Gene is a functional unit of heredity. This controls growth of cells. Any abnormal change (mutation) in a particular gene, causes uncontrolled growth of cells. this is known as cancer. When there is uncontrolled growth of breast cells, it results in breast cancer.
Though it is mostly seen in women , it can also be seen in men. Yes, men get breast cancers too..!
Causes of Breast cancer
Following contribute to Breast cancer.
Menarche and Menopause
Due to the effect of hormones, breast cancer occurs in people who have had their starting of periods at an age younger than average people and stops at an age later than average individuals.
People who have any of their direct family members such as mother , sister , daughter are at a higher risk to get it.
Elderly people are at higher risk. and the risk increases with advancing age.
Therapies like hormonal replacement therapy , radiation therapy, etc. puts you into higher risk as it induces cells to divide or irritates the cell to undergo change.
Symptoms of breast cancer
People having breast cancer may not have any problem in the initial stages. But as it progresses they may start observing changes in the breast.
- Any alteration in size, shape or texture can be a sign of breast cancer.
- A lump ( a mass) in the breast which was not noticed before and is not related to timing of periods.
- A nipple discharge or redness can be seen.
- Dimpling or swelling of breast also occurs.
Diagnosing breast cancer
Breast cancer has a very good prognosis if treated at an early stage. Hence its important that women take up regular check ups to rule out breast cancer. Elderly people are more likely to get it. It is advised that every woman above 40 should get a screening test done at least once a year.
Breast self examination
Breast self examination is a technique by which one can self examine and screen oneself for presence of any lump in the breast tissue. This will help you be aware of any changes in the breast tissue other than the period changes. Presence of any abnormal lump is suspicious and hence consult a doctor for further evaluation.
Mammogram is simply an X-ray of the breast, with little more exposure. This is a screening test done to rule out presence of abnormal lumps. Further investigations might be needed if the mammogram shows changes.
Ultrasound is helpful in differentiating a lump from cyst because clinically a cyst resembles a lump as they both are just palpable masses. On ultrasound, cyst can be identified with the presence of fluid inside it whereas a lump is fully solid.
the surgeon identifies the lump by palpating it and inserts a needle and removes a part of it for further studies. microscopically it shows different kind of cells. this is helpful to an extent to diagnose a cancer.
if a lymph node is palpable. the lymph node is excised and taken out for further study. this can give you confirmatory results if the cancer has spread to the neighbouring lymph nodes.
Treatments for breast cancer
Chemotherapy is the administration of certain drugs that kill cancer cells directly. It is most effective when done before or after surgical removal of the cancer. The benefit of chemotherapy is that it kills cancer cells that has even spread to other parts of body.
Hormone replacement therapy:
This is helpful in patients who have undergone surgery, in order to prevent recurrence of the disease. But in some cases pre surgery treatment has also been done.
Administration of drugs that specifically kill cancer cells is known as Targeted Therapy. This is different from chemotherapy in that chemotherapy kills all the rapidly dividing cells.
Mastectomy (Removal of breast tissue) is the treatment of choice for tumors that do not respond to medical treatment. Depending on the extent of involvement of the breast tissue, the surgeons decides whether to only pick up the tumor (Lumpectomy), to remove the whole breast (Mastectomy) or to remove the axillary tissues too along with the breast (Axillary Lymph node removal).
Now a days, wide local excision is often done, to save the breast tissue. Especially done for patients with large breast and small lumps, this has revolutionised the management of breast cancer.
Dr. J. S. Rajkumar
M.S., F.I.C.S., Dip. N.B. (SURG.), F.R.C.S. (ENG.), F.R.C.S. (EDIN.), F.R.C.S. (GLASGOW), F.R.C.S. (IRELAND), F.I.M.S., F.A.I.S., F.R.M.S. (LONDON), F.A.E. (GASTRO), F.A.C.G. (USA), F.I.C.A. (USA), F.I.A.G.E.S., Dip M.I.S. (FR.)
Dr. Prabhakaran Raju
Consultant Surgical Gastroenterolgy
M.B.B.S., M.S (GENERAL SURGERY), Mch(SGE)