Breast Cancer – Major Risk Factors And Breast Cancer Types A Woman Must Know

Breast Cancer – Major Risk Factors And Breast Cancer Types A Woman Must Know

The most feared disease among women is none other than cancer of the breast. Set aside the disease for a while, the emotional trauma that breast cancer brings can shatter anyone. Awareness and timely access is the key to fight against this disease.

Breast Cancer

Cancer by definition is the mutations of genes that are responsible for regulating the cell growth. These mutations let the uncontrolled multiplication of the cells until the copies of the cells become abnormal. This abnormal cell copies eventually form a malignant tumor.

Breast cancer as the name denotes occurs in the breast when cells in the tissue start to grow and multiply out of control. As the cells multiply, it often, not always, forms a tumor in the breast before it can be felt as a lump or some thick mass.

Here it is important to remember that not all lumps in the breast are cancerous and not all breast cancers have lumps. However, whenever there is a feeling of a lump in the breast, it needs medical attention in order to determine whether they are cancerous or not.

Breast cancer is not a single disease and there has been continuous research in this field that indicates several subtypes of it. Some occur at varying rates while some other respond to treatment differently.

How common is breast cancer?

Both men and women can develop breast cancer but the condition is much more common in women. As per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women. In men, breast cancer is as much as 100 times less as compared to women. The lifetime risk of breast cancer in men is also 1 in 1000.

Common types of breast cancer

There are various types of breast cancer but all of them can be broadly divided into two categories; invasive and non-invasive. Where invasive cancer spreads from the breast ducts to other parts of the breast, non-invasive or in situ don’t spread from the original tissue. These two categories are mainly used to describe all common types of cancer.

Ductal cancer

Breast cancer mostly originates in the breast ducts of women carrying milk to the nipples. These types of cancers are known as ductal cancer and account for about 80 percent of all breast cancers. In invasive ductal cancer, the abnormal cell growth begins in the breast ducts but later spreads to nearby tissue in the breast. Once it begins spreading outside the milk ducts tissue, cancer can invade other nearby organs.

Lobular cancer

Also known as lobular carcinoma in situ, this type of cancer originates in the lobules or glands that are responsible for producing milk. Lobular cancer accounts for 8 percent of total breast cancer cases. When a woman is diagnosed with invasive lobular carcinoma, cancer has already spread to nearby tissues or organs.

Other breast cancers

There are other less common types of breast cancer. These include:

  1. Paget’s disease – This type of cancer originates in the breast ducts but later affects the skin of the nipples, especially the dark circle of the skin surround the nipple.
  2. Angiosarcoma – It grows on the blood vessels in the breast. It can result from complication occurred from previous breast radiation treatment.
  3. Phyllodes tumors- A rare type of breast cancer that develops in the connective tissue of the breast.
  4. Inflammatory breast cancer – A rare but aggressive type of breast cancer that is present without a lump. This type of cancer accounts for about 1-5 percent of all breast cancer cases. Inflammatory breast cancer progresses quickly and causes redness and swelling in the breast.
  5. Triple-negative breast cancer – This type of cancer affects 10-20 percent of people with breast cancer. The cancer must meet three criteria or show three characteristics to be labeled as triple negative breast cancer. If the cells test positive for estrogen, progesterone and HER2 receptors, then it’s called triple negative breast cancer.

Risk factors – Who gets breast cancer?

There are numerous risk factors that can increase your chances of getting the disease. However, having any of the below-mentioned factors doesn’t necessarily mean you will certainly get breast cancer. Some risk factors such as family history, age and gender can’t be avoided or changed.

