Cancer takes place when there are changes or mutations in the genes, and these changes trigger cell growth. The mutations allow cells to divide and multiply in an uncontrolled manner. Breast cancer develops when the mutation takes place in the lobules or the ducts; lobules are the milk-producing glands and the ducts are the pathways that provide the milk from the nipple. Cancer will also occur in the fibrous connective tissues in the breast. If the breast cancer symptoms are not detected in the early stages then it can spread to healthy tissues or fibrous connective tissues in the breast. The cancer spreads through lymph nodes, which happen to be the primary pathway for the disease.
Breast cancer treatment is done in the Oncology department, this is where various medical professionals and specialists work together to create a treatment plan that tackles the various breast cancer stages. The surgeons and specialists work together to bring the disease into remission and prevent it from spreading any further.
Breast cancer prevention:
While there may be many risk factors that you won’t be able to control, you can follow a healthy lifestyle that includes wholesome nutritious food, avoid alcohol and cigarettes, and have a consistent workout regime.
Go for regular mammogram screenings, this is useful because breast cancer can go undetected in the initial stages. Mammograms help reduce the chances that it will go undetected.
Some women have an increased risk of developing breast cancer because of genetic factors. For example, if your mother or father ever had the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation then you have a high risk of breast cancer. If you’re at risk of the gene mutation, then talk to your doctor about preventive measures and diagnostic measures; the preventive steps will include prophylactic mastectomy.
Breast cancer symptoms:
Breast cancer does not have many symptoms in the early stages. In most cases, the tumor may be too small to be felt, but if there are any abnormalities they will be detected through a mammogram process. If a tumor is evident, then the first sign is usually a lump in the breast that can be felt and was not there in the past. Some of the common signs of breast cancer include:
- A breast lump has developed and thickened, and it feels different than the surrounding tissue. Breast pain
- Pitted and inflamed skin over the entire breast region
- Inflammation in parts of your breasts
- Unusual nipple discharge, other than breast milk
- Bloody discharge from your nipple
- Flaky, peeling, or scaly skin on your nipple
- A sudden change in the size of your breast
- An inverted nipple
- A difference in the appearance of the skin on your breast
- A lump under your arm
Now, it’s important to understand that if you have any of these signs it doesn’t mean that you necessarily have breast cancer. Sometimes the lump can be a benign cyst. However, if you ever find a lump visit an oncologist immediately to get a proper diagnosis.
Breast cancer stages:
Breast cancer can be divided into stages that are based on the size of the tumor and the rate at which it spreads in the body. Cancers that are large and have spread to most parts of the body will be classified in higher stages; to decide on the breast cancer stage, the oncologists and other medical professionals will have to know about-
- Whether the cancer is invasive or non-invasive The size of the tumor
- If the lymph nodes are being used as pathways
- If the cancer has spread to nearby organs or tissues
There are five breast cancer stages- from 0 to 5:
This stage is where the cancer cells remain in the breast ducts and they have not yet spread to the surrounding tissue. The stage is also known as DCIS.
- 1A signifies that the primary tumor is two centimeters large and the lymph nodes are not used yet.
- 1B is when the cancer is found in the lymph nodes, and the tumor is smaller than 2 cm.
- 2A stage cancer is when the tumor is smaller than two centimeters and has effectively spread to 1/3rd of the surrounding lymph nodes, or it can be two to five centimeters and it hasn’t spread to any of the lymph nodes.
- 2B stage is when the tumor is between 2 to 5 centimeters and it has spread to 1/3rd lymph nodes in the armpits.
- 3A is when cancer has spread to most of the lymph nodes and the tumor is large enough to be felt as a lump in any of the breastbone nodes.
- 3B is when the tumor has entered the chest wall and more than 9 lymph nodes.
- 3C is when cancer has spread in ten or more axillary lymph nodes near the collarbone or internal mammary nodes.
This stage includes a tumor of any size, and the cancer cells will spread to almost all the lymph nodes surrounding and distant, along with distant organs as well.
The tests that your oncologists perform will help them determine which stage you are at, and the treatment plan that will work the best for you. When planning for breast cancer treatment, ensure that you take treatment from the best breast cancer hospital in India because it will have state of the art facilities and skilled medical professionals as well.
Why choose Narayana Health for Breast Cancer treatment?
Breast cancer units at NH, has teams of oncoplastic surgeons, radiation oncologists, pain and palliative care specialists who work together to ensure high success rates in microvascular reconstruction of breasts using tissues from the stomach.
