Women with HER-2 positive breast cancer refers to women with a gene in their cancerous tumor that helps cells grow, divide, and repair themselves. HER-2 positive breast cancers are often more aggressive than other forms of breast cancer. HER-2 has a higher recurring rate than many other types of breast cancers.

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Causes of Breast Cancer:

About 1 in 8 women get diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetimes. The breast cancer causes and symptoms are thought to include many different things. Age and Gender can play a role in your risk of developing breast cancer, as the chances increase as one gets older, and most advanced breast cancer cases are found in women aged 50 or older. Men can also develop breast cancer, but the rate of women to men that do develop breast cancer is about 100 to 1. Family histories of breast cancer can aggravate the risk someone has of developing the condition. Some people may have genetically higher risks of developing breast cancer based on close relatives having had breast, uterine, ovarian, or colon cancer in the past. About 20-30% of women with breast cancer have strong family histories of the diseases. Genes of some people’s families leave women with a higher risk of genetic mutations that leave them to be more likely to develop breast cancer. This is usually the case when the body possesses genes like the BRCA1 or BRCA2 which are passed on from the parent to the child. Women with one of these defects are up to 80% more likely to get breast cancer than their non-BRCA1 or BRCA2 counterparts. Menstrual Cycles can also play a role in the risk a woman has of getting breast cancers. Women who experience menstruation early (before age 12) and/or experience menopause late (past age 55) can be at increased risk of breast cancers.

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Other Risk Factors Include:

Though there are genetic risk factors which make women prone to getting breast cancer, however the prevention steps of breast cancer should be considered so as to help lessen the chances of having breast cancer as well. Many of those factors are within your power. Alcohol use is one factor that has shown to boost a woman’s chances of breast cancer. Keep your drinking to 1-2 drinks a day or less for women. Childbirth can lessen the chances of breast cancer for women as well. Women who never have children or have them after 30 have high risks of breast cancer, whereas women who have children at a younger age and have more than one child are more likely to have reduced risks of breast cancer. Women who took DES medications to prevent miscarriages may have increased chances of breast cancer after age 40. The drug was given to women primarily between the 1940s and 1960s. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can give you a higher risk of breast cancer if you have received such treatments with estrogen for several years or more at a time.

Obesity has also been linked to breast cancer, although the link is not completely understood. The theory is that obese women produce more estrogen, which can fuel the development of the breast cancer. Radiation treatments as a young child or adult to treat other cancers of the chest can increase the risk of developing breast cancer. The younger you started with such radiations and the higher dosage of radiation received, the more likely you are to get breast cancer in the future.

Breast implants, using antiperspirants, or wearing underwire bras do not raise the risk of breast cancer according to previous studies. Nor does using pesticide sprays around your home.

Symptoms of Breast Cancer:

Early breast cancer tumors usually do not show symptoms; so early detection can be made rather difficult. It’s vital to use tools like mammograms (for recommended populations) and self-breast exams to detect any early irregularities before the tumor becomes advanced. Changes in size or shape or feel of the breast are other clues that there may be something going on. This can be felt on any part of the breast including around the nipple. Some lumps may feel as though they extend under the armpits or into the skin around the breast as well. You may have redness, dimpling, or puckering in the region that looks like the skin off an orange. Fluid coming from the nipple is another sign that you may have a tumor. Fluid may beg bloody or clear to yellowish or even green, and generally looks like pus.

Men can get breast cancer too. But, the symptoms generally vary greatly from what a women experiences. These symptoms include bone pain, breast pain/discomfort, skin ulcers, swelling of the armpit (next to the breath with cancer), and rapid weight loss.

Exams & Tests for Breast Cancer:

Doctors will ask you about your symptoms and family history and perform a physical exam of the breasts, armpits, chest, and neck area. There are a variety of tests that the doctor may select to run if they suspect there is something wrong. A breast biopsy may be conducted to identify and abnormal lump or change in a mammogram that has previously been done. One procedure is a breast ultrasound which can determine whether or not the lump inside is solid or liquid-filled. Sometimes CT & PET scans determine if the cancer has spread past the specific area felt on the breast. Sentinel lymph node biopsies determine if the lump is possibly benign or actually cancerous, which can determine if other tests need to be done. You will be diagnosed as stage 0 to IV cancer if the tumor is determined to be cancerous, and that secides how your treatment will progress from there on.

Treatment Options:

As the modern medicine advances, there are quite a few options you have to determine which treatment will work best for you. Some consideration factors will include the type/stage of the cancer that is present, whether or not the cancer is sensitive to certain hormones, and whether the cancer overproduces (overexposes) a gene called HER2/NEU.

