Breast Cancer: Symptoms, Stages, Risk Factors & Treatment

Tanuja Bisht

, Health A2Z

Breast cancer is the most common invasive cancer among women, as well as the second main cause of cancer death in women, after the lung cancer.

Awareness of the symptoms regarding the Breast Cancer and the need for screening is the only important ways of reducing its risk.

You know breast cancer can also affect men too.

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What is Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer is a disease in which the breast cells become uncontrollable. There are different types of breast cancer. The type of breast cancer depends on the breast cells that turn into cancer.

Breast cancer can start in different parts of the breast. A breast consists of three main parts: the lobes, the duct, and the connective tissue.

The lobes are the glands that produce milk. Canals are tubes that carry milk to the nipple. The connective tissue (consisting of fibrous and fatty tissue) surrounds and maintains everything together. Most breast cancers start in the canals or lobes.

There are mainly two types of cancer including;


Invasive ductal carcinoma:

Cancer cells develop from ducts in other parts of the breast tissue. Invasive cancer cells can also spread to other parts of the body or metastasize.


Invasive lobular carcinoma:

Cancer cells spread from lobes to surrounding breast tissue. These invasive cancer cells are also capable of spreading to other parts of the body.

Other types of cancer include medullary, mucinous, and inflammatory breast cancer.


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What are the Symptoms of Breast Cancer?


There are several kinds of symptoms that are associated with cancer, the very first symptoms are usually an area of thickened tissue in the breast or presence of a lump in the breast or in an armpit.

Other symptoms of cancer include;

    • A pain in the breast and armpits that does not change with the monthly cycle.
    • Pitting or redness of the skin of the breast.
    • The appearance of rashes around or on one of the nipples.
    • A discharge from a nipple.
    • A sunken or inverted nipple.
    • A change in the shape and size of the breast.
  • Peeling, scaling or flaking of the skin on the nipple or breast.


What are the Stages of Breast Cancer?


The cancer is staged according to the size of the tumor and when it has spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body.

There are different ways to stage cancer. It usually goes from level 0 to level 4, but it can be divided into smaller levels.


Stage 0: Known as ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), the cells are limited to one canal and have not affected the surrounding tissue.


Stage 1: At the beginning of this stage, the tumor is up to 2 centimeters wide and has no lymph nodes reached.


Step 2: The tumor is 2 cm wide and begins to spread to neighboring nodes.


Stage 3: The tumor is up to 5 cm wide and can spread to certain lymph nodes.


Step 4: Cancer has spread to distant organs, especially the bones, liver, brain or lungs.



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What are the Risk Factors Associated With Breast Cancer?


There are several risk factors that are associated with cancer including;

    • Age.
    • Genetics (especially those women who carry BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes).
    • History of breast cancer or breast lumps.
    • Dense breast tissue.
    • Body weight.
    • Estrogen exposure and breastfeeding.
    • Alcohol consumption.
    • Hormone treatments.
  • Radiation exposure.


What are the Treatments Available for Breast Cancer?


Usually, treatments depend upon following reasons including;

    • Type of breast cancer.
    • Stage of cancer.
    • Sensitivity to hormones.
  • The patient’s age, preferences, and overall health.

The main options that are available including:

    • Radiation therapy
  • Surgery
  • Biological therapy, or targeted drug therapy
  • Hormone therapy
  • Chemotherapy


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