Breast cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in the world. Every year in the UK there are more than 55,000 new cases and the disease claims the lives of 11,500 women. In the US, it kills 266,000 people every year and kills 40,000. But what causes it and how can it be treated?
What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer develops from a cancer cell that develops in the lining of a canal or lobulus in one of the breasts.
When breast cancer has spread into the surrounding breast tissue, it becomes an & # 39; invasive & # 39; called breast cancer. Some people are diagnosed with & # 39; carcinoma in situ & # 39; where no cancer cells have grown beyond the canal or lobule.
Most cases develop in women older than 50, but younger women are sometimes affected. Breast cancer can occur in men, although this is rare.
The cancer cells are classified from the first phase, which means slow growth, to phase four, which is the most aggressive.
What causes breast cancer?
A cancerous tumor starts with an abnormal cell. The precise reason why a cell becomes cancerous is unclear. It is thought that something damages or changes certain genes in the cell. This makes the cell abnormal and multiplies & # 39; out of control & # 39 ;.
Although breast cancer can occur for no apparent reason, there are some risk factors that can increase the chance of developing breast cancer, such as genetics.
What are the symptoms of breast cancer?
The usual first symptom is a painless lump in the breast, although most breast lumps are not cancerous and are fluid-filled cysts that are benign.
The first place that breast cancer usually spreads to is the lymph nodes in the armpit. If this happens, you will develop a swelling or lump in an armpit.
How is breast cancer diagnosed?
- First assessment: a doctor examines the breasts and armpits. They can perform tests such as a mammography, a special x-ray of the breast tissue that may indicate the possibility of tumors.
- Biopsy: A biopsy is when a small piece of tissue is removed from a part of the body. The sample is then examined for abnormal cells under the microscope. The sample can confirm or exclude cancer.
If it is confirmed that you have breast cancer, further tests may be needed to assess if it has spread. For example a blood test, an ultrasound scan of the liver or a chest x-ray.
How is breast cancer treated?
Treatment options that can be considered include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hormone treatment. A combination of two or more of these treatments is often used.
- Surgery: breast-conserving surgery or removal of the affected breast depending on the size of the tumor.
- Radiotherapy: a treatment that uses high-energy rays aimed at cancerous tissue. This kills cancer cells, or prevents cancer cells from multiplying. It is mainly used in addition to surgery.
- Chemotherapy: a treatment for cancer through the use of anti-cancer drugs that kill cancer cells, or to prevent them from multiplying
- Hormone treatments: Some types of breast cancer are influenced by the & # 39; female & # 39; hormone estrogen, which can stimulate cancer cells to divide and multiply. Treatments that lower the levels of these hormones, or make them not work, are often used in people with breast cancer.
How successful is the treatment?
The outlook is best for those who are diagnosed when the cancer is still small and has not spread. Surgical removal of a tumor at an early stage can then give a good chance of a cure.
The routine mammography offered to women between the ages of 50 and 70 means that more breast cancers are diagnosed and treated at an early stage.
For more information, visit breastcancercare.org.uk or www.cancerhelp.org.uk