Breast cancer is an uncontrolled growth of epithelial cells. Oncology of this type develops mainly in women, but sometimes it also occurs in the male population. A malignant neoplasm in the chest is one of the most dangerous oncologies. The mortality rate from the incidence of such a cancer is 50%. The main cause of death is the neglected disease. If breast cancer is diagnosed in stages 1 or 2, then the chances for recovery are very high.
Breast cancer detection is a comprehensive approach consisting of many methods. The main goals of diagnosis are the detection of seals at an early stage and the choice of a more suitable treatment method. Primary changes in the breast can be detected during the examination by a surgeon, endocrinologist, oncologist or mammologist. To clarify the nature of the tumor and the degree of cancer degree, a doctor prescribes laboratory and instrumental studies:
- ultrasound of the mammary glands;
- blood on the tumor marker;
- cytology of discharge from the nipple;
- blood for abnormal genes (with family cancer).
The disease may occur in young people, although it is believed that women at 40 with a hereditary family predisposition are at risk (that is, women whose mothers or sisters had breast cancer have a greater chance of getting this disease ), about 10% of all cases are hereditary. Also, according to the doctor, there are factors that affect the risk of disease:
- early menstruation (up to 12 years);
- late menopause;
- the birth of the first child after 35 years, or women who have never given birth at all;
- mastopathy (benign breast disease);
- hypertonic disease;
- bad ecology;
- bad habits (smoking and alcohol abuse).
Unfortunately, the disease can be asymptomatic in the early stages. The tumor can be very small and a woman may not have any symptoms. In such cases, the tumor is usually detected accidentally during a preventive examination.
In other cases, the first sign of breast cancer is the appearance of a lump in the chest.
Other symptoms that may indicate breast cancer:
- change or retraction of the skin of the mammary gland;
- ulceration, discoloration of the nipple or breast;
- thickening of the nipple or chest skin;
- discharge from the nipple, except for breast milk;
- nipple pain or nipple retraction;
- reduction of one of the mammary glands in size;
- a tumor (enlarged lymph nodes) in the axillary region.
The presence of the above symptoms can also be signs of less serious conditions that are not malignant (infection or cyst). It is important that any changes in the mammary gland be checked by a doctor immediately.
If you are concerned about one or more of the symptoms listed above, you need to contact an oncologist who will schedule an examination and make the correct diagnosis.
At the zero stage of malignancy, the neoplasm is located within the place of its appearance: in the lobule of the gland or in the milk duct. It does not spread to other parts of the breast. The small size of the tumor does not allow diagnosing the disease using an external examination. There are no characteristic signs: pain and swelling of the lymph nodes. Only a doctor can determine the zero stage of the disease.
- Stage 1. When moving to the first stage, the tumor begins to spread to the surrounding tissue. The tumor size at this stage is still small – about 2 centimeters, so patients do not have metastases;
- Stage 2. Breast cancer in the second stage accompanies the swelling of axillary lymph nodes;
- Stage 3. In the third stage, axillary lymph nodes are soldered to each other or with adjacent adipose tissue;
- Stage 4. In patients with stage 4 breast cancer, metastases are observed in many parts of the body. Often the disease begins to spread to the lungs, liver, skin, brain and other organs.
However, breast cancers cannot be called exclusively female diseases. Since the mammary glands in humans consist of the same tissues, breast cancer can also occur in men, but such cases make up about 1% of the total number of patients with this disease.
Complications of breast cancer are predetermined in the absence of timely diagnosis and treatment. These include:
- Cancer cachexia (exhaustion);
- Fatal outcome.
Breast cancer treatment is a difficult process. Its success largely depends on how aggressive the tumor is, how far the disease has gone.
Treatment involves several methods but the main one is surgical. Previously, in the presence of even a small tumor, patients underwent an operation to completely remove the gland (radical mastectomy). Needless to say, this practice is the reason that many women are afraid of surgery and often refuse such a method of treatment, which leads to a worsening of the condition. After the surgery, a woman who is left without a breast experiences psychological discomfort and stress, which is also undesirable, as the patient’s positive moral attitude is one of the conditions for a successful fight against cancer.
Currently, there are different methods of breast cancer treatment. In most cases, in the early stages of the disease, there is no need to remove the entire breast. During an operation known as lumpectomy, only the affected portion of the mammary gland is removed. Also, lymph nodes adjacent to the tumor are removed during treatment. Complete breast removal is practiced only from the third stage. But here a lot depends on the characteristics of the disease in each case.
However, if the gland is not completely removed, a relapse of the disease may occur. To avoid this, treatment with chemotherapy and radiotherapy is used. Many breast tumors respond well to hormones that reduce estrogen levels in the body. This feature is based on the fact that many cancer cells have estrogen receptors and, when exposed to these receptors, cells accelerate their reproduction.
Hormone therapy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy can also be used as independent types of treatment for breast cancer, if surgery is impossible for some reason. An approach to treatment can also be applied in which exposure to the tumor with drugs and radiation is practiced before surgery in order to reduce the size of the neoplasm. A similar treatment for breast tumors is called neoadjuvant. In contrast, adjuvant therapy is designed to reinforce the results of surgery and prevent relapse of the disease.
Nolvadex is one of the common nonsteroidal antiestrogens used in breast cancer treatment. Doctors also may prescribe Xeloda, a chemotherapy medication.
A specific form of drug therapy for breast cancer is targeted therapy. This type of treatment is aimed at increasing the sensitivity of tumor cells to chemotherapeutic drugs, as well as to radiation therapy. Targeted preparations contain special antibodies that neutralize substances secreted by breast tumor cells.
Prediction of life expectancy for breast cancer largely depends on the stage at which the tumor is detected, on the patient’s age and the presence of concomitant pathologies. If the cancer is detected at the first or second stage and the tumor has not metastasized, more than 85% of patients overcome the five-year survival threshold. Local distribution of breast cancer reduces the chances of five-year survival by up to 60%. When the patient is diagnosed with distant metastases, i.e. the disease is in advanced form, the life span even with adequate treatment does not exceed 2-3 years.
Since cancer is a multifactorial disease, you should do the following things for prevention:
- Perform breast self-exam in the first phase of the menstrual cycle;
- Visit a gynecologist and mammologist on a regular basis;
- Do not abuse hormonal drugs of emergency contraception (levonorgestrel);
- If possible, continue breastfeeding for as long as possible;
- Control your weight and physical activity;
- Get rid of bad habits (smoking, excessive drinking of coffee);
- Balance your sex life;
- Try to prevent situations that cause chronic stress.