Breast Cancer: Symptoms, Causes and Risk Factors
Breast cancer, cancer that forms in the cells of the breasts, is the most common type of cancer in Indian women. Though both men and women can suffer from this type of cancer, it is far more common in women. In India, breast cancer accounts for 25% to 31% of all cancers in women.
It is hence recommended that all women perform monthly breast self-exams as the initial symptoms of breast cancer are not very noticeable. These self-exams help identify changes in the breasts, if any, and give you ample time to consult your doctor. Remmeber, discovering an abnormality too late can be fatal.
Symptoms of Breast Cancer:
- A breast lump that feels different from the surrounding tissue
- Change in the breast or nipple appearance.
- Any nipple discharge—particularly clear discharge or bloody discharge
- Changes to the skin over the breast, such as dimpling
- Redness of skin over the breast
Causes and Risk factors:
- Age: The average age for cancer patients in India is around 20-30 years, which is 10 years less when compared to developed countries.
- Family History: If there has been a history of breast cancer in the family, then later generations are at risk of the disease. About 5-10 percent of all breast cancer cases are hereditary, especially from parents with a mutated gene.
- Late Menopause: Menopause after the age of 45 increases the risk of cancer.
- Early Menstruation: Your age at your first menstrual period may be linked to lifetime risk of developing breast cancer.
- Delayed or No Pregnancy: A woman who gives birth has a 30 percent less chance of getting breast cancer as compared to a woman who has never conceived.
- Obesity: Being overweight or obese can increase the risk of breast cancer in women who have gone through menopause.
- Breastfeeding: Breastfeeding decreases the risk of breast cancer by 4%.
- Birth Control Pills: Using birth control pills for a long time can expose women to the risk of breast cancer.
- Breast Tissue Composition: Breast density, to some extent, contributes to the overall risk of developing breast cancer.
- Hormone replacement therapy: Hormone therapy is required by certain women to relieve a few symptoms of menopause. Women who take combined hormone therapy increase their risk for breast cancer.
General types of treatment for breast cancer are:
- Radiation therapy
- Hormone therapy
- Targeted therapy
- Bone-directed therapy
Surgery and radiation, also called local therapies, specifically treat a tumor without affecting the rest of the body. Sometimes, patients are given chemotherapy or hormone therapy, before surgery, to reduce the size of the tumor. This is called Neoadjuvant therapy. Some patients may be given an additional treatment, adjuvant therapy, to keep the cancer from coming back.
The only cure to breast cancer is awareness. Early detection of the the disease is the only way fatality can be avoided. Regular check-ups can ensure you stay fit and healthy.