Statistics say that one in eight women develops breast cancer at some point in her life.
Angelina Jolie, one of the most recognized faces in Hollywood, fought against breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy in 2013. Another Hollywood celebrity, Christina Abregale, also underwent a double mastectomy at 36. Celebrities like, Jaclyn Smith, Joan Lunden, etc are also breast cancer survivors.
Know your enemy first: Early breast cancers
Breast cancer occurs when cancerous tumours develop in the tissues of the breast. It can arise from the milk ducts (ductal carcinoma- commonest type) or Lobules (lobular carcinoma). Lobular carcinoma is the premalignant condition.
Breast cells begin to grow abnormally and divide more rapidly than healthy cells do and continue to accumulate, forming a lump or mass. This condition is known as early breast cancer or primary breast cancer. These cells may spread to your lymph nodes or to other parts of your body.
The early breast cancers are found only in the milk lobes or ducts and are known as noninvasive breast cancers.
The primary breast cancers that are not confined to the milk lobes or ducts which have spread to the surrounding normal tissues of the breast are called invasive breast cancer.
Locally advanced breast cancer
Breast cancer that has progressed beyond the breast to the chest wall or the skin of the breast and local lymph nodes or underarms are known as locally advanced breast cancer. Treatment for this type of cancer is a combination of chemotherapy, surgery, hormone therapy or targeted therapy and radiation therapy.
The more aggressive type of locally advanced breast cancer is known as inflammatory breast cancer. The symptoms are swelling and redness of the breast that can be mistaken for breast infection/mastitis if not evaluated properly.
Metastatic breast cancer or Stage 4
The breast cancer that has metastasized to other organs in the body from the breast. This is the advanced breast cancer or stage 4 breast cancer. Timely detection and proper treatment can help a person live longer and slow down the progression of the disease.
With advancements in technology and therapies, things have become much better, where even stage 4 diseases are getting cured and survival rates of patients are high as never before. With expert help, now there is hope amongst patients.
However, in case of extensive spread the survival drops down drastically (from 85-90% in stage 0 & I to 25-40 % in stage 4) and hence it is very important to undergo regular screening for early detection.
Among the phyllodes tumours, only 10 per cent are cancerous. These tumours are generally developed in the connective tissues of the breast, not in the ducts and grow very fast. Symptoms of this type of cancer can mislead to other types of breast cancer. It is important to recognize this tumour as early as possible.
These tumours have an incidence of 1 per 100,000 women and account for only 0.5% of all breast neoplasms.
This is a rare type of cancer involving the skin of the nipple and, usually, the darker circle of skin around it (areola). This is also known as Paget disease of the nipple and mammary Paget disease. Malignant cells known as Paget cells are found beneath the skin of the nipple and areola. This condition is often seen in women older than the age of 50.
Persons with Paget's disease have hidden ductal breast cancer or less commonly, invasive breast cancer. This can in early stages be easily mistaken as eczema if not evaluated properly.
DCIS is a noninvasive type of breast cancer in which abnormal cells are found inside the milk duct in the breast. This is the earliest form of cancer, which must be treated. They can turn into invasive breast cancer and spread to other parts if left untreated. A patient with DCIS is recommended to opt for breast-conserving surgery or if extensive then simple mastectomy.
Studies show that death rates from breast cancer have been declining since 1990, as a result of earlier detection, a better understanding of the disease and a new personalized approach to treatment.
People say that women do not need mammograms until 50 or maybe later, though it is controversial and has to be considered along with a lot of other factors involved that can put women at high risk for this cancer. If you are above 30-35, it is high time to have a breast checkup as the emerging case history is alarming. You should at least get a clinical breast checkup with ultrasound done if you are under the age of 40 and a digital X-Ray beyond the age of 40 years.Authored by Dr. Shabnam Bashir
About Dr. Shabnam Bashir
Dr. Shabnam Bashir has time and again proved her extensive and versatile expertise as a Colorectal Cancer Surgeon. This is validated by the successful cases of patients that she has dealt with.Read More