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Breast Cancer Overview
What occurs when the cells begin to mutate?
The human body has a natural function that consists of the production and expiration of cells when needed. When this function is interrupted and the production rate increases and the expiration rate decreases, this results in an overabundance of abnormal cells that continue to multiply at an uncontrollable pace. In breast cancer, the abnormal cell production begins in the tissues of the breast. The two most common areas of the breast that are affected in breast cancer are in the lobules, which produce the milk in breasts, and the ducts, which move the milk from the breast to the nipple. The former is called lobular carcinoma and the latter is called ductal carcinoma.
Non-invasive or “in situ” breast cancer means the cancer is focused in the duct or lobules and hasn’t yet begun to spread to other tissues within the breast. Invasive breast cancer means the cancer has proliferated and is no longer only in the ducts or lobules but has moved to other tissues in the breast as well. The hormone estrogen, which is instrumental in the growth and development of the breast in females, can aid in the growth of cancer tumors. The theory is that cancer cells are receptive to estrogen and therefore too much estrogen acts as fuel for the production of cancer cells in the breast.
Early symptoms of breast cancer include lumps in the breast or armpits, changes in the shape, feel or size of the breast or nipple, and fluid secretions from the nipple that may be bloody, colorless or yellow, or a pus-like green secretion. Advanced symptoms are pain or discomfort in the breast, bone pain, swelling of the arm on the side of the affected breast, weight loss and skin ulcers. Several tests are given to determine whether or not a person has breast cancer and if they do, these tests will also help to identify the mass and determine the stage of the cancer. The stages of breast cancer are identified as 0 – IV, with the higher number being the most advanced stage. Some of the tests used are as follows:
Biopsy: a portion of the suspected lump is extracted for tests to determine if it’s benign or malignant
Mammography: a screening of the breasts to see if any cancer cells exist and if they do, the mammography helps to identify the type of lump
Ultrasound: to see if the lump is filled with fluid or is a solid mass
CT scan: to find out if the cancer has spread
MRI: for a detailed identification of the lump and further evaluation of abnormalities that may have been discovered in other tests on the breasts.
When breast cancer is confirmed, patients will undergo either a lumpectomy or mastectomy to remove the cancerous cells. A lumpectomy is moderate in comparison to mastectomies because only the tumor and the surrounding tissue are removed, leaving the breast itself intact. With a simple mastectomy, the breast tissue is removed and sometimes the lymph nodes also. When a modified radical mastectomy is performed, the entire breast, nipple, and lymph nodes in the armpits are removed
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