Breast cancer occurs when breast cells have abnormal growth. It usually begins in the cells of the milk-producing ducts (invasive ductal carcinoma), the lobules (invasive lobular carcinoma) or other tissues of the breast. The mutation of breast cell causes uncontrolled duplication resulting in forming a mass of cells also known as a breast tumor. This tumor then begins to invade and destroy the healthy tissues. These cells have the tendency to metastasize (spread to other parts of the body).
Breast cancer is one of the most common cancer in women. However, men are also at risk for breast cancer as well.
It can be categorized by staging from 0 up to IV. Stage 0 means that the cancer is localized in the milk ducts only while stage IV means that the cancer has spread to other parts of the body (metastasis).
Breast cancer may have the following signs and symptoms:
- Change in the size, shape of the breast
- Changes in the breast, like skin dimpling or bulging
- Sign of redness over the surface of the breast, swollen like the appearance of an orange peel, open wound that does not heal, rash surrounding the nipple that cannot be cured
- A lump or thickening of the breast
- A lump in the underarm
- Inverted or retracted nipple
- Unusual nipple discharge such as blood or a clear fluid
- Non-cyclical breast pain or pain that is unrelated to menstrual cycle
If you have any of these symptoms, consult a breast doctor immediately. Early diagnosis of cancer increases the chance for successful treatment.
The cause of breast cancer is unknown but environmental and genetic factors may have an influence to it.
Breast cancer is a commonly inherited mutated genes by about 5 to 10 percent of the disease population. There are 2 genetic mutations identified to increase risk of developing breast cancer which are breast cancer gene 1 (BRCA1) and breast cancer gene 2 (BRCA2). These two have higher chances of developing cancer of the breast and ovaries. Having a family history of breast cancer will show certain BRCA mutations or other familial genes which can be detected through blood test that the doctor will advise.
The following factors have high risks of developing the disease:
- Old age. Over the age of 50.
- Smoking. Tobacco smoking has been one of the risk factors of numerous types of cancers, which includes breast cancer.
- Being overweight or obese. Has a higher risk to develop breast cancer and also its recurrence.
- Alcohol consumption. Increases the risk of some types of breast cancer.
- Gender. Women have higher chance of developing breast cancer.
- Personal history of breast conditions. Atypical hyperplasia of the breast or lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) as a result of breast biopsy.
- Breast cancer history. Having a history of breast cancer in one breast may also develop the disease on the other breast later on.
- Family history of breast cancer. If first-degree relative (mother, sister or daughter) had breast cancer.
- Inherited genes that increase cancer risk. Having BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutations passed on from parents.
- Radiation exposure. Receiving chest radiotherapy from childhood or young adulthood
- Early onset of menstruation. Women who started period before age 12 years have a higher risk of breast cancer.
- Late menopause. Experiencing menopausal at an older age.
- Having a child at an older age. Giving birth after 30 years old.
- Postmenopausal hormone therapy. Combination of estrogen and progesterone as hormonal therapy.
- Have never been pregnant