October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast cancer is a serious health concern that affects millions of women worldwide and detecting breast cancer early is crucial to increasing the chances of successful treatment.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women, with the majority of cases originating from the inner lining of the milk ducts or lobules that supply the ducts with milk. Ductal cancers, the most common type of breast cancer, begin in the cells that line the ducts, while lobular cancers start in the cells that line the lobules. Non-invasive breast cancer cells are confined to the ducts and do not invade the surrounding fatty and connective tissues of the breast. The most common form of non-invasive breast cancer is ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), while lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) is less common and considered a marker for increased breast cancer risk.
Breast cancer is caused by the uncontrolled growth of cells in the breast tissue, which can be triggered by genetic and environmental factors. Symptoms vary depending on the type of breast cancer and the stage of the disease. However, some common symptoms include a lump or thickening in the breast, changes in the skin texture of the breast, and discharge from the nipple. It is important to note that breast cancer can also cause endocrine symptoms, such as fatigue, night sweats, hot flashes, and weight gain or loss.
Early detection of breast cancer is the best way to increase the chances of successful treatment. Generally, the initial symptom of breast cancer is a lump or mass that is found either by the patient or by a healthcare provider. Other signs that may be associated with breast cancer include dimpling of the skin, nipple retraction, changes in the shape or size of the breast, and breast pain.
Treatment for breast cancer is becoming more effective and individualized due to improvements in early detection and more targeted therapies. Hormonal therapy with tamoxifen is a standard treatment option for women with estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer, while aromatase inhibitors like letrozole can also be used. The US FDA has approved additional cancer treatments, such as ixabepilone and bevacizumab, for metastatic breast cancer.
Preventative measures can also be taken to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer, such as regular physical activity and maintaining a healthy diet. Phototherapy, such as photodynamic therapy, is one treatment option available for those who are already at an increased risk of developing breast cancer.
Breast cancer is a complex disease with several types and stages, making early detection and treatment critical for successful outcomes. Understanding the symptoms and characteristics of each type of breast cancer is important for facilitating early diagnosis and effective treatment.