Breast Cancer

Breast cancer

What is breast cancer?

    Breast cancer, a condition where abnormal cells develop in the breast tissue, ranks second in cancer diagnoses among women in the United States, following skin cancer. While breast cancer can affect both genders, it predominantly occurs in women.

    Thanks to significant support for breast cancer awareness and research, there have been remarkable strides in diagnosis and treatment. Enhanced survival rates and a decreasing mortality rate reflect advancements such as early detection methods, personalized treatment approaches, and deeper insights into the disease.

What are the causes of breast cancer?

    Medical experts understand that breast cancer arises when normal breast cells undergo genetic mutations, transforming into cancerous cells that multiply uncontrollably, forming tumours. While the exact triggers for these mutations remain unclear, research has identified several risk factors associated with an increased likelihood of developing breast cancer:

    1. Age: Individuals aged 55 or older are at higher risk.

    2. Gender: Women and individuals assigned female at birth (AFAB) have a significantly higher risk compared to men and individuals assigned male at birth (AMAB).

    3. Family History: A family history of breast cancer among parents, siblings, children, or other close relatives elevates one's risk.

    4. Genetics: Up to 15% of breast cancer cases are attributed to inherited genetic mutations, notably in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.

    5. Smoking: Tobacco use has been linked to various cancers, including breast cancer.

    6. Alcohol Consumption: Evidence suggests that consuming alcoholic beverages may increase the risk of breast cancer.

    7. Obesity: Being overweight or obese is associated with a higher risk.

    8. Radiation Exposure: Previous radiation therapy, particularly to the head, neck, or chest, raises the likelihood of developing breast cancer.

    9. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): Individuals undergoing hormone replacement therapy face an elevated risk of breast cancer diagnosis.

Risk factors of breast cancer

  • Age: Women aged 50 and older have a higher likelihood of developing breast cancer compared to younger women.
  • Race: Black women face a higher risk of premenopausal breast cancer compared to White women.
  • Breast Density: Dense breasts, with more connective tissue than fatty tissue, may obscure tumours on mammograms.
  • Personal Cancer History: Previous benign breast conditions slightly increase the risk, while a history of breast cancer significantly raises it.
  • Family History: Having a first-degree female relative with breast cancer doubles your risk, with a threefold increase if multiple relatives are affected, especially before menopause or in both breasts. A family history of breast cancer in men also heightens risk.
  • Genetic Mutations: BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations, found in 1 in 200 women, substantially elevate breast cancer risk, along with increased risks of ovarian, pancreatic, and male breast cancers. Other gene mutations like PTEN, ATM, TP53, CHEK2, CDH1, STK11, and PALB2 also increase risk, albeit to a lesser extent.
  • Menstrual History: Early onset of menstruation (before age 12) and late menopause (after age 55) are associated with higher breast cancer risks.
  • Radiation Exposure: Prior radiation therapy for conditions such as Hodgkin's lymphoma before age 40 increases the risk.
  • Diethylstilbesterol (DES): Maternal use of DES during pregnancy between 1940 and 1971 heightens offspring's breast cancer risk.

Symptoms of breast cancer

    The initial sign of breast cancer typically manifests as a lump beneath or near the breast, which may or may not be perceptible upon touch. This lump is often detected during a mammogram conducted by a healthcare professional. Additionally, symptoms may not be evident during the early stages of the disease.

    Common symptoms of breast cancer encompass:

  • A persistent lump or thickened region in or around the breast or underarm, which persists beyond the menstrual cycle
  • The presence of a mass or lump, irrespective of its size, even if as small as a pea
  • Alterations in the size, shape, or contour of the breast
  • Discharge from the nipple, which may be bloody or clear
  • Changes in the skin texture of the breast or nipple, including dimpling, puckering, scaliness, or inflammation
  • Redness of the skin on the breast or nipple
  • Changes in the position or shape of the nipple
  • An area that deviates from the appearance of surrounding breast tissue
  • A firm, marble-sized area beneath the skin

When to talk to your doctor

    If you notice a lump or any other alteration in your breast, it's crucial to schedule an appointment with your doctor promptly, regardless of whether you recently had a normal mammogram. Early evaluation and assessment are essential for timely diagnosis and appropriate management.

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