Breast cancer is considered as the second leading cause of death in women worldwide and is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women. It is known to claim the lives of hundreds of thousands of women each year. However, with that being said, by early detection and screening as well as raising awareness among individuals, breast cancer can be prevented from taking the lives of many out there.
What is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is the term given to the disease where cancer or malignant cells form in the tissues of the breast. This cancer is exclusive to females and usually, begins in the inner lining of the milk ducts of the breast or the lobules that supply the breast with milk. Breast cancer that starts in the milk ducts is termed ductal carcinoma, while those that began in the lobules are termed lobular carcinoma. Although breast cancer begins in the breast, it can spread to other parts of the body, being termed as a malignant tumor.
Common Symptoms of Breast Cancer
Early symptoms of breast cancer usually include a lump or a thickened area of tissue in a women’s breast. Fortunately, most lumps in the breast are not cancerous but any lump should be investigated by a physician to rule out the possibility of breast cancer. Other common symptoms may include:
- Pain in the breast or armpit region, unrelated to the menstrual period
- Rash around the nipple region
- Pitting or redness of the skin of the breast
- Swelling or lump in the armpit region
- Area of thickened tissue in the breast
- Discharge from the nipples, including any blood
- Change in appearance of the nipple
- Change in shape or size of the breast
- Skin of nipple or breast starts to peel, flake or scale
Risk Factors Associated with Breast Cancer
Studies suggest that there may be no exact cause of breast cancer. However, experts state that several factors may increase the risk of a woman developing breast cancer. These include the following:
Age –a factor that is closely related to breast cancer as studies show that the older a woman gets; the more prone she is to develop breast cancer. Majority of breast cancer cases occur in women over the age of 50 years, after menopause.
Breast Cancer History –Women who have had any sort of breast cancer in the past, even noninvasive cases, are more likely to develop this type of cancer again in comparison to women who have never had any history of the disease.
Genetics –The majority of breast cancer cases are not hereditary. However, with that being said, women who have a relative that has been affected by breast or ovarian cancer have a greater probability of being affected as well. Certain genes have been shown to be related to increased risks of breast cancer. These include BRCA1, BRCA2, and TP53 genes.
Lumps in the Breast –Women who have been diagnosed with benign or non cancerous breast lumps have a greater chance of developing breast cancer later on.
Density of Breast Tissue –Breast cancers tends to occur in those women who possess dense breast tissue
Estrogen Levels –Those women who have been exposed to levels of estrogen for a longer period of time are more likely to develop breast cancer. This includes those women who started their menstrual cycles at an early age or those who entered into the menopause period late.
HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) –HRT can slightly increase the likelihood of a woman to develop breast cancer. Combined HRT brings huge risk as compared to estrogen-only HRT
Exposure to Radiation –Those women who were exposed to radiation on the chest area for a childhood cancer has greater risk of developing breast cancer
Alcohol –Women who consume high amounts of alcohol are at greater risk for breast cancer than those who do not drink alcohol
How can Breast Cancer be Prevented and Treated?
Prevention is always better than cure. Breast cancer can be prevented through various measures. This includes lifestyle modifications and regular checkups including screening and physical examination of the breasts. Prognosis or the outcome of the treatment depends entirely on the stage and grade of the tumor detected. Earlier the diagnosis of breast cancer, better will be the prognosis. Various modes of treatment can be used to eliminate breast cancer. Breast cancer treatment options include:
- Hormone therapy
- Biological or targeted drug therapy
40 % Reduced risk of Breast Cancer through Mediterranean diet
Recently, an extensive study in which scientist monitored more than 60 thousand women for a period of 20 years by keeping an eye on their eating habits and its impact on breast cancer risk levels, brought a breakthrough in breast cancer treatment.
The lead researcher of this extensive study, Professor Piet Van Den Brandt of Maastricht University, Netherlands, revealed how dietary blueprints can affect the breast cancer risk levels. The study is related to the ER-negative breast cancer, a deadliest postmenopausal form of the disease that couldn’t be controlled through hormone therapy.
The study suggests that the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in plants-based food, fruits, vegetables, olive oil, nuts, whole grains, and fish, has immense health benefits for women. This diet can exclusively reduce the risks of oestrogen-receptor-negative (ER-negative) breast cancer in women.
Despite being termed the second most leading cause of death for women worldwide, breast cancer when caught early has a five year survival rate of over 90%. The risk of many cancers including breast cancer can be significantly reduced by living a healthy lifestyle and being aware of early symptoms.