Among the women in United States, breast cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer. The first one is skin cancer. There are primarily two types of cancer. One is benign and the other is malignant. Breast cancer is the more devastating of the two, i.e the malignant type.
A malignant tumor is the first step of breast cancer. The trouble with this kind of tumor is that it can easily spread in to nearby tissues or even metastasize (travel to) to other areas of the body. Breast cancer is the number two type of cancer that is common in women. It is also common outside USA. According to ACS or American Cancer Society, one in every eight women develop invasive breast cancer during their life time. It also also the number two cause of death due to cancer in women.
There are very little known facts regarding the risk factors and causes of breast cancer. Several life style factors, environmental factors and hormonal factors have been associated with breast cancer. But none of them are certain. Many women develop breast cancer who does not have any risk factor at all. But certain traits like obesity, positive family history or personal history, BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations increases the chances of breast cancer.
The other risk factors of Breast cancer that can help in identifying at risk women include: older age, radiation exposure to the chest, early onset of menstrual cycle, late onset of menopause, giving birth for the first time when you are 35 years or more, drinking alcohol, never being pregnant and taking HRT or hormone replacement therapy.
There are various symptoms that can indicate a breast cancer. A new mass of flesh or in other words a new lum is the most common sign of breast cancer. But in most cases, women with breast cancer does not have any symptoms at all. If there is a mass, then it is more likely to be hard, immobile with irregular edges and painless. Other symptoms include – changes in the shape and size of the breast, swelling, skin irritation, nipple pain, puckering in the breast skin, inward turning of nipple, nipple discharge and thickening of nipple and areola etc. For proper diagnosis of breast cancer, doctors may use – breast exam, ultrasound, mammogram, MRI, biopsy etc.
Most breast cancer is treated with a combination of surgery, chemo therapy, radiation therapy and hormone therapy. Surgical options include – lumpectomy (removal of the mass with a small portion of the breast), partial mastectomy, radical mastectomy etc. Then additional radiotherapy and chemotherapy is used to eradicate all the cancer cells. Hormone therapy is only used when the cancer cells are sensitive to hormones.
For more than two decades the prevalence rate of breast cancer was high in women. But since 2000 AD, the rate has seen a steady decline. The rate of death due to breast cancer has also declined markedly. According to the ACS, the total number of breast cancer survivors in USA is more than 2.8 million. And the number is still rising. With awareness and proper, timely treatment the number can be increased many folds.