Breast cancer is a disease caused by the abnormal multiplication of breast cells, in turning them into a tumor. However, it is important to note that not every tumor is malignant, or in other words, not every nodule found is cancerous.
Normally breast cancer may be felt as a lump, with or without pain. The skin on the breast may turn reddish and/or appear like an “orange skin” with little indentations. There may also be alterations on the nipple itself. The under arm region, the “arm pit” must also be examined because cancer may also be present in auxiliary lymph nodes. However, due to the fact that these physical alterations may not necessarily mean a breast cancer presence, it is important to see a doctor and have a mammogram for its proper diagnosis.
Firstly through clinical consultations, where qualified physicians and nurses examine the breasts searching for abnormalities and other alterations as seen through mammograms.
A mammogram is a radiology exam where the breast tissue is compressed and even small alterations can be examined. Mammography is considered the best tool for detecting breast cancer because it allows for b.c. early detection and diagnosis. In cases where the tumors found are small (smaller than 1 cm), and therefore imperceptible to touch, the chances for cure can reach 95%.
A self-exam is also important because a woman must know her body, the breasts in particular, and to recognize its changes or alterations. We emphasize that this does not, however, substitute a medical exam as performed by a health professional or a clinical mammography.
No, there are many manifestations of the disease and to understand its manifestations we must understand the structure of the breasts.
The breasts are glandular structures formed by lobes, formed by smaller structures called lobes and mammary ducts. The most common type is duct carcinoma, as it originates in the mammary ducts. This type of cancer may be “in situ” when it is present only in the duct cells, or “invasive” if it is also present in adjacent tissue. Lobular carcinoma is the least common manifestation of the disease and can be considered either in situ or invasive.
“In situ” carcinoma is the earliest manifestations of the disease. If left untreated or undetected, they can evolve into an “invasive” category and spread into other regions of the breasts and from there on to other regions of the body.
Knowledge of breast cancer types is fundamental to determine types of treatment. It is important to know if it is sensitive to hormonal therapy. Another important factor is the HER-2 receptor, which is a protein present in 25% of breast cancers. These are more aggressive and must be treated with specific drugs.
To know the risk factors involved in the development of breast cancer and to have annual medical examinations are the best tools for preventing it. Risk factors can be classified as “Modifiable” and “non-modifiable”.
Nom modifiable risk factors are the elements in a women’s life upon which she cannot affect change such as age, onset of menstruation, late menopause, pregnancies and first gestation after the age of 30, and family history.
Family history is very important but it must be noted that it accounts for 10% of cases. The women who should pay particular attention to family history are the ones with first-degree blood relatives (mother or sister) who had breast cancer before the age of 50. We recommend to women in this category to begin clinical evaluations earlier and with greater frequency.
Modifiable factors are the ones upon which women can effectively exert changes such as tobacco smoking, alcohol consumption, weight gain and obesity, and a diet rich in fat and in red meat. We recommend that the best way to prevent is to maintain a healthy lifestyle, eat a balanced diet and exercise regular regularly. It is also important to note that weight gain control after menopause and breastfeeding also contribute to breast cancer prevention. Women considering hormonal replacement therapy should do it with caution and to seriously discuss it with their doctors to evaluate the risks involved.
The types of treatment depend on factors such as the stage of the tumor, and presence of HER-2 hormone receptors. Below are some types of treatment:
Radiotherapy: it consists in an emission of radiation over breast tissue, destroying cancerous cells.
Chemotherapy: cancer killing medication applied intravenously. This form of treatment has severe side effects such as nausea and hair loss. With the advancement of medical treatments, chemotherapy has become less aggressive, therefore reducing collateral side effects.
Surgery: surgical removal of breast tissue, conservative (sector mastectomy) or aggressive (radical mastectomy). The earliest the detection the lesser is the need for radical mastectomy and greater the chances of success for conservative mastectomy.
Hormone therapy: medication is given with the purpose of diminishing the activity of hormones that affect the tumor’s growth. It is indicated only in cases where the tumor is positive for hormonal receptors.
Molecular therapy: HER-2 positive specific treatment.
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