Breast cancer diagnosis:
To define your symptoms that are caused by a breast tumor or a benign breast condition, your oncologist will perform a physical exam that will be quite thorough, along with a breast exam. They may request more than one diagnostic test to understand the cause behind your symptoms.
The following tests will help with a breast cancer diagnosis:
Mammogram- This imaging test is the most common way to see below the surface of the breast. Most women between the ages of forty and sixty tend to get an annual mammogram done to check for any signs of breast cancer. If your oncologist starts suspecting the presence of a tumor, they will request for additional tests to be done.
Ultrasound- This ultrasound uses sound waves to create an image of your breast tissue, which will help the oncologist determine if the mass is a tumor or a cyst.
Some other tests that are recommended by doctors include an MRI or a breast biopsy.
Breast cancer treatment:
The breast cancer stage, how much it has spread, and the size of the tumor, play a huge part in deciding a suitable treatment plan. Firstly, the doctor will determine the details of your cancer which includes the size, stage, and grade of the cyst. Once the details are revealed, they will discuss suitable treatment options; usually, surgery is the best treatment for breast cancer. Most women take part in additional treatment like chemotherapy, radiation, targeted therapy, or hormone therapy.
Here are some of the common surgery options in breast cancer treatments:
Lumpectomy- This process involves extracting the tumor and the infected surrounding tissues, it leaves the rest of the breast intact
Mastectomy- This procedure is about removing the entire breast, in a double mastectomy both the breasts are removed
Sentinel node biopsy- This includes removing a few lymph nodes that are affected by the tumor and they are tested for cancerous cells. If you don’t have cancer then more lymph nodes are not extracted.
Axillary lymph node dissection- If the lymph nodes extracted during the Sentinel node biopsy are tested positive for cancer, then the oncologist will have to remove more lymph nodes.
Contralateral prophylactic mastectomy- This process involves removing the healthy breast to prevent the spread of cancer.
- Radiation therapy:
Radiation therapy is when high powered beams are used to target and kill off cancer cells that cause the breast tumor. Most treatments will use external beam radiation, which makes use of a large technique on the outside of the body. Recent advances in cancer treatments have allowed doctors to use radiation to eradicate cancer from within the body, this form of radiation is called brachytherapy. To conduct this, surgeons will place radioactive pellets inside the body, near the tumor site, and it will stay there for a short period and keep working on destroying the cells.
- Hormone therapy:
If your breast cancer is sensitive to hormones then the oncologist will suggest hormone therapy. Two of the primary female hormones, estrogen and progesterone, stimulate the growth of breast cancer tumors. Hormone therapy works in a way that blocks the body’s production of said hormones and slows down, or stops, the growth of cancer.
Certain medications are designed to attack abnormalities or mutations within cancer cells. For instance, Herceptin is used to block the body’s production of the HER2 protein, this protein helps the breast cancer cells grow and taking the medication will slow the production of HER2 and help slow the cancer growth as well.
Ensure that you visit the best breast cancer hospital in India so that you receive treatment from experienced oncologists.
Breast Cancer FAQ's
- Lump in your breast after periods
- Alteration in the shape and size of your breast
- Discharge from the nipple
- Peeling and flaking of skin on your nipple or breast
- Breast pain
In Stage I breast cancer the cancer cells spread past the initial site to surrounding areas
In Stage II breast cancer also known as invasive breast cancer, cancer spreads to the lymph nodes.
In Stage III breast cancer, cancer spreads to axillary lymph nodes.
Stage IV breast cancer is also known as metastatic breast cancer. During this stage, cancer spreads to even distant parts of the body.
- Ductal carcinoma in situ
- Lobular carcinoma in situ
- Invasive ductal carcinoma
- Invasive lobular carcinoma
- Paget disease of the nipple
- Phyllodes tumor
Other factors that increase the risk of breast cancer are
- Increasing age
- Radiation exposure
- Late pregnancy
- Surgery: This can include removing either or both the breasts or removing the lymph nodes.
- Radiation therapy: In this treatment cancer cells are killed with the help of high-energy waves.
- Chemotherapy: Chemo is mostly done post-surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells that can further spread throughout the body.
- Hormone therapy: Hormone therapy blocks the hormones that can sometimes increase the growth of cancer cells.
- Targeted therapy drugs: This treatment aims at cancer cells with irregularities.
- Immunotherapy: The treatment interferes with the immune system of your body to fight cancer.
Stage 1 cancer, also known as Carcinoma in situ, is 100% curable as it is the earliest stage of breast cancer. The tumors are small and the spread through lymph nodes is microscopic.