Living Beyond Breast Cancer
Cancer is a condition in which there is an uncontrolled growth of body cells. And breast cancer is one of the most fatal cancers. Despite the fact that the mortality rate of breast cancer has increased over the years; it still remains the second leading cause of death in women.
Do you know that, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of breast cancer-related deaths worldwide in 2020 was 684,996? And the number of breast cancer deaths in 2022 is predicted to be 43,250 for women and 530 for men.
In Pakistan, the prevalence of breast cancer has increased, with one in nine women now having a lifetime risk of cancer. Pakistan has one of the highest global fatality rates from breast cancer.
So, to live beyond breast cancer, you must first understand what it is, how it affects you, and what you can do to prevent or treat it. Let’s learn more about breast cancer, its prevention, and its treatment.
What is Breast Cancer?
Breast Cancer happens when breast cells mutate (alter) and grow out of control in the breast tissue. Breast cancer can develop in a number of places within the breast. The three components of the breast are:
- Lobules: The lobules are the milk-producing glands
- Ducts: Ducts are vessels that transport milk to the nipple
- Connective Tissue: The connective tissue, which is made up of fatty and fibrous tissue, envelops and holds everything in place.
There are different types of breast cancer. However, the ducts or lobules are where the majority of breast cancers occur. It can spread to the tissue surrounding your breast just like other types of cancer. Furthermore, it has the potential to spread throughout your body and form new tumours. This process is known as metastasis.
Types of Breast Cancer
Breast cancer has multiple kinds, which include:
1. Most Common Types
There are two kinds of breast cancer that are the most common.
- Invasive Ductal Carcinoma: This cancer begins in the milk ducts of your breast, penetrates the duct wall, and then spreads to the breast tissue nearby. This is the most common kind of breast cancer, accounting for around 80% of all cases.
- Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS): Ductal carcinoma in situ, often known as Stage 0 breast cancer, is regarded by some as precancerous because the cells have not moved past your milk ducts. Treatment options for this illness are excellent. However, quick treatment is required to stop cancer from becoming aggressive and spreading to other tissues.
2. Less Common Types
- Invasive Lobular Carcinoma: This cancer began in breast lobules (where breast milk is produced). It spreads to adjacent breast tissue. 10% to 15% of breast cancer cases are due to it.
- Lobular Carcinoma in Situ: is a precancerous condition characterized by the presence of abnormal cells in breast lobules. Although it is not true cancer, this sign can predict the possibility of breast cancer in the future.
- Tipple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC): Triple-negative breast cancer is one of the most difficult breast cancers to treat. It accounts for around 15% of all cases. Due to the absence of three of the signs linked to other types of breast cancer, this type of breast cancer is known as triple negative.
- Inflammatory Breast Cancer: This type of cancer is uncommon and severe, and it looks infectious. It is caused by obstructive cancer cells in the lymph veins of the skin.
- Paget’s Disease of the Breast: This kind affects the skin of the nipple and the skin around it called the areola.
Is It Possible for Cancer to Develop in Other Regions of the Breast?
Typically, when we refer to “breast cancer,” we mean tumors that develop in milk ducts or lobules. Other breast regions can also develop cancer. However, these cases are less typical. These may incorporate:
- Angiosarcoma: This uncommon kind of cancer originates in the cells that line blood or lymph arteries.
- Phyllodes Tumors: These tumors are uncommon benign tumors that develop in the connective tissue. Although benign (noncancerous) in most circumstances, they can occasionally be malignant (cancerous).
What Causes Breast Cancer? Risk Factors!
We know that breast cancer occurs when cells divide and grow abnormally in breasts. But the precise reason why this process starts in the first place is unknown to experts.
There are, however, a number of risk factors that may increase your risk of developing breast cancer. These comprise:
- Age: The age of 55 or older increases the risk of developing breast cancer.
- Gender: It occurs in both males and females but women are prone to be affected by it.
- Family History: If breast cancer runs in your family, there is a chance of you getting it.
- Smoking: Tobacco usage causes cancers including breast cancer.
- Alcohol: Consuming alcohol increases the chances of having breast cancer.
- Obesity: Obesity is one of the major causes of breast cancer and its recurrence.
- Radiation Exposure: You can have breast cancer if your neck, head, or chest had been exposed to radiation therapy.
- Hormone Replacement Therapy: There is a higher risk of being affected by breast cancer if you have done HRT.
