Breast cancer is cancer that forms in the cells of the breast tissues.
Breast cancer can occur in both men and women, although it is far more prevalent in women.
Types of Breast Cancer
There are various types of breast cancer, being the most prevalent is Invasive Ductal carcinoma (IDC) and Invasive Lobular Carcinoma (ILC). When cancer has an inflammatory component it is called an Inflammatory Breast cancer.
A lump is the most recognized sign of breast cancer. Others might include a change in the shape or size of the breast, dimples that look like orange peel, scaly, red, or swollen skin. Signs can also occur on the nipple, like a nipple turned inward, or changes to the areola.
Breast Cancer Diagnosis
To diagnose breast cancer, patients usually undergo a series of tests and procedures:
Clinical breast exam (CBE)-The doctor checks both breasts and also the lymph nodes in the armpit, for any lumps or irregularities.
Mammogram-an x-ray of the breast. Although usually used for screening, a doctor can recommend it as a diagnostic tool to evaluate abnormalities.
Breast ultrasound- to examine whether a lump is a solid mass or a cyst filled with fluid.
- MRI- makes detailed images of both breasts.
- Biopsy- the surgeon performs a biopsy, and the pathologist checks the tissue sample for cancerous cells. The pathologist generates a report detailing the type of cells in the tumor and the cancer aggressiveness. Special lab tests might also specify whether the tumor cells have specific receptors such as those containing estrogen, progesterone or HER2.
About 5- 10 percent of breast cancers are associated with gene mutations. Researchers have identified several inherited mutations. The most recognized are BRCA1 and BRCA2. Women and men who have mutated genes have an increased risk of breast cancer. Women might have an increased risk of ovarian cancer, as well. If necessary, your Dr will recommend that you undergo these tests.
A breast tumor can spread locally within the breast, regionally to nearby lymph nodes, and systemically to other organs. Common spreading might occur to the bones, lungs, brain, or liver. To learn whether cancer has spread, the doctor might recommend specific imaging tests. They may include a CT, MRI, bone scan, or chest X-ray, or a PET CT scan.
Breast Cancer Treatment
Most women diagnosed with breast cancer will need to undergo surgery (lumpectomy or mastectomy). Some might need to receive chemotherapy before surgery and others after it. Additional treatments after surgery include hormone therapy and radiation.
Other treatment options for breast cancer include chemotherapy or radiation therapy. For breast cancers that are sensitive to hormones (ER and/or PR positive), hormone-blocking treatment is a viable option. Targeted therapy drugs attack particular abnormalities within cancer cells. For example, they can target cells that are HER2 positive. For some patients with advanced or metastatic triple-negative breast cancer, there is also the option of clinical trials with newer drugs such as immunotherapy.
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