Overview & Key statistics
The month of October was the Breast cancer awareness month. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women, except for skin cancer. About 1 in 8 (12%) women in the US will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime.
In 2016, an estimated 246,660 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 61,000 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer.
What is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer starts when cells in the breast begin to grow out of control. These cells usually form a tumor that can often be seen on an x-ray or felt as a lump. The tumor is malignant (cancerous) if the cells can grow into (invade) surrounding tissues or spread (metastasize) to distant areas of the body. Breast cancer occurs almost entirely in women, but men can get it, too.
What are the symptoms?
According to the American Cancer Society, any of the following unusual changes in the breast can be a symptom of breast cancer:
- swelling of all or part of the breast
- skin irritation or dimpling
- breast pain
- nipple pain or the nipple turning inward
- redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
- a nipple discharge other than breast milk
- a lump in the underarm area
These changes also can be signs of less serious conditions that are not cancerous, such as an infection or a cyst. It’s important to get any breast changes checked out promptly by a doctor.
What are the risk factors for breast cancer?
Breast cancer risk factors you cannot change
- Being a woman – is the main risk factor, this disease is about 100 times more common in women than in men.
- Getting older
- Certain inherited genes e.g. BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutation are the common cause of hereditary breast cancer
- Having a family history of breast cancer - Having a first-degree relative (mother, sister, or daughter) with breast cancer almost doubles a woman’s risk. Having 2 first-degree relatives increases her risk about 3-fold.
- Race and ethnicity - Overall, white women are slightly more likely to develop breast cancer than African-American women, but African-American women are more likely to die of this cancer.
- Having radiation to your chest.
Lifestyle – related breast cancer risk factors
- Drinking alcohol - is clearly linked to an increased risk of developing breast cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends that women have no more than 1 alcoholic drink a day. A drink is 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.
- Being overweight or obese
- Physical activity - To reduce your risk of breast cancer, the American Cancer Society recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity each week (or a combination of these), preferably spread throughout the week.
- Having children - Women who have not had children or who had their first child after age 30 have a slightly higher breast cancer risk overall.
- Oral contraceptives: Studies have found that women using oral contraceptives (birth control pills) have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer than women who have never used them.
- Hormone therapy after menopause - Current or recent past users of HRT have a higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer. Since 2002 when research linked HRT and risk, the number of women taking HRT has dropped dramatically.
What are the common types of Breast Cancer?
1) Ductal carcinoma in situ
Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS; also known as intraductal carcinoma) is considered non-invasive or pre-invasive breast cancer. DCIS means that cells that lined the ducts have changed to look like cancer cells. The difference between DCIS and invasive cancer is that the cells have not spread (invaded) through the walls of the ducts into the surrounding breast tissue.
2) Invasive (or infiltrating) ductal carcinoma
This is the most common type of breast cancer. Invasive (or infiltrating) ductal carcinoma (IDC) starts in a milk duct of the breast, breaks through the wall of the duct, and grows into the fatty tissue of the breast. About 8 of 10 invasive breast cancers are infiltrating ductal carcinomas.
3) Invasive (or infiltrating) lobular carcinoma
Invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC) starts in the milk-producing glands (lobules). Like IDC, it can spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. About 1 in 10 invasive breast cancers is an ILC.
There are less common types of breast cancer such as Inflammatory breast cancer, Paget disease of the nipple, Phyllodes tumor and angiosarcoma.
The importance of finding breast cancer early
The goal of screening tests for breast cancer is to find it before it causes symptoms (like a lump that can be felt). Screening refers to tests and exams used to find a disease in people who don’t have any symptoms. Early detection means finding and diagnosing a disease earlier than might have happened if you’d waited for symptoms to start.
The American Cancer Society’s breast cancer screening guidelines vary based on a woman’s age and risk factors for breast cancer. Talk to your doctor about the screening plan that is best for you.
Please check out the American Cancer Society’s guideline for early detection of breast cancer.
Which treatments are used for breast cancer?
There are several ways to treat breast cancer, depending on its type and stage.
Local treatments: Some treatments are called local therapies, meaning they treat the tumor without affecting the rest of the body. Types of local therapy used for breast cancer include:These treatments are more likely to be useful for earlier stage (less advanced) cancers, although they might also be used in some other situations.
Systemic treatments: Breast cancer can also be treated using drugs, which can be given by mouth or directly into the bloodstream. These are called systemic therapies because they can reach cancer cells anywhere in the body. Depending on the type of breast cancer, several different types of drugs might be used, including:Many women will get more than one type of treatment for their cancer.