WHAT EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT BREAST CANCER
Breast cancer occurs when a massive growth of breast cells divide uncontrollably, causing a cancerous tumor. Some warning signs of breast cancer include an inflammation on your breast, experiencing a change in the size of your breast, and changes on the skin of your breasts.
Women are at a higher risk of breast cancer, and it is rare in men. Thankfully, Hong Kong breast cancer screening and mammograms help with the early detection of breast cancer.
Breast cancer in a nutshell
Normally, body cells grow and divide whenever the body needs new ones. But at times, the cells in a specific part of the body, in this case, the breast, can grow and divide out of control. That creates a mass of tissue known as a tumor. If the breast cells growing out of control are not cancerous, the tumor is benign. In contrast, if the cells are abnormal and do not function like the others, the tumor is malignant, hence cancerous.
As the name suggests, breast cancer begins in the breast tissues. It can invade and spread over the surrounding tissues in the breast over time, and it can also get to other parts of the body if not detected early.
Who is susceptible to breast cancer?
Women are the most susceptible to developing breast cancer. Also, the risk increases with age, so 66% of breast cancer patients are women above 55years old. Only 5-10% of breast cancers are caused by genetic predisposal to the disease. In most cases, breast cancer is sporadic, meaning there is no definitive gene mutation.
It is not fully understood what causes breast cancer, but some risk factors put you at a higher risk of developing it. However, having a risk factor doesn’t mean that you will automatically get breast cancer. According to studies, a woman’s genes, age, family history, diet, and personal health history can contribute to the risks of breast cancer.
Some of the risk factors that increase the susceptibility of the disease include:
- Family history.
- Being a woman.
- Reproductive factors such as having no children or having your first child at 30.
- Breast density.
- Exposure to radiation around the chest area.
- Having been diagnosed with breast cancer before.
- Alcohol consumption.
- Being overweight.
- Using hormone-based prescriptions such as birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy.
- Breast implants.
- Choosing not to breastfeed.
Ideally, you should focus on controlling the controllable risk factors of breast cancer, such as alcohol, weight, and breastfeeding. You should also monitor the uncontrollable ones such as age and family history through regular Hong Kong breast cancer screening to catch any signs of the disease early when it is treatable.
Warning signs of breast cancer
- A lump or inflammation o your breast.
- Changing of the look or feel of the skin on your breast.
- Redness of the nipple or skin on the breast.
- A clear fluid or blood-stained discharge from the nipple.
- A change in size, contour, and shape of the breast.
- A lump near the breast or underarm that persists throughout the menstrual cycle.
- A part that is distinct from the other areas on the breast.
- A marble-like hardened part on the breast.
The best way to catch these signs early is to perform a breast self-examination test. Performing breast self-exams enables you to familiarize yourself with regular monthly changes of your breasts so that you detect any abnormal change. You should also perform the breast self-exam at the same time each month, ideally three to five days after your periods. Other than that, you should also undergo regular breast cancer screening, especially as you get older. Although no one anticipates a breast cancer diagnosis, medical support and financial support such as the Hong Kong cancer fund can help you access treatment and improve the quality of your life.
Does having a benign breast condition increase your susceptibility?
Having a benign breast condition doesn’t mean you have a higher risk of developing breast cancer. Although some women have excessive cell growth, a condition known as hyperplasia, it only increases the risk slightly. However, when a biopsy shows hyperplasia and some abnormal cells, that increases the risk more.
Types of breast cancer
Invasive ductal carcinoma- it begins in the breast’s milk ducts, breaks through the wall of the ducts, and invades the surrounding breast tissues. It is a common breast cancer type accounting for 80% of breast cancer cases.
Ductal carcinoma in situ is precancerous in its earliest stage. In situ means that cancer has not yet spread beyond its initial point. Therefore the tumor has only occurred in the milk ducts but has not spread to other breast tissues. But when not detected, this type of cancer can become invasive.
Invasive lobular carcinoma begins in the breast’s lobules, where breast milk comes from. However, it has spread to other parts of the breast tissue. Invasive lobular carcinoma is hard to diagnose with mammograms, and it accounts for around 15% of all breast cancer cases.
Lobular carcinoma in situ– this indicates that the cancer is only in the lobules of the breast. Typically, it is not true cancer, but it is a marker for higher risk of developing breast cancer in both breasts later in life. If diagnosed with lobular carcinoma in situ, you should undergo regular breast cancer screenings and mammograms to catch any signs early.
What is the difference between invasive and noninvasive breast cancer?
Invasive breast cancer is when the cancerous cells spread beyond the lobules or ducts, and they infiltrate the surrounding breast tissue and then spread to the lymph nodes. In contrast, noninvasive breast cancer means that the cancerous cells are confined to the ducts or lobules. In simple words, the cells are dividing abnormally but within the ducts.
Breast cancer occurs when cells divide abnormally in the breast tissues, and there are different types of breast cancer divided under invasive and noninvasive categories. Ideally, you should perform self-breast test exams every month and screening to detect any signs of breast cancer early when it is treatable.