Breast cancer affects the tissues of the breast, usually the milk glands and ducts. It affects both men and women, although male breast cancer is rare.
Breast cancer could be one of world's oldest malaise. Babylonian queen Atossa (over 2500 years ago) and Bathsheba were both affected by the disease.
Why should I be aware of this?
Breast cancer is the second most common cancer affecting women across the world. Once thought a disease of the developed countries, the incidence of breast cancer is on the rise across the world.
Breast cancer is caused by a combination of both known and unknown factors including genetics, lifestyle choices and reproductive factors. Being a woman and getting older are the two greatest risk factors for breast cancer. Incidentally, te signs of breast cancer are not the same for all women. While some women have no signs that they can see, others exhibit the usual symptoms.
Breast cancer cna be treated if detected at early stages. It is important to be alert.
All about breast cancer
Breast cancer is uncommon in women younger than 35. Most cases develop in women older than 50, and the risk increases as women pass 60, 70, and 80.
What is cancer?
When the formation of new cells occurs unaccompanied by the death of old cells as is the normal occurence in the human body, and at a time when the body does not need them, it results in extra cells. These extra cells can form a mass of tissue called a tumor. Tumors can be benign or malignant:
- Benign tumors are not carcinogenic.
- Cells from benign tumors do not invade the tissues around them and spread to other parts of the body
- Malignant tumors cause cancer.
- They can often be removed. But sometimes they grow back.
- Cells from malignant tumors can invade and damage nearby tissues and organs. They can spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body.
- Cancer cells spread by breaking away from the original (primary) tumor and entering the bloodstream or lymphatic system.
When breast cancer cells spread, the cancer cells are often found in lymph nodes near the breast.
- Age -- Women are more susceptible to breast cancer as they get older, mostly after menopause.
- Personal history of breast cancer -- A woman who had breast cancer in one breast has an increased risk of getting cancer in her other breast.
- Family history -- A woman is more at risk if her mother, sister, or daughter had breast cancer. The risk is higher if her family member got breast cancer before age 40
- Certain breast changes --Formation of abnormal looking growth on breast or cells that look abnormal under a microscope enhances risk to breast cancer.
- Gene changes -- Changes in certain genes such as BRCA1, BRCA2, and others increase the risk of breast cancer.
Reproductive and menstrual history
- The older a woman is when she has her first child, the greater her chance of breast cancer.
- Women who had their first menstrual period before age 12 are at an increased risk of breast cancer.
- Women who went through menopause after age 55 are at an increased risk of breast cancer.
- Women who never had children are at an increased risk of breast cancer.
- Women who take menopausal hormone therapy with estrogen plus progestin after menopause also appear to have an increased risk of breast cancer.
- Lack of physical activity -- Women who are physically inactive throughout life may have an increased risk of breast cancer.
- Drinking alcohol -- Studies suggest that the more alcohol a woman drinks, the greater her risk of breast cancer.
Common symptoms of breast cancer are
- A change in how the breast or nipple feels
- A lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm area
- Nipple tenderness
- A change in how the breast or nipple looks
- A change in the size or shape of the breast
- A nipple turned inward into the breast
- The skin of the breast, areola, or nipple may be scaly, red, or swollen. It may have ridges or pitting so that it looks like the skin of an orange.
- Nipple discharge (fluid)
- Early breast cancer usually does not cause pain. Still, a woman should see her health care provider about breast pain or any other symptom that does not go away.
What can I do?
If you think you might be at risk, you should discuss this concern with your doctor. Your doctor may be able to suggest ways to reduce your risk and advise you on checkups. Checkups include
- Screening Mammogram
- Clinical Breast Exam
- Breast Self-Examination
Screening for breast cancer before the symptoms surface is important as this might lead to early detection and more successful treatment.
There is a lot of evidence to suggest that mammograms actually cause cancer. Japanese women do not suffer breast tumours as they have a diet rich in Iodine. In the UK we are deficient. Take Iodine every day to protect your breast tissue.
- Breast cancer can spread to almost any other part of the body. The most common are the bones, liver, lungs, and brain. The new tumor has the same kind of abnormal cells and the same name as the primary tumor i.e. if breast cancer spreads to the bones, the cancer cells in the bones are actually breast cancer cells. The disease is (distant) metastatic breast cancer and not bone cancer.
What is new?
Increased intake of vitamin D from the diet and from sunlight may reduce the risk to breast cancer by over 20 per cent, says a new study.
“This study suggests that vitamin D is associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer regardless of [oestrogen-receptor (ER) positive and progesterone-receptor (PR)] status of the tumour,” wrote lead author Kristina Blackmore from Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto.
Over one million women worldwide are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, with the highest incidences in the US and the Netherlands. China has the lowest incidence and mortality rate of the disease.
Male breast cancer
The incidence of breast cancer among men is very low, but it is there. Male breast cancer symptoms include:
- Skin dimpling or puckering
- Development of a new retraction or indentation of the nipple
- Changes in the nipple or breast skin, such as scaling or redness
- Nipple discharge
- Around 1,700 cases of breast cancer in men are reported in th US every year. 
- Breast cancer is diagnosed more often in white women than Latina, Asian, or African American women.
- The chance of getting breast cancer after menopause is higher in women who are overweight or obese.
- Women are about 100 times more likely to get breast cancer.
- Breast cancer survivors have high quality of life up to 15 years after lumpectomy and radiation.
- Acupuncture reduces side effects of breast cancer treatment as much as conventional drug therapy, study suggests.
- Living near a nuclear facility increases your chances of dying from breast cancer.
- What you need to know about breast cancer? National Cancer Institute
- Breast Cancer
- Breast Cancer Survivors Have High Quality Of Life Up To 15 Years After Lumpectomy And Radiation, ScienceDaily
- Male breast cancer
- ↑ Bathsheba's Breast, John Hopkins University Press
- ↑ What you need to know about breast cancer? National Cancer Institute
- ↑ Male breast cancer
- ↑ Breast Cancer Survivors Have High Quality Of Life Up To 15 Years After Lumpectomy And Radiation, ScienceDaily
- ↑ Acupuncture Reduces Side Effects Of Breast Cancer Treatment As Much As Conventional Drug Therapy, ScienceDaily
- ↑ Breast Cancer Unawareness Month