When it comes to one’s health and the various illnesses that can impact it, few things are as frightening as the word cancer. Cancer has long been a major killer, and while modern medicine is making gradual steps to overcome it, it’s still a major problem. Breast cancer in particular is of special concern due to its dangers and the fact that it is one of the most common types of cancer out there. As such, taking a closer look at it is something that is very important.
About Breast Cancer
Essentially, breast cancer is simply a type of cancer that forms in the breast tissue. It can afflict men as well as women, but it’s much rarer for men to develop the disease. As with most other types of cancer, early detection is important since it will help catch the cancer before it spreads to other parts of the body that can prove fatal. Some stats help highlight just how pervasive and dangerous breast cancer can be.
- 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer at some point in her life
- 1 in 1,000 men will develop breast cancer
- Around 232,670 cases of invasive breast cancer – the more dangerous type – occurred in 2014 in women
- Breast cancer has the highest rate of death other than lung cancer among women
- Breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer women develop, right after skin cancer
- 40,000 women are estimated to have died from breast cancer in 2014
- About 30% of cancer diagnoses in women are breast cancer
- As of 2014, more than 2.8 million women in the US had a history of breast cancer
Obviously, this is a dangerous disease and one that any woman – and man – needs to take very seriously.
Types of Breast Cancer
As with other types of cancer, there are several types of breast cancer out there. Here are some of the main types to be concerned about.
Ductal Carcinoma in Situ – Also referred to as DCIS, this is a type of cancer that affects the cells lining the ducts inside the breast. It’s usually a non-invasive or pre-invasive type of cancer, which means that it may or may not begin to spread throughout the breast and the body.
Invasive Ductal Carcinoma – This type of breast cancer is the most common, and it makes up 80% of breast cancer diagnoses. It begins as a cancerous growth in the milk duct. It then moves through the wall of the duct and into the fatty tissue within the breast itself. The greater danger comes if the carcinoma spreads to other parts of the body through the bloodstream or the lymphatic system.
Invasive Lobular Carcinoma– This cancer begins in the glands that produce milk, and is fairly rare. It makes up around 1 out of 10 breast cancers, and it can be very dangerous as well if it manages to spread to other parts of the body.
Inflammatory Breast Cancer – This is much rarer, accounting for only about 1 to 3 percent of breast cancers, but it can be serious. This cancer causes the skin on the breast to become inflamed, to redden, and to feel warm. It can also trigger an appearance that resembles the pitted surface of an orange. It is often misdiagnosed initially due to its similarity in appearance to an infection, but it is indeed a type of cancer that needs to be treated.
Paget Disease of the Nipple – This is another rare type of breast cancer that makes up around 1% of all breast cancers. It begins in the breast ducts but then spreads to the skin of the nipple and the areola instead of moving into the fatty tissues. This can cause the nipple area to develop a crusty, scaly appearance and even lead to bleeding and oozing.
These are just a few of the more common types of cancers affecting the breast. Many others exist, and though they are rare they are no less dangerous to your health.
Diagnosis of Breast Cancer
Early detection has always been the key to fighting breast cancer successfully, and while recent debates have arisen about the effectiveness of mammograms most experts still recommend that women receive regular ones once they reach the age of 40. However, younger women are advised to begin a self-exam at the age of 20, and at that point health care professionals will begin to conduct the exams as part of a checkup.
These self-exams focus on checking the breast for lumps that aren’t normal parts of the breast, and if they’re identified then the next step is to schedule an appointment with a doctor to take the next steps and determine exactly what – if any – type of cancer is present. This will usually be done with a mammogram and a biopsy, which will give the medical professional a clear picture of what you are dealing with.
Treatment of Breast Cancer
Luckily, over the last several years breast cancer treatments have become more effective and there are currently more than 2 million breast cancer survivors in the country. There are a few main types of treatments that might be used to treat cancer. These include:
- Radiation therapy
- Surgery, which will be either a mastectomy or a lumpectomy
- Hormone therapy
- Biological therapy
It’s important to understand that no two cases are identical and there is a strong likelihood that more than one of the options above will be used in the treatment of breast cancer. Most commonly, surgery and radiation therapy will accompany one another though it’s possible that additional treatments will be used as well.
Breast cancer is far from being an automatic death sentence thanks to today’s modern medical procedures and treatments. However, early detection is an important part of being sure that you are able to spot the cancer before it moves to other parts of the body. Knowing more about what to expect is important, and remembering the points above should help you if you think that you might be dealing with breast cancer of any type.