Breast cancer is one of the second causes of cancer-related deaths in women. Cancer is a term used to define a group of diseases where the cells in the body to uncontrollably grow which can spread to other parts of the body causing further damage and harm. Breast cancer is cancer which starts forming in the breast tissue with two main types:
- Lobular Carcinoma: Starts in the lobules which are tiny milk-producing glands.
- Ductal Carcinoma: Starts in the milk ducts and is said to be the most common type of breast cancer.
Since the breast cancer can start in the lobules or the milk ducts, it can also spread to the other tissue as well as other parts of the body and is called invasive breast cancer. This type of cancer is considered to be more dangerous as it becomes more difficult to treat it if it spreads to critical systems in the body. The area where the cancer originated is called primary cancer.
Non-invasive breast cancer can be defined as breast cancer, either Lobular carcinoma or Ductal carcinoma, which stays in the area of origin without spreading. However, it should be noted that non-invasive breast cancer can become invasive in some cases.
What Are The Symptoms Of Breast Cancer?
Every breast cancer is not the same and nor are the symptoms that are exhibited. There are even cases where women show no signs or symptoms of breast cancer even when having the disease. This is why it’s important to do a monthly self-exam and a scheduled mammogram according to your doctor’s recommendation.
Here are some of the symptoms of breast cancer that you need to look out for:
- A change in size or shape of the breast.
- The pulling in of the nipple.
- Pain felt in any part of the breast.
- Pain felt in the nipple area.
- The skin on the breast becomes dimpled or irritated.
- The skin on the breast or nipple area gets flaky or reddens.
- A part of the breast swells or thickens.
- A lump on the breast or in the underarm region.
- The discharge of blood or other fluids (not including milk) from the breast.
If you have one or more of these symptoms, we suggest you contact your doctor for professional medical advice. However, you should note that there are other causes of these symptoms which may also not be cancer. But it’s always better to be sure by having it checked out by a doctor.
There are a number of reasons for having lumps appear on the breast which includes cancer, fibrocystic breast condition, and fibrocystic breast cysts. Fibrocystic breast condition causes breasts to be tender, sore and lumpy but aren’t cancerous. Fibrocystic breast cysts are also a non-cancerous condition that is caused due to small fluid-filled sacs which form in the breast.
Importance of Screening For Breast Cancer:
It’s imperative to screen for breast cancer, especially as you grow older because finding the underlying breast cancer soon can significantly improve your chances of getting successful treatment. You shouldn’t wait for the lump on the breast or the symptoms to start checking for breast cancer. And while it’s recommended for women to start getting mammograms after the turn 40, you can still use the breast cancer self-examination as early as in your 20s.
Self-exams at home is a great way to pay attention to your breast and spot early signs of cancer before it advances. You can find online guides on how to perform breast cancer self-examinations which can be done in the shower, bed, and front of a mirror.
The most preferred method, according to doctors, of finding breast cancer is by using Mammograms which are X-rays that scan the breast tissue for lumps or other abnormalities. Radiologists who take your mammograms are certified to evaluate the X-ray and let you know if you should consult a breast cancer specialist. The biggest advantage of a mammogram is that it can show breast lumps up to two years before you can even feel them.
The normal age to start having mammograms is 40 but can be earlier if your doctor considers you to be in the high-risk group. According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, women who are in between 50 and 74 get a mammogram every two years while the American Cancer Society suggests yearly mammograms after you cross 45.
How Is A Mammogram Test Conducted?
Getting a mammogram for the first time can be very intimidating for women, but this test is usually easy and fast. The name Mammogram is used because it X-rays the mammary glands (breasts) for lumps or other problems. There are two types of mammograms including:
- Screening Mammogram: Are used when there are no concerning signs or symptoms of breast cancer.
- Diagnostic Mammogram: Are used when a detailed picture of a particular area is required for diagnosis.
During a mammogram, you have to remove any jewelry that can interfere with the X-ray as well as your clothes about the waist. You will be given a paper gown to wear for the mammogram by the technologist.
You will have to place your breast on a flat plate of plastic which will be compressed with another plate by the technologist so that your breasts are compressed to avoid movement. After this, the X-ray is taken, and the same procedure is conducted on the other breast. Also note that usually, the pictures taken are from the top view and the side view of the breast to get a better picture for the radiologist during diagnosis.
After the X-rays are taken, you are asked to put your clothes back on and wait in the doctor’s office. After the X-rays are developed, the doctor or radiologist can advise you on your breast cancer diagnosis and if you need to take further steps.