BREAST CANCER – CAUSES, STAGES AND PREVENTION
Like all forms of cancer, breast cancer is made of unusual cells that grow out of control. Those cells may also travel to places in your body where they aren’t usually found. When that happens, the cancer is called metastatic.
Breast cancer is the most common invasive cancer in women and the second leading cause of cancer death in women after lung cancer.
Awareness of the symptoms and the need for screening are important ways of reducing the risk. In rare instances, breast cancer can also affect men, but this article will focus on breast cancer in women.
- A lump or thickened area in or near your breast or underarm that lasts through your period.
- A mass or lump, even if it feels as small as a pea.
- A change in your breast’s size, shape, or curve.
- Nipple discharge that can be bloody or clear.
- Changes in the skin of your breast or your nipple. It could be dimpled, puckered, scaly, or inflamed.
- Red skin on your breast or nipple.
- Changes in the shape or position of your nipple.
- An area that’s different from any other area on either breast.
- A hard, marble-sized spot under your skin
A doctor stages cancer according to the size of the tumour and whether it has spread to lymph nodes or other parts of the body.
There are different ways of staging breast cancer. One way is from stage 0–4, with subdivided categories at each numbered stage. Descriptions of the four main stages are listed below, though the specific substage of cancer may also depend on other specific characteristics of the tumour, such as HER2 receptor status.
- Stage 0: Known as ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), the cells are limited to within the ducts and have not invaded surrounding tissues.
- Stage 1: At this stage, the tumour measures up to 2 centimetres (cm) across. It has not affected any lymph nodes, or there are small groups of cancer cells in the lymph nodes.
- Stage 2: The tumour is 2 cm across, and it has started to spread to nearby nodes, or is 2–5 cm across and has not spread to the lymph nodes.
- Stage 3: The tumour is up to 5 cm across, and it has spread to several lymph nodes or the tumour is larger than 5 cm and has spread to a few lymph nodes.
- Stage 4: Cancer has spread to distant organs, most often the bones, liver, brain, or lungs.
Breast Cancer Risk Factors You Can’t Control
- Age. Women over 50 are more likely to get breast cancer than younger women.
- Race: African American women are more likely than white women to get breast cancer before menopause.
- Dense breasts. If your breasts have more connective tissue than fatty tissue, it can be hard to see tumours on a mammogram.
- Personal history of cancer. Your odds go up slightly if you have certain benign breast conditions. They go up more sharply if you’ve had breast cancer before.
- Family history. If a first-degree female relative (mother, sister, or daughter) had breast cancer, you’re two times more likely to get the disease. Having two or more first-degree relatives with a history of breast cancer increases your risk at least three times. This is especially true if they got cancer before menopause or if it affected both breasts. The risk can also arise if your father or brother was diagnosed with breast cancer.
- Menstrual history. Your breast cancer odds go up if 1. Your periods start before age 12. 2. Your periods don’t stop until after you’re 55.
Breast Cancer Risk Factors You Can Control
- Physical activity. The less you move, the higher your chances.
- Weight and diet. Being overweight after menopause raises your odds.
- Alcohol. Regular drinking — especially more than one drink a day — increases the risk of breast cancer.
- Reproductive history.
- You have your first child after age 30.
- You don’t breastfeed.
- You don’t have a full-term pregnancy.
- Taking hormones. Your chances can go up if you:
- Use hormone replacement therapy that includes both estrogen and progesterone during menopause for more than 5 years. This increase in breast cancer risk returns to normal 5 years after you stop treatment.
- Use certain birth control methods including birth control pills, shots, implants, IUDs, skin patches, or vaginal rings that contain hormones.
Still, most women who are at high risk for breast cancer don’t get it. On the other hand, 75% of women who develop breast cancer have no known risk factors.
There is no way to prevent breast cancer. However, certain lifestyle decisions can significantly reduce the risk of breast cancer as well as other types.
- avoiding excessive alcohol consumption
- following a healthful diet containing plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables
- getting enough exercise
- maintaining a healthy body mass index (BMI)
Women should consider their options for breastfeeding and the use of HRT following menopause, as these can also increase the risk.
For weight control and staying active, you can book an appointment with PCA physiotherapist.
At PCA your physiotherapist will guide and individualize your program to meet your needs and achieve your goals.
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