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How do you know if it is breast cancer? Warning signs, diagnosis and treatment

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Contributed by: Priyaish Srivastava

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women and is associated with severe pain and a lump in the breast. Although it may not affect young people, the risk increases with age.

Warning Signs and Early Symptoms of Breast Cancer

Knowing the signs and symptoms of breast cancer can help in diagnosing the disease early and seeking early medical attention to cure it. Although the signs may not be common in all women, here are some of the most common symptoms:

  • A visible painless lump near the breast or armpit (armpit)
  • A change in the size of the breast.
  • Thickening and swelling of any part of the breast.
  • Irritation and dimpling of the skin of the breasts
  • Breast pain that does not go away after periods.
  • A clear red, brown, or yellow discharge from the nipples
  • Unexplained skin irritation and redness of the breast.
  • Inward turning or retracting of the nipple
  • Breast enlargement and tenderness
  • Peeling of the breast skin
  • Lack of appetite and involuntary weight loss.
  • Visible veins on the chest.
  • A warm area on the chest.
  • Chest pain
  • Dimpled nipple
  • The breast may feel hard and cause pain when touched.

In some cases, even the visible signs may not cause illness, but taking that call could become a reasonable threat to life. Doctors advise getting a diagnosis as soon as possible by noticing symptoms to reduce related risk factors.

Types of breast cancer

Breast cancer is of two types:

  • Invasive breast cancer
  • Non-invasive breast cancer

Invasive breast cancer

Breast cancer that has spread to other organs is known as invasive breast cancer. By passing through breast tissue and entering the blood, cancer has spread from its initial site to other regions of the body, such as breast tissue, lymph nodes, or any other part of the body. The stages of invasive breast cancer include stages 1, 2, 3, and 4.

There are two most common types of invasive breast cancer:

  • Invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC)

IDC is the most prevalent form of breast cancer, accounting for 70% to 80% of all cases. Invasive ductal carcinoma is a type of cancer that begins in the milk duct (the tube in the breast that carries milk to the nipple) and spreads throughout the body after mixing with blood.

  • Invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC): Invasive lobular carcinoma is the second most common type of breast cancer found in approximately 5% to 10% of all breast cancers. ILC originates in the lobes (where breast milk is produced) and, like IDC, it can also mix with the bloodstream and affect other organs in the body.
  • Non-invasive breast cancer: This type of breast cancer remains in a particular location in the breast and does not affect any other organs present in the body. Noninvasive cancer is determined as stage 0.

Non-invasive breast cancer

This type of breast cancer remains in a particular location in the breast and does not affect any other organs present in the body. Noninvasive cancer is determined as stage 0.

There are two types of non-invasive breast cancer:

  • Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS): DCIS occurs in the milk duct and does not spread to other parts of the body in its early stages. However, if diagnosis and treatment are delayed, it can rupture the wall of the duct and mix with the bloodstream and cause damage to other parts of the body.
  • Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS): An LCIS is not technically cancer. It grows within the lobes of the breast and remains there without affecting any other organ in the body. However, if LCIS is present in the lobe of the breast for a long period of time, it increases the risk of invasive cancer and therefore it is important to be diagnosed when noticing any symptoms of breast cancer.

Diagnosis of breast cancer:

Before diagnosing breast cancer symptoms, your doctor will ask for your medical history and ongoing medications. They may also want to know if any other women in the family have ever been affected by the disease because breast cancer can also occur due to genetic factors.

  • Physical exam: The doctor examines the skin of the breast for lumps, discharge, or nipple retraction. They also look for other visible symptoms of breast cancer.
  • Mammography: A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast that helps determine the benign mass (non-cancerous tumors) and the malignant mass (cancerous tumors) in the tissues of the breast.
  • Ultrasound: Ultrasound is a medical imaging technique that uses sound waves above the upper audible limit of humans to diagnose the breast. Helps produce the image of breast tissues.
  • Biopsy: A biopsy involves the surgical removal of a small amount of breast tissue for analysis and diagnosis.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): In an MRI, strong magnetic and radio waves are used to produce detailed images of the breast.
  • Blood test: The doctor may perform a blood test to monitor cancer cells in the body. These blood tests include:
    • CA 15.3: It is used to screen for breast and ovarian cancer.
    • TRU-QUANT and CA 27.29: It implies that cancer cells are present in the breast.
    • CA125: May indicate recurrence of breast cancer
    • CEA (carcinoembryonic antigen): A marker that the cancer cell has mixed with the bloodstream and has spread from the breast to other parts of the body.
    • Circulating tumor cells: It determines that the cancer cells have broken down and mixed with the bloodstream. Identification of high-circulating tumor cells implies that the cancer is growing.

Breast cancer treatment

The type of breast cancer treatment can vary depending on the stage of the cancer.

  • Lumpectomy: In this treatment, the doctor removes the tumor and leaves the breast intact.
  • Mastectomy: While doing this breast cancer treatment, the doctor surgically removes the breast tissue that houses the cancer cells.
  • Chemotherapy: It is the most common cancer treatment and involves the use of drugs to kill cancer cells in the body.

Book Your Breast Cancer Screening Today!

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