What is breast cancer?
As the name implies, breast cancer is a type of cancer that develops from breast cells. Breast cancer can occur in both men and women; however, it is most common in women. Breast cancer is a result of uncontrolled growth of cells in the breast tissue.
What are the symptoms of breast cancer?
In the first stages of breast cancer, symptoms rarely occur. In the beginning, the lump will most likely be too small to be noticeable and to cause noticeable changes. However, in some cases, it is possible to feel. The lump is generally painless and hard with uneven edges, but sometimes it is round and soft.
Be aware of:
- Small, noticeable lumps in the breast
- A pain in the breast
- Redness, pitting or flaking of the nipple or the skin of the breast
- Nipple discharge
- A lump in the armpit
Consider consulting your GP if you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above. The symptoms may however also be due to benign conditions like infections or cysts.
What are the causes of breast cancer?
Cell division is regulated by several factors, which affect the genes in the cell nucleus. Usually the cells replace each other in a balanced way; one cell divides while another dies. However, changes in the cell’s genetic material might occur, and this can result in uncontrolled cell division, creating a tumour (lump). These genetic changes are called mutations. A tumour is “harmless” or benign, when it doesn’t invade surrounding tissue, when it is similar to normal tissue, and when it grows slowly. As opposed to this, the dangerous tumours are known as malignant tumours. These tumours grow much faster and they can invade surrounding tissue and spread to other parts of the body. Cancer only involves malignant tumours.
Breast cancer often forms in the milk ducts or the lobules that supply them with milk. In more rare cases, it forms in the fat tissue or connecting tissue of the breast.
The mutation which may cause the development of a malignant breast tumour can be inherited form a parent, but this is rare: only 5-10 % of the cases result from genetics. More often, the mutation will be a result of aging cells.
How can I lower my risk of getting breast cancer?
It is recommended to keep the body healthy and in good shape to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. This includes eating a varied diet, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly as well as avoiding alcohol and smoking. These guidelines are no guarantee, but they have been associated with a lower risk of developing breast cancer.
How can breast cancer be treated?
The type of treatment depends on the particular case. Some tumours are treated with radiation, whereas others can be removed surgically. Chemotherapy is often used, but not all cases require chemotherapy. Mammograms can be used to reveal early stages of breast cancer, and the prognosis is improved when the treatment is initiated in the early stages and the tumour is prevented from spreading to other parts of the body.