- Personal History of Breast Cancer: Women who have already experienced breast cancer are more likely to develop it again. Atypical hyperplasia and lobular carcinoma in situ are two non-cancerous breast conditions that have been linked to an increased risk of developing breast cancer.
- Diethylstilbestrol (DES) Drug Exposure: Women who used DES or whose mothers used DES while pregnant with them are more likely to develop breast cancer.
- Reproductive History: Women who begin menstruating before age 12 or have menopause after the age of 55 are exposed to hormones for a longer length of time. This increases their risk of breast cancer.
- Physically Not Active: Not engaging in physical healthy activities elevate the risks of breast cancer.
Symptoms of Breast Cancer
Every human body is different and responds differently to illness. That is why some people exhibit no symptoms of breast cancer at all while others show significant signs.
Several breast cancer warning signs include—
- Recent lump in the breast or underarm (armpit).
- A localized area of breast thickening or edema
- Breast skin inflammation or dimpling
- Skin flakiness or redness at the breast or nipple.
- Pulling in of the nipple or nipple-area discomfort
- Nipple discharging blood in addition to milk.
- Any alterations in the size or shape of the breasts.
- Breast pain in any region.
Keep in mind that similar symptoms can also occur in people with diseases that are not cancer.
See your doctor as soon as possible if you experience any troubling signs or symptoms.
Do this to Prevent Breast Cancer
Your risk of developing breast cancer can be affected by a variety of factors across your lifetime. Some variables, such as age or family history, cannot be changed, but you may help minimize your risk of breast cancer by taking care of your health in the following ways—
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Engage in physical activity.
- Choose not to consume alcohol, or drink it in moderation.
- If you are using, or have been prescribed, hormone replacement therapy or oral contraceptives (birth control pills), consult your physician about the risks and if it is suitable for you.
- If at all possible, breastfeed your babies.
- Discuss with your doctor about further measures to reduce your risk if you have a family history of breast cancer or inherited abnormalities in your BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.
Living a healthy lifestyle will reduce your risk of getting cancer and increase your chances of surviving it if it does.
Treatment of Breast Cancer
Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, immunotherapy, and targeted medication therapy are a few of the treatment options available for breast cancer. What is best for you is determined by a variety of criteria such as:
- The tumor’s source and measurements
- The findings of your lab tests
- Whether cancer has spread to other regions of your body or not.
Thus, according to your specific needs, your healthcare practitioner will customize your treatment approach. however, there are three basic treatment approaches. These are as follows:
- Local treatments
- Systematic Treatments
- Common Treatment Approaches
1. Local treatments
Some medical interventions, such as surgery and radiation, are local treatments. What does that mean? It means that they just target the tumor and have no effect on the rest of the body.
The tumor will typically be removed through surgery for the majority of breast cancer patients. Some may require additional treatments in addition to surgery, either before or after surgery, or occasionally both, depending on the kind and stage of your breast cancer.
Breast cancer surgery entails the removal of the tumor itself, as well as a part of surrounding healthy tissue. Depending on the situation, there are many surgical procedures, including:
- Sentinel Node Biopsy
- Axillary Lymph Node Dissection
- Modified Radical Mastectomy
- Radical Mastectomy
Radiation therapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses high-energy rays (or particles) to kill cancer cells. Along with other therapies, some breast cancer patients will also require radiation. The radiation therapy includes:
- External beam radiation therapy
2. Systematic Treatments
Breast cancer drugs are considered systemic therapy because they can reach cancer cells practically anywhere in the body. Some medications can be ingested, intramuscularly injected, or injected straight into the bloodstream.
Different types of medication may be utilized depending on the type of breast cancer, including:
- Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer
- Hormone Therapy for Breast Cancer
- Targeted Drug Therapy for Breast Cancer
- Immunotherapy for Breast Cancer
3. Common Treatment Approaches
The type of breast cancer and its stage is typically used to determine the course of treatment. In addition, other elements are considered, such as your general health, whether you are in menopause and your preferences. This includes:
- Treatment of Breast Cancer by Stage
- Treatment of Triple-negative Breast Cancer
- Treatment of Inflammatory Breast Cancer
- Treating Breast Cancer During Pregnancy
The University of Central Punjab aims to encourage women and men to fight this disease by conducting seminars and workshops and spreading awareness. We offer our sincere support to all fighters of breast cancer in Pakistan and worldwide and want them to know that we stand by them.