Breast cancer is a disease where some cells in the breast grow out of control. These cells can form a lump known as a tumor. Not all lumps are cancerous, but when they are, they can spread to other parts of the body. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women globally. However, it can also occur in men, though it’s much rarer.
4. Types of Breast Cancer
There are several types:
Understanding the types of breast cancer can help you get a grip on the diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis. Here’s a straightforward breakdown.
1. Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS)
- What is it? DCIS means the cancer cells are inside the milk ducts but haven’t spread outside. Think of it like fish in an aquarium. They’re there, but they’re not swimming all over your house.
2. Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC)
- What is it? This is the most common type. IDC starts in the milk ducts but breaks through and invades other parts of the breast. If DCIS is fish in an aquarium, IDC is when those fish find a way out.
3. Invasive Lobular Carcinoma (ILC)
- What is it? ILC starts in the milk-producing glands, called lobules. Like IDC, it can spread to other parts of the breast.
4. Triple Negative Breast Cancer
- What is it? This cancer doesn’t have any of the three common receptors (hormone epidermal growth factor receptor 2, estrogen, and progesterone). It’s a bit trickier to treat because many drugs target these receptors. Imagine trying to use a key on a door without a lock.
5. HER2-Positive Breast Cancer
- What is it? This means the cancer cells have too much HER2 protein. This can fuel the cancer’s growth, but there are medicines specifically designed to target these cells.
6. Inflammatory Breast Cancer
- What is it? This rare type makes the breast look red and feel warm. It’s named “inflammatory” because it looks like an infection or inflammation, but it’s not caused by bacteria.
7. Metaplastic Breast Cancer
- What is it? A rare kind where the cancer cells change and may look and act different than typical breast cancers.
8. Paget’s Disease of the Nipple
- What is it? Another rare type is where cancer starts in the ducts and spreads to the nipple, making it look crusty, red, and scaly.
Factors linked to breast cancer,
1. Genetic Mutations: Just like how a computer has codes, our bodies have genes. If there’s a ‘typo’ in these genes (like BRCA1 or BRCA2), it can increase breast cancer risk.
2. Family History: If close family members had breast cancer, you might have a higher risk. It’s like inheriting a family trait.
3. Age: The older you get, the more chances you have of developing breast cancer, just like gray hair or wrinkles.
4. Early Menstruation: If a girl gets her period before age 12, her breast cancer risk slightly increases. It’s about the body’s exposure to estrogen.
5. Late Menopause: If a woman stops having periods after age 55, there’s more time for breast cells to act up.
6. Having First Child After 30: Having kids after 30 or never having a child can increase breast cancer risk a bit.
7. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): Some women take hormones to manage menopause symptoms. Doing this for a long time can up the risk.
8. Radiation Exposure: If you’ve been exposed to radiation in the chest area, like for medical treatments, it could raise your chances.
9. Dense Breast Tissue: Some women have dense breasts. It’s harder to see cancer in these breasts on mammograms, and they might have a slightly higher risk.
10. Previous Breast Conditions: If you’ve had certain non-cancer breast diseases, you might be at a higher risk.
11. Alcohol Consumption: Drinking lots of alcohol regularly can increase breast cancer risk. It’s best to limit intake.
12. Not Breastfeeding: Breastfeeding can protect against breast cancer, so not doing it might up the risk.
13. Birth Control Pills: Long-term use of these pills can slightly increase breast cancer risk, but the risk goes down once you stop.
14. DES Exposure: DES is a drug once given to prevent miscarriages. Women who took it might have a higher risk.
15. Obesity: Being very overweight, especially after menopause, can raise breast cancer chances.
16. Lack of Physical Activity: Just like a car that’s not driven often, a body that doesn’t move much might face issues, including a slightly higher breast cancer risk.
17. Diet: Some think high-fat diets could raise breast cancer risk, but research isn’t solid yet.
18. Early Breast Radiation: If you had radiation for another cancer as a child or young adult, your risk could be higher.
19. Late Childbearing: Having a first child after age 35 can increase your risk.
20. More Lifetime Menstrual Cycles: If you’ve had more periods because you started young and went through menopause late, you might have a higher risk.
21. Race & Ethnicity: Being white might have a slightly higher risk than African-American, but African-American women are more likely to die from it.