  1. Age – The risk of getting breast cancer increases with the age. Most invasive breast cancer cases are found in women above 55.
  2. Gender – Women are much more likely to develop breast cancer than men. Experts claim it’s 100 times more in women.
  3. Family history – Woman with first degree relative such as mother, sister or daughter who had breast cancer, will have double the risk of getting the disease. Having said that, it is to be noted that about 85 percent of breast cancer cases have no family history of the disease.
  4. Genetics – Certain inherited genes are linked to breast cancer. About 5-10 percent of all cases of breast cancer have been linked to men and women with gene mutations inherited from father or mother. The most common and well-known genes are referred to as BRCA 1 and 2. These mutations also carry a risk of ovarian cancer.
  5. Dense Breasts – Having a higher percentage of breast tissues put a woman on the risk of getting breast cancer. Also, the dense tissue or any abnormalities in the dense breasts are difficult to see on the mammogram.
  6. Early menstruation – If a woman had her first period before the age of 12, she carries a higher risk of breast cancer.
  7. Giving birth at old age – Women who have not given birth until the age of 35 are at higher risk of getting breast cancer.
  8. Late menopause – Women who don’t experience menopause until after the age of 55 have increased chances of developing breast cancer.
  9. Never being pregnant – A woman who never became pregnant or who hasn’t carried a pregnancy to full term is also likely to get breast cancer.
  10. History of breast cancer – If a woman previously had cancer in one breast; she is more likely to develop cancer in another breast.
  11. Ethnicity – Women of African-American origin have a high percentage of breast cancer before they reach the age of 40. These women have also high mortality rates than other ethnic groups. Overall incidences in white women are higher than African/American, Black, Asian and Indian American.
  12. Obesity – Women who are obese, especially those who haven’t used menopausal hormone therapy, are at a higher risk of getting breast cancer.
  13. Smoking – A research by American Cancer Society found an increased risk of breast cancer in women who smoke, especially before having their first child.
  14. Drinking Alcohol – Alcohol is associated with breast cancer, according to a report by National Cancer Institute.
  15. Sedentary lifestyle – Women who have been physically inactive throughout their life are at higher risk of getting breast cancer.

Symptoms of Breast Cancer – Watch For These Signs

It is important to note that even if you have been noticing these below-mentioned symptoms, it cannot be simply related to breast cancer. However, any symptoms associated with the breast must be brought to doctor’s attention.

  • Lump or thickening in the breast that could be felt from surrounding tissue
  • Breast pain
  • Changes in the skin of the breast such as dimpling like an orange peel
  • Redness or rashes on the breast
  • Changes in the size and shape of the breast
  • Crusty looking skin around the nipples
  • Inverted nipple
  • Nipple discharge especially with lump in breast and affecting single breast

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Why breast cancer has become an epidemic today?

Breast cancer is the most dreaded disease, impacting about 1.5 million women every year. It is also the major cause of cancer-related deaths in women. In 2015 alone, about 5,70,000 women died of breast cancer that translates to 15 percent of all cancer deaths among women.

While the world continues to bear the brunt of breast cancer, India is no immune to this. Dr. Pavithran, the surgical oncologist and head of the medical oncology, Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences, sees about 25 cases of breast cancer every month. While Dr. Gopinath KS, surgical oncologist, Bangalore Institute of Oncology, go through 25-30 breast cancer patients in a week. Both of these experts have observed that breast cancer patients in India are increasing at an alarming rate.

These are just a few examples, the magnitude of the problem is huge and there are complex challenges at state, national and community levels. According to a research published in the Journal of Business Research, breast cancer killed 70,218 people in the year 2012. 

And despite the advancement of diagnosis and treatment, the research suggests that breast cancer might claim about 76,000 lives by the end of 2020. The research also revealed another horrific fact that the average age of death has also shifted from 50 years to 30 years.

The lack of timely detection of the disease kills thousands of women every year. According to the research, here are some other factors why breast cancer has become so rampant in India.

  • Rapid urbanization and economic development has drastically changed the lifestyle
  • Lack of knowledge on how to self-examine
  • Limited access to healthcare information
  • Women pursued medical care extremely late
  • Women reluctant to consult male doctors
  • Neglecting of health due to other family obligations
  • Tendency of having children late
  • Low rates of breast feeding

Changing current health policies and creating breast cancer awareness programmes are some of the key elements that need to be implemented in order to tackle this epidemic effectively. In addition, schools and media can prove to be great channels for creating awareness among women.