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Breast cancer: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About breast cancer

The breast is made up of lobules, ducts, glands and fibrous tissue. Breast changes may occur during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy and menopause or they may be non-cyclical. The changes in the breast can be physiological, benign or malignant. Malignant tumour of the breast also called breast cancer, refers to uncontrolled and abnormal growth of cells in the breast tissue. Breast cancer is a serious and potentially fatal condition.

Breast cancer: Incidence, age and sex

Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers encountered in women. Though it is mainly seen in women, it may also afflict men in rare instances.

Signs and symptoms of breast cancer: Diagnosis

The cancer of breast tissue remains asymptomatic in early stage, in most of the affected women. The most common clinical feature which may come to notice is a painless lump in the breast. Other features are dimpling and puckering of skin near the nipple or blood stained discharge from the nipple. The skin over breast may resemble an orange peel which is a typical appearance in the later stage of cancer. Occasionally, an individual may experience presence of lumps in the armpit. Breast cancer is usually accidentally diagnosed on routine mammography. The consulting doctor would like to conduct a physical examination before advising for FNAC test which may help in confirming the diagnosis. Routine breast self examination is recommended for every post pubertal women.

Causes and prevention of breast cancer

The exact cause of breast cancer is not known. Some risk factors like increasing age, use of hormone therapy by post menopausal women, use of contraceptives, child bearing in late age or issueless women, may increase the chances of breast cancer. Genetic factors may also play a role in causation of breast cancer. Moreover chances of breast cancer may be more in women who attained puberty at an earlier age or menopause at a later age than usual. Industrial pollution especially related to chemical products or exposure to radiation may also predispose certain individuals to breast cancer. In addition, some lifestyle changes like obesity and excessive alcohol intake may also bear some effect on causation.

Breast cancer: Complications

Breast cancer is a malignant tumour which may infiltrate the adjacent structures resulting in local spread of the malignant cells. Moreover, breast cancer may also spread to other organs via bloodstream or lymphatic channels. The most common organs where this cancer may metastasize are the lungs, the brain and the bone.

Breast cancer: Treatment

The management of breast cancer may require a multidisciplinary approach. The treatment modalities include radiation, surgery, chemotherapy and hormone therapy. Surgical approach remains the mainstay of the treatment. There are various surgical procedures like lumpectomy, mastectomy, segmental mastectomy and others. The kind of surgical approach which needs to be taken, depends upon the position and extent of the cancer, health status and age of the patient. Combined surgical and radiotherapy seems to an ideal approach in most of the instances. Regular follow-up of the patient is recommended to monitor adverse effects of medications and preventing relapses.