22. Previous Chest Radiation: Had radiation treatments to your chest? This could up your chances.
23. Hormone Imbalances: If your body has too much of certain hormones, breast cancer risk can rise.
24. Personal History: If you had breast cancer before, there’s a chance it could return.
25. Certain Jobs: Some jobs expose people to chemicals linked to breast cancer.
26. Lack of Vitamin D: This vitamin might play a role in cell growth, so not having enough might raise breast cancer risk.
27. Not Having Children: Women who don’t have children can have a slightly higher risk.
28. Tobacco Smoke: There’s some evidence that smokers, especially heavy ones, might have a higher risk.
29. Night Shift Work: Working night shifts regularly might disrupt the body’s ‘internal clock,’ possibly raising risk.
30. Environment: Some believe chemicals in our surroundings could be linked to breast cancer, but this needs more study.
Symptoms linked to breast cancer
- Lump in the Breast or Underarm: This is the most common symptom. It may feel hard, and usually doesn’t hurt. If you find one, see a doctor.
- Pain or Tenderness in the Breast: Even though lumps don’t usually hurt, sometimes the breast can feel painful or tender.
- Change in Breast Size: If one breast suddenly appears larger or smaller than the other, it’s worth getting checked out.
- Change in Breast Shape: Any unexplained change in the shape of your breast can be a sign.
- Dimpling of the Skin: This can make the breast skin look like an orange peel.
- Unexplained Swelling or Shrinking: Particularly if it’s just one side. Swelling can sometimes be seen in the upper arm too.
- Nipple Discharge: This is when a liquid, which isn’t breast milk, comes out of the nipple. It can be clear, yellow, green, or even bloody.
- Nipple Pain: Pain or tenderness in the nipple area should be checked out.
- Nipple Turning Inward: Sometimes called an “inverted nipple”, this can be a sign if it wasn’t that way before.
- Scaly, Red, or Swollen Skin: Especially around the nipple or on the breast.
- Rashes around the Nipples: A persistent rash that doesn’t go away could be a warning sign.
- Itchy Breasts: Constant itching might be more than just skin dryness.
- Thickening of the Nipple or Breast Skin: If the skin feels like leather or very thick, get it checked.
- Veins on the Breast Becoming More Visible: It’s like when you can suddenly see the veins on your hand more clearly, but on the breast.
- Unexplained Weight Loss: Rapid weight loss without dieting can sometimes be a sign of cancer.
- Pain in the Bones: Especially in the spine, ribs, or hips, which might mean the cancer has spread there.
- Pain or Discomfort in the Chest: A feeling of tightness or pressure in or around the breast or chest area.
- Breast Skin Ulcers: Painful, open sores on the breast.
- Breast Feels Warm to the Touch: Like when you have an infection or fever, but only in the breast area.
- Change in Appearance of the Skin Pores: This can be like the skin of an orange.
- Tiredness: Feeling constantly fatigued without reason.
- Unexplained Back Pain: Especially in the upper back, between the shoulder blades.
- Swollen Lymph Nodes: These can be found in the armpit, neck, or even the groin.
- Shortness of Breath: Feeling out of breath without much activity.
- Loss of Appetite: Not feeling like eating, even if you’re hungry.
- Changes in the Contour of the Breast: Like if parts of the breast seem indented or hollow.
- Stomach Pain: Constant and unexplained abdominal discomfort.
- Swelling Around the Collarbone: Near the top of the breast.
- Change in Vein Texture: If the veins feel harder or more twisted than usual.
- Persistent Cough: A cough that doesn’t go away after several weeks.
Diagnoses and tests in simple terms. This will help you stay informed and understand the process better.
1. Breast Self-exam (BSE): It’s when you check your own breasts for lumps or changes. It’s a hands-on approach, literally!
2. Clinical Breast Exam (CBE): A health professional checks your breasts. They’re looking for lumps or other changes.
3. Mammogram: Think of it as an X-ray for your breast. It can spot tumors that are too tiny to feel.
4. Digital Mammogram: Uses computers to get pictures of the breast. It gives clearer pictures, especially if you have dense breasts.
5. 3D Mammogram (Breast Tomosynthesis): It’s like a 3D movie of your breast. It captures multiple images from different angles.
6. Breast Ultrasound: Uses sound waves to create pictures. It can show if a lump is solid (like a tumor) or filled with fluid (like a cyst).
7. Breast MRI: Uses magnets and radio waves to get a detailed image. It’s especially helpful for those at higher risk.
8. Biopsy: Doctors remove a small piece of the lump to check for cancer cells. It’s the surest way to diagnose.
9. Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA): A thin needle removes fluid or cells from the breast lump. Quick and simple!
