Breast cancer is a type of cancerous growth that originates from the tissues of the breast. They can either originate from the milk ducts or lobules of the breast. While most cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in females, breast cancer can also occur in males. It should be noted, however, that breast cancer in men has the poorest outcome because diagnosis always comes too late. According to statistics, breast cancer accounts for about 23 percent of all cancers in the world in women. The cancer is fast becoming a leading cause of death in the world. In 2008 alone, breast cancer is said to have caused 14 percent of all cancer deaths in women. This is significant, given that there are several types of cancer that affect women. There is a significant variance in cancer survival rates based on the type, treatment, and stage of cancer. Generally, the survival rates in the Western world are much higher than in the developing world. However, this can be attributed to early diagnosis, that enables proper management of the cancer. In the United Kingdom, over 80 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer survive for over 5 years.
Pathophysiology and Diagnosis
Like other types of cancer, breast cancer results from the interaction of a genetically vulnerable host and certain environmental factors. Basically, cancerous cells are different from normal cells in that they cannot stop dividing or die at the time appropriate for cell death. The susceptibility to develop breast cancer is inheritable. In the United States, 20 percent of patients with breast cancer have been found to have a first- or second-degree relative who has had the disease in the past. This familial tendency is associated with BRCA mutations that confer a permanent risk of developing breast cancer in 85 percent of women. According to literature, most diagnoses are using microscopy of the biopsy. It should, however, be noted that specialized laboratory examination may be required for certain types of cancer. In most clinical cases, non-invasive examinations like mammography are utilized to arrive at a definitive diagnosis of cancer. They provide the screening tests that can indicate the likelihood of a lump. It can further be confirmed if indeed the lump is cancerous using Fine Needle Aspiration and Cytology. In addition, other methods like vacuum assisted breast biopsy have accurately been used to diagnose breast cancer. It goes without mentioning that early diagnosis is important for better treatment. When diagnosis is delayed, the cancerous growth becomes more complex and therefore more difficult to get rid of. This explains the apparent high mortality in the developing world, where diagnosis is poorly developed.
The risk factors for breast cancer entail those that can be modified and those that are non-modifiable. The most prominent is age, as the risk increases with age. It goes without saying that gene mutations accumulate with time and are likely to manifest much later in life. In addition, it has been identified that women from families with breast cancer history are at double risk of contracting the disease. Personal history is also proving to be a significant factor in the causation of breast cancer. A patient who has been diagnosed earlier of breast cancer is likely to experience another cancerous growth in the original breast or another breast. This usually causes a great fear in women who have been treated of breast cancer before. Instead of sitting pretty after finishing their cancer therapy, women live in constant fear of relapse. This is the reason why cancer patients are said to be living in eternal fear of the disease. Besides, research studies indicate that women who started experiencing menses at early ages of 10 to 12 are at a greater risk of breast cancer.
Treatment of Breast Cancer
There are several treatment options for breast cancer in the world today. However, their availability is limited to the Western world. It should be noted that treatment is tailored to the cancer type as well as the staging group. For instance, surgery has been employed in mastectomy or breast conserving surgical methods. In breast conserving surgery, only a section of the breast that is invaded with the cancer is removed. It is basically a lumpectomy where only the lump on the breast is removed together with its surrounding tissue. However, screening has to be done on neighboring tissues to ascertain that no cancer cells are harbored, as this can lead to relapse. On the other hand, mastectomy is more radical in that the entire breast is removed. However, the overlying tissue is preserved for aesthetic purposes. Another treatment option that is also popularly used is radiation therapy. This is basically the use of high energy rays to destroy cancer cells in a specific local area that has been marked by a healthcare team. However, chemotherapy is the most popular treatment option for breast cancer. This is the administration of drugs through the bloodstream to target cancer cells downstream. According to literature, chemotherapy is either given orally or through intravenous injections. Chemotherapy is particularly important in the instances where metastasis has occurred. In such cases, surgery or radiotherapy are impractical in the sense that cancer cells have no location in particular and cannot be targeted. Hormone therapy is also used to prevent cancer relapse. This is based on the premise that estrogen significantly promotes cancerous growths on the breast. In this regard, estrogen antagonists can be used to reduce the risk of breast cancers.
Prevention of Breast Cancer
There is no specific prevention for breast cancer. However, avoidance of some of the risk factors can provide a good prevention. These include smoking, sedentary lifestyles, lack of exercise, and large body weights. In some instances, drugs are used to reduce the risk of breast cancer. For instance, drugs like tamoxifen, that block the effects of estrogen on tissues of the breast, are particularly important in this regard. In addition, aromatase inhibitors, that inhibit the production of estrogen in old age, are also used in chemoprevention.
In conclusion, breast cancer is a type of cancerous growth that originates from the tissues of the breast. It can either originate from the milk ducts or lobules of the breast and causes lots of mortalities in the world. Generally, the survival rates in the Western world are much higher than in the developing world. However, this can be attributed to early diagnosis that enables proper management of the cancer. Like other types of cancer, breast cancer results from the interaction of a genetically vulnerable host and certain environmental factors. However, the familial tendency is associated with BRCA mutations that confer a permanent risk of developing breast cancer in 85 percent of women. According to literature, the risk factors for breast cancer entail those that can be modified, like cigarette smoking, and those that are non-modifiable, like age. There are several treatment options for breast cancer in the world today. However, their availability to various patients is limited to the Western world. These include surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy. However, chemotherapy is widely preferred, as it can also target cancer cells that are undergoing metastasis.