Diseases Diseases

Breast Cancer - Most Common Diseases That Affect Women

Breast Cancer has become one of the major diseases affecting women throughout the globe. If diagnosed at an early stage the chances of survival is relatively high compared to other types of cancer

What is Breast Cancer

It is a type of cancer which is found in the breast tissue specifically from the inner lining of the milk ducts or the lobules of the breast.

What are the causes of breast cancer

The cause of breast cancer is Idiopathic in origin although studies have found that the disease is more common in women who has a family history of breast cancer, have been exposed to low level ionizing radiation, have long menses, are taking contraceptive pills or antihypertensive medications, were pregnant before age 20, have had endometrial or ovarian cancer, and women who are on a high fat diet and obese.

What is the Pathophysiology of Breast Cancer

The chances of survival of patients who are diagnosed with breast cancer highly depend on the tumor size and extent of lymph node involvement. Breast cancer is more common in the left breast than in the right breast and they are typically found in the upper outer quadrant. It takes about 8 years for 1 cm mass to become palpable at 2 cm in size and the tumor spreads via the lymphatic system and the bloodstream, through the right side of the heart to the lungs and eventually to the other breast, brain, liver, chest wall and bone thus referring it as metastatic breast cancer it means that the cancer cells have spread and affected the other parts of the body.

What are the signs of Breast Cancer

  • A palpable mass or lump in the breast
  • Unusual discharge in the breast
  • A change in the breast skin such as ulceration, dimpling, thickening and scaly skin around the nipple
  • Change in the symmetry of the normal size of the breast
  • A change in the breast temperature (warm breasts may indicate the presence of breast cancer in non breastfeeding women past their childbearing age.)
  • Pathologic bone fracture and Bone Metastasis
  • Swelling of the arm

How is the Breast Cancer diagnosed

Breast self examination can detect palpable lumps in the breast. This should be done for women who are at higher risks of acquiring the disease.

Mammography and Biopsies are another method used in diagnosing the cancer. Mammography is done for women who have questionable physical exam meaning their physical tests suggested that they have a breast cancer. A mammography is usually done for women ages 35 to 39 years old and patients who are below the age range can yield false negative results. Women who are above 50 years old are advised to take the test annually.

How is it treated

Treatment for Breast Cancer includes surgery, chemotherapy and radiation depending on the tumor size and the extent of involvement.

Surgery is the number one treatment of choice for patients who are diagnosed with the disease. Lumpectomy or Mastectomy is done for women having breast cancer. Lumpectomy is simply the removal of the lump or tumor in the breast while Mastectomy is the removal of the breast. There are different types of mastectomy: Simple, Modified and Radial Mastectomy. Simple Mastectomy is the removal of the breast alone while Modified Mastectomy calls for removal of the breast and the axillary lymph nodes. Radical Mastectomy is the removal of the breast, axillary lymph nodes plus the pectoralis muscles. A reconstructive surgery is usually followed after the procedure to improve a woman’s self esteem.

Chemotherapy and Radiation

 Chemotherapy works by killing the rapidly diving cells which improve the survival rate by 10%. Radiation is done after lumpectomy to make sure the cancerous cells are totally eliminated. Radiation therapy is also effective for small tumors in the early stages which have no evidence of distant metastasis.

Tips and comments:

Breast cancer is one of the most common yet preventable types of cancer when diagnosed at an early stage. Proper awareness and strict compliance with the medical management is to increase the chances of survival rates in women. 

By stephanie ann zambrano, published at 07/10/2011
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