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BREAST CANCER- symptoms, causes and treatment

Medikoe Health Expert

Medikoe Health Expert

  Koramangala, bengaluru, karnataka, india, Bengaluru     Oct 10, 2017

   6 min     



Do you know that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime? It is the most common cancer in women after skin cancer.

What is Breast Cancer?

“Breast cancer” is a malignant tumour that has developed from cells in the breast. Sometimes, these breast cells change and no longer grow or behave normally, leading to non-cancerous or innocuous breast infirmities such as atypical hyperplasia and cysts. They can also cause non-cancerous tumours such as intraductal papillomas. But in some cases, changes occurring in the breast cells can develop breast cancer.

A tumour can be either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). If left unchecked, malignant cells eventually spread beyond the original tumour area to other parts of the body.

Breast cancer either forms in the cells of the lobules, which are the milk-producing glands or the ducts. These ducts are the passages that drain milk from the lobules to the nipple. Sometimes, breast cancer can begin in the stromal tissues, which include the fatty and fibrous connective tissues of the breast.

Breast cancer is mostly caused by a genetic abnormality (a “mistake” in the genetic material). However, only 5% to 10% of cancers are due to an abnormality inherited from either parent. Instead, 85% to 90% of breast cancers are due to genetic defects that happen as a result of the ageing process and the stress of life in general.

Symptoms of Breast Cancer

Skin changes or irritation such as swelling, redness, puckering, dimpling, scaliness, new creases or other visible differences in one or both breasts.

  • An increase or change in the shapes and sizes of the breasts

  • Changes in the appearance of one or both nipples

  • Sudden discharge from the nipple other than breast milk and is bloody.

  • Pain in any part of the breast that does not go away.

  • Breast Lumps inside that feels like a hard knot.

  • A thickening in the breast tissue

  • A lump in the underarm area

  • A retracted or inwardly turned nipple turned or a sore in the nipple area.

  • swollen breasts with or without a rash

  • Warm, red, and pitted skin over the breast resembling the peel of an orange.

Diagnosis of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer can be easily diagnosed during a physical exam, by self-examination of the breasts, mammography, ultrasound and biopsy. Women who have family medical records of breast cancer are at high risk and should get related clinical trials and breast exams like MRI and a mammogram every year. Others should also get at least a yearly mammogram done.

  • Mammogram. It is the most basic imaging test to examine below the surface of your breast. Many women of age 40 and more get their yearly mammograms to observe breast cancer. If your doctor finds that you may have a tumour or dubious spot, you may be asked for a mammogram. If an unusual area is detected on your mammogram, he/she may ask for further tests.

  • Ultrasound. A breast ultrasound is used to create a view of the tissues beneath your breast. An ultrasound can assist your doctor in differentiating between a solid mass, such as a tumour, and a harmless cyst.

  • Breast biopsy. If your specialist suspects breast cancer, they may request both a mammogram and an ultrasound. If both of these tests can’t notify your doctor with your cancer, he/she may do a breast biopsy test. During this test, he/she will extract a tissue specimen from the suspicious section to have it examined. There are various types of breast biopsies- using a needle to take the sample, making an incision in your breast and then removing the specimen.  

Treatment of Breast Cancer

Your cancer treatment options depend on the type of cancer and its stage (0-IV) and may involve surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or targeted therapy.


Various surgical types of treatments can be used to eliminate breast cancer and facilitate breast reconstruction. 

  • Lumpectomy. This surgery eliminates the tumour and some encircling tissue, discarding the rest of the portion of the breast unimpaired.
  • Mastectomy. In this method, a surgeon eliminates an entire breast. There’s also a double mastectomy where both breasts need to be removed.
  • Contralateral prophylactic mastectomy. Some women choose to have a contralateral prophylactic mastectomy, although breast cancer is in only one breast. This operation will eliminate your healthy breast to subdue increased risk of breast cancer again.
  • Sentinel node biopsy. This operation removes some of the lymph nodes that collect effluent from the tumour. These nodes will be taken for inspection. If the surgeons don’t find cancer, there’s no need for additional surgery to extract more lymph nodes. 
  • Axillary lymph node dissection. If lymph nodes excluded while performing a sentinel node biopsy involve cancer cells, your surgeon may be required to eliminate more lymph nodes.


This therapy is a drug treatment used to kill cancer cells. In a few cases, people may get their chemotherapy on its own, but others may undergo along with other treatments, principally surgery.

For some circumstances, surgeons may prefer to perform chemotherapy before surgery. The purpose is that the method will contract the tumour, and later the surgery will not require to be as invasive. Chemotherapy has many undesired after-effects also, so address your doctor about your concerns before beginning the procedure.

Radiation therapy

High-powered beams of radiation are used in this therapy to treat breast cancer. Most of these treatments use outer beam radiation, with using a large machine, outside the body.

Advancements in cancer treatment have also provided surgeons to eradicate cancer within the body. Such radiation treatment is called brachytherapy. To perform brachytherapy, surgeons put radioactive pellets, or seeds, inside the body near the tumour section. These seeds remain there for a short-term and act to destroy cancer cells. 

Hormone therapy

If your breast cancer is susceptible to hormones, your medical expert may advise you on hormone therapy. The two female hormones, estrogen and progesterone, can spur the growth of breast cancer tumours. Hormone therapy will block the production of these hormones or may prevent the hormone receptors on such cells, and eventually will stop the growth of your cancer. 


Some treatments are created to combat particular anomalies or changes within cancer cells. For instance, Herceptin or trastuzumab can prevent your body’s production of the HER2 protein. HER2 promotes breast cancer cells to grow, so taking such medicines will slow the generation of this type of proteins and cancer growth. 

Breast cancer deaths have drastically reduced due to growing awareness in the past few years. However, it is essential that if you experience even mild symptoms, do consult a doctor as early as possible. Remember that breast cancer is a disease just like any other, and regardless of the stigma around it, there should be no shame or guilt experienced while seeking help.

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Tags:  cancer,Sexual Health - Female,women care, breast lumps, tumour, breast surgery

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