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Breast Cancer – An Overview

by Vinay M

Breast Cancer

Cancer affects many organs of the body and cancerous affection of the breast is called breast cancer.

Lobules that supply milk to the ducts are affected by cancer and they are called lobular carcinomas. The ducts that pass or carry the milk from the lobules to nipple are also affected and the cancer affecting the milk duct is called ductal carcinomas. There are different types of cancer that affects breast and these are differentiated by their spread and aggressiveness. Survival depends up on the nature and genetic make up and there are various forms of treatment are available including surgery, drugs and radiation.

Among all types of cancer, the world wide incidence of breast cancer takes its place at 10 %. Breast cancer is in the fifth place among cancer death in the world.

Certain type of breast cancer requires the hormones estrogen and progesterone to grow and after surgery these hormones are restricted by the drug called tamoxifen. In other forms of cancer, the growth of cancer requires no hormones and they are treated with drugs like cyclophosphamide which has many side effects.

Breast cancers are mainly classified as follows.

Stage: It is classified by the size of the tumor, its spread in to armpit lymph nodes, metastasis and larger size. In this type, early stage is curable and advanced stage is not curable.

Invasive carcinoma and carcinoma in situ: most breast cancers originate from the epithelium of the duct or lobules and when the growth is limited and spreading to nearby tissue, it is called in situ and when it affects surrounding tissue, then it is called invasive type.

Grade: every cell are differentiated as per their function and when cancer affects the breast, the cells begins to divide in uncontrolled pattern and it loses its differentiation and does not able to function properly. Based on the grade at which the cells are affected, they are classified in to low grade, intermediate grade and high grade. The high grades are the cells that are badly affected with worse prognosis.

Receptor status: Every cell is having receptors on their cytoplasm and nucleus. Hormones that behave like chemical messengers bind to receptors. But the breast cancer cells usually may or may not have such receptors for estrogen, progesterone and HER2.

When some type of cancer cells have these receptors the specific treatment is given to suppress the hormones that binds the receptor. And in the breast cancer with negative receptor, the specific treatment is given. DNA microarrays is able to compare the normal cells and breast cancer cells that have differences in hundreds of genes.

Breast cancer signs and symptoms.

  1. Almost in all cases the lump is the fist sign of breast cancer.
  2. Lymph nodes in the armpit are an indication of breast cancer.
  3. Changes in the breast size.
  4. Changes in the shape of the breast.
  5. Single nipple spontaneous discharge of fluid.
  6. Skin dimpling.
  7. Inverted nipple
  8. Pain in the breast.

Breast cancer risk factors:

  1. Sex
  2. Lack of breast feeding
  3. Lack of childbearing
  4. Age
  5. Higher hormone levels.
  6. Having the medical history for breast cancer in one side already
  7. With the family history of having their sister, mother and daughter with breast cancer.

Breast cancer Diagnosis:

Many screening techniques are available to see the possible breast cancer.

Clinical breast examination, mammography and fine needle aspiration are used for diagnosing the cancer. Core biopsy and excisional biopsy are also useful in diagnosing the breast cancer.

Breast cancer treatment:

The breast cancer is treated with surgery first and then it is further treated with drugs and radiation. The adjuvant therapy is used in which 3 drugs are mainly used after surgery to fight against breast cancer. 1. Hormone blocking therapy 2. monoclonal antibodies 3. Chemotherapy.

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