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Cancer treatment may include chemotherapy to kill cancer cells or radiations to destroy cancerous tissues. As chemotheraphy sessions are costly affairs, the perfect option is to choose the world-class facilitated hospitals providing chemotheraphy with affordable prices via medical tourism process in countries like India, Singapore, Thailand etc. Breast cancer surgery is performed removing the lump, part of, or the entire breast. Breast removal surgery has the advantage of lowering the chances of the cancer coming back if it was spread throughout the breast, or the family history of recurring breast cancer is high. Sometimes the surgeries even require part of the nearby structure of the chest to be removed in more advanced stages of cancer.

Hormone therapies may work for some ER-positive breast cancers to block certain hormones that will fuel the growth of the cancer. An example of a hormone drug therapy is the drug ‘Tamoxifen’ which blocks the effects of estrogen. Estrogen allows breast cancer cells to survive and grow as most women with estrogen sensitive breast cancers benefit from these drugs. Another class of hormone therapy medicines are called ‘Aromatase Inhibitors’. These include medications such as Aromatase which can work well or even better than tamoxifen in post-menopausal women with breast cancer. Aromatase inhibitors block estrogen from even being made in the body.

Targeted therapy is also called biological therapy. Anticancer drugs are used to change certain cells that can later lead to cancerous tumors. Herceptin is one such drug. It is used for women with HER2-positive breast cancer. Cancer treatment can be local or systemic. Local treatments involve only the area of the disease such as radiation or surgery. Systemic treatments affect the entire body such as chemotherapy. Most women get combinations of treatments to help them overcome the cancer in the best possible way that fits them. There are various hospitals worldwide which provide effective local & systemic treatments at affordable rates.

For women with Stages I, II, or III breast cancer, the main goal is to treat the cancer and prevent it from returning (curing it). For women with Stage IV cancer the goal is to improve symptoms and help the person live longer as much as possible. Most of the time, Stage IV breast cancer is not curable.

Stage 0 cancer is usually able to be treated by radiation or a simple lumpectomy. Sometimes, mastectomies with some sort of lymph node removal is a possibility for women whose genes give them a high likelihood of recurring breast cancer. Combinations of treatments can also be standard. Stages I & II cancers can be treated by lumpectomies or mastectomies along with some radiation. Most patients will also get other standard treatments combined with surgery such as radiation, chemotherapy, or hormone therapies to help further rid the body of cancer. Stage III cancers are usually treated through surgeries and are possibly followed by therapies such as chemotherapy, hormone therapy, or combinations of other treatments.

After treatment, many women usually take medications such as Tamoxifen for a certain time. All women should continue to have blood tests, mammograms, and other tests after treatment. Women who have had a mastectomy may have reconstructive breast surgery which would be either at the time of the mastectomy or later.

Prognosis of Breast Cancer:

New, improved treatments are helping people with breast cancers live longer. Even though people get treatment, often times cancers can spread and return. Treatment depends on each and every individual case, but there can be many factors taken into consideration. A few of such factors include location of the tumor, how far the tumor has spread, whether the tumor is hormone receptor positive or negative, tumor markers such as HER2, gene expressions, tumor size or changes, and rate of cell division. After considering all the above conditions, your doctor can discuss your risk of having a recurrence of breast cancer.

Conclusion:

As treating cancer is a costly affair to manage, it is important to list out the best hospitals or nursing homes across the globe who provide affordable services. Treating cancer via medical tourism procedure is the new trend going on these days. India, Thailand, Singapore etc have become the best medical tourism spots to opt from. If you suspect to have any sort of breast cancer or lump, you can immediately book an appointment at the best hospitals in India, for instance, and get yourself diagonized immediately. If you have a breast or armpit lump or a nipple discharge, you should inform your doctor right away. After being treated for a breast condition involving cancer report, any of the following conditions such as nipple discharge, rashes on the breast, new lumps that you detect, swelling in the area, pain especially in the chest/abdominal/bones should be reported back to your doctor immediately.

If you are prescribed with medications such as Tamoxifen for breast cancer prevention, be sure to take the medications on a regular basis. You may have been prescribed with such medications because you are at a higher risk of recurring cancer. These medications can help prevent such recurrences from happening. Furthermore, women at very high risks of getting preventative (prophylactic) breast cancers include women who have already had a breast removed due to cancer, women with a strong history of breast cancer in their family, and/or women with genes/genetic mutations like BRCA1 or BRCA2. Total mastectomies can lower the risk of breast cancer, but it does not totally rule out breast cancer recurring in the future.

Healthy lifestyle choices can also help lower your risk of breast cancer. These choices include choosing foods that encourage maintenance of a healthy weight (avoiding obesity). Choosing whole grains instead of refined grain products. Limiting processed foods and red meats in your diet. Limiting alcohol consumption to one drink per day. Women at the highest risks of cancer may want to avoid alcohol all together.

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