10. Core Needle Biopsy: A bigger needle gets a larger sample from the lump. It gives a clearer picture.
11. Surgical Biopsy: A surgeon removes part or all of the lump. It’s a deeper dive into the suspicious area.
12. Stereotactic Biopsy: Combines mammography and computer technology to get samples from a lump or mass.
13. MRI-Guided Biopsy: Uses MRI to guide the needle to the suspicious area. Precision is key here.
14. Estrogen and Progesterone Receptor Test: Checks if hormones affect cancer growth. It helps guide treatment.
15. HER2/neu Test: Finds if cancer grows due to high levels of HER2 protein. Again, it guides treatment.
16. Oncotype DX: This test predicts if early-stage breast cancer will come back. It also helps decide if chemotherapy is needed.
17. Full Blood Count: A blood test to see if cancer has affected your blood cells.
18. Blood Chemistry: Another blood test, this one checks for signs of cancer spread or organ damage.
19. Bone Scan: Looks for cancer that has spread to the bones.
20. Chest X-ray: Checks if cancer has spread to your lungs.
21. CT Scan: A powerful X-ray that gets detailed images of inside the body. It can find tumors or check if cancer has spread.
22. PET Scan: Shows how organs and tissues are working. It can find cancer, see if it has spread, or check how treatments are working.
23. Lymph Node Biopsy: Removes lymph nodes to see if cancer has spread there.
24. Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy: Finds the first few lymph nodes where cancer might spread. It’s a way to check for early spread.
25. Breast Cancer Gene Test (BRCA1 and BRCA2): Some people inherit genes that increase cancer risk. This test finds those genes.
26. Tumor Marker Test: Check your blood for chemicals that can show cancer presence or growth.
27. Liquid Biopsy: It’s a blood test that finds bits of DNA from cancer cells. It’s a new way to monitor the disease.
28. Mammaprint: Another test that predicts if early-stage cancer will return.
29. Immunohistochemistry: Looks for certain proteins in tissue samples. This gives clues about cancer’s growth and spread.
30. FISH (Fluorescence In Situ Hybridization): Looks at genes or chromosomes in cancer cells. It helps figure out the type of cancer.
Treatments for breast cancer in simple
1. Surgery: This involves removing the tumor. There are a few types:
- Lumpectomy: Taking out only the tumor and a bit around it.
- Mastectomy: Removing all of the breast tissue.
2. Radiation Therapy: This uses high-energy waves to target and kill cancer cells.
3. Chemotherapy: Drugs that kill or slow the growth of cancer cells. You might have them as pills or through an IV.
4. Hormone Therapy: Some breast cancers grow because of hormones. This treatment blocks or removes those hormones.
5. Targeted Therapy: Uses drugs to target specific parts of cancer cells, stopping them from growing.
6. Immunotherapy: Helps your body’s immune system fight cancer better.
7. Bone-Directed Therapy: For cancers that spread to bones. Helps strengthen and protect them.
8. Cryotherapy: Freezes the tumor to kill it.
9. Heat Therapy (Hyperthermia): Uses heat to kill cancer cells.
10. Monoclonal Antibodies: These are man-made immune system proteins. They stick to cancer cells, making them easier to find and kill.
11. Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitors: Drugs that block signals inside cancer cells that make them grow.
12. CDK Inhibitors: Drugs that block certain proteins, slowing down the growth of cancer cells.
13. Bisphosphonates: Helps strengthen bones and can reduce bone problems when cancer spreads.
14. PARP Inhibitors: Stops cancer cells from fixing their DNA, leading them to die.
15. Lymph Node Removal: Sometimes, the lymph nodes near the breast can be removed to check if the cancer has spread.
16. Breast Reconstruction: After a mastectomy, this surgery rebuilds the breast shape.
17. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): For women whose menopause symptoms get worse after treatment. It replaces hormones.
