Breast cancer has become a deadly disease affecting women all over the world and is the most frequently diagnosed cancer among women in the United States. Alarming statistics from breastcancer.org shows that about 40,610 women in the U.S are expected to die from this disease in 2017. Men are also at risk, with a reported 2,470 new diagnostic cases expected in 2017.
What is breast cancer?
Cancer in itself is a broad term which refers to a group of diseases where abnormal cells start to grow uncontrollably and form lumps known as tumors. As it relates to breast cancer, these tumors begin to form in the breast. In some cases, these cancer cells can even make their way into the lymph nodes. lymph filters out waste from the body, so they have a pathway into other sections of your body. If these cancerous cells start to invade the lymph nodes then chances are they may spread to other body parts as well.
What are the causes?
The National Breast Cancer Foundation explains that it is hard to trace the exact cause of this disease. However, there are some genetic factors, as well as environmental factors that are linked to this type of cancer. It is important to note that deodorants, caffeine, mammograms, cellphones, microwave, and implants do not cause this type of cancer, information stating otherwise are simply myths. You should also know that it is not contagious —you cannot contract it from someone with the disease.
What are the signs?
In most cases, the symptoms of this disease include lumps in the breast, pain in the breast or nipple, nipple discharge, nipple retraction ( nipple turns inward), or swelling of the breast.
What are the risk factors?
First, it is more prevalent in females—matter of fact it is almost 100 times more common in women than men. Family history also plays a major role; if a family member had the disease it increases your chances. It is more common in women over age 55, affecting two out of three women in this age group. The cancer foundation also purports that race plays a role as well, as this disease affects Caucasian women more than any other race. Some environmental risk factors include improper diet, lack of physical activity, frequent alcohol consumption, birth control, radiation therapy (especially before the age of 30), obesity, and combined hormone replacement therapy (often prescribed for women going through menopause).
What are the stages?
It is ranked from stage 0 to stage IV, with stage 0 being the least aggressive (non-invasive), while stage IV means the cancer is in the most advanced stage. These stages are determined by certain characteristics. These characteristics include the tumor size, the type of cancer (invasive or non-invasive), whether the cancer has invaded the lymph nodes, and whether it has spread to other body parts outside of the breast.
The type of treatment often differs and is based on the stage of the cancer. However, the most popular type of treatment is surgery which completely removes the tumor; the surgical options include mastectomy (partial or radical), lumpectomy, and breast reconstruction. Another option is chemotherapy which uses drugs to kill the cancer cells or slow down their growth. Radiation therapy is another method; it kills the abnormal cells by using high-energy rays. There is also hormone therapy and targeted therapy.