18. Proton Therapy: A type of radiation that targets just the tumor, protecting healthy tissue.
19. Stem Cell Transplant: Replaces diseased bone marrow with healthy stem cells.
20. Aromatase Inhibitors: Drugs that reduce estrogen, which some cancers need to grow.
21. Ovarian Suppression: Using drugs or surgery to stop the ovaries from making estrogen.
22. Endocrine Therapy: Blocks hormones that help cancer grow.
23. Laser Therapy: High-intensity light destroys cancer cells.
24. Sentinel Node Biopsy: Checks the first few lymph nodes for signs of cancer spread.
25. High-dose Chemotherapy: Higher amounts of chemotherapy drugs kill more cancer cells.
26. Palliative Care: It’s not a treatment to cure, but to ease symptoms and improve quality of life.
27. Supportive Care: Helps manage side effects of other treatments.
28. Exercise and Physical Therapy: Helps improve movement and strength after treatment.
29. Nutritional Counseling: Provides guidance on eating well during and after treatment.
30. Counseling and Mental Health Services: For emotional support during the cancer journey.
Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers among women. It’s essential to know about the various treatments available. In this simple guide, we’ll outline the top breast cancer drug treatments.
1. Tamoxifen What is it? – A pill. What does it do? – Blocks estrogen, a hormone that some breast cancers need to grow. Who is it for? – Mostly for early-stage breast cancers.
2. Letrozole (Femara) What is it? – Another pill. What does it do? – Reduces estrogen levels. Who is it for? – Post-menopausal women with certain breast cancers.
3. Anastrozole (Arimidex) What is it? – Yep, a pill. What does it do? – Like Letrozole, it reduces estrogen. Who is it for? – Post-menopausal women with specific types of breast cancer.
4. Exemestane (Aromasin) What is it? – Pill, again. What does it do? – Lowers estrogen, but in a slightly different way. Who is it for? – Post-menopausal women after other treatments.
5. Trastuzumab (Herceptin) What is it? – An IV treatment. What does it do? – Targets HER2-positive breast cancers, a more aggressive type. Who is it for? – Women with HER2-positive tumors.
6. Pertuzumab (Perjeta) What is it? – Given through IV. What does it do? – Works alongside Trastuzumab for HER2-positive cancers. Who is it for? – Before surgery for HER2-positive cancer patients.
7. Palbociclib (Ibrance), Ribociclib (Kisqali) & Abemaciclib (Verzenio) What are they? – Pills. What do they do? – Stops cancer cells from dividing. Who are they for? – Hormone-receptor-positive, HER2-negative cancers.
8. Traztuzumab emtansine (Kadcyla) What is it? – An IV drug. What does it do? – Targets HER2-positive cells and delivers a drug directly to them. Who is it for? – Women with HER2-positive tumors.
9. Olaparib (Lynparza) & Talazoparib (Talzenna) What are they? – Pills. What do they do? – Target BRCA-mutated cancers. Who are they for? – Patients with a BRCA mutation.
10. Fulvestrant (Faslodex) What is it? – An injection. What does it do? – Blocks and damages estrogen receptors. Who is it for? – Women with advanced breast cancer.
11. Everolimus (Afinitor) What is it? – A pill. What does it do? – Stops a protein that helps cancer cells grow. Who is it for? – Advanced, hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers.
12. Eribulin (Halaven) What is it? – An IV drug. What does it do? – Interferes with cancer cell division. Who is it for? – Metastatic breast cancer patients.
13. Lapatinib (Tykerb) What is it? – A pill. What does it do? – Targets HER2-positive cancers. Who is it for? – Advanced HER2-positive breast cancer patients.
14. Capecitabine (Xeloda) What is it? – A pill. What does it do? – Stops cancer cells from growing. Who is it for? – Advanced breast cancer patients.
15. Ruxolitinib (Jakafi) What is it? – A pill. What does it do? – Targets pathways that help cancer cells grow. Who is it for? – Used in trials for triple-negative breast cancers.
16. Gemcitabine (Gemzar) What is it? – Given via IV. What does it do? – Kills cancer cells. Who is it for? – Combined with other drugs for metastatic breast cancer.
17. Doxorubicin (Adriamycin) What is it? – IV drug. What does it do? – Kills cancer cells. Who is it for? – Various types of breast cancer.
18. Cyclophosphamide What is it? – Pill or IV. What does it do? – Another drug that destroys cancer cells. Who is it for? – Different stages of breast cancer.
19. Paclitaxel (Taxol) & Docetaxel (Taxotere) What are they? – IV drugs. What do they do? – Stop cancer cells from dividing. Who are they for? – Several types of breast cancer.
20. Carboplatin What is it? – Given through IV. What does it do? – Damages the DNA of cancer cells. Who is it for? – Triple-negative breast cancer patients.
Breast cancer has numerous treatment options, depending on the stage and type of cancer. It’s crucial to consult with healthcare professionals to determine the best course of action for an individual’s specific situation. The treatments listed above offer hope, and research continues to bring even more innovative solutions to the forefront.