What is breast cancer?
The breast consists of various tissues ranging from very fatty tissue to very dense tissue with a network of lobes within the tissue. Every lobe consists of tiny, tube-like structures called lobules which contain milk glands. Milk is carried from lobes to nipples through these tiny ducts that connects the glands, lobules and lobes. The nipple lies in the middle of the areola, which is the darker area around the nipple. The breast also has blood vessels which carry the blood and nourishes the cells. Body waste products are drained from the lymph system. The vessels of the lymph attach to the lymph nodes that help combat infection.
Breast cancer is cancer that forms in the cells of the breasts. Breast cancer is one of the most common cause of death in women. Breast cancer can occur in both men and women, but it is more common in women. Deaths from breast cancer are now at the lowest ever in 40 years. This is mainly due to the improvements in the treatment of breast cancer. The outlook is best in those who are diagnosed when the cancer is still small and has not spread. More breast cancers are also now being diagnosed and treated at an early stage. In general, the more advanced the cancer then the less chance that treatment will be curative.
Breast cancer occurs when healthy cells change and develop out of control, forming a mass called a tumor which can be malignant (can grow and spread to other parts of the body) or benign (can grow but will not spread). Breast cancer spreads when the cancer grows into other parts of the body, or when they move through the blood vessels or lymph vessels to other parts of the body leading to a condition called metastasis.
Breast cancer not only spreads to nearby lymph nodes but also spread to other areas of the body such as liver, bones, lungs, and brain which is called metastatic or stage IV breast cancer. After the initial treatment, if breast cancer returns, it may recur locally (regional lymph nodes like the lymph nodes under the arm) or may also recur elsewhere in the body, which is called a distant recurrence or metastatic recurrence. Now-a-days there have been emerging advances in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer through awareness and funding for research. Breast cancer survival rates have increased due to factors such as earlier detection, a customized treatment approach and a better understanding of the disease.
A woman’s breast after puberty is made up of connective tissue, fat, and thousands of lobules These tiny glands produce milk for breastfeeding which is carried to the nipple through tiny tubes, or ducts. Cancer causes an uncontrollable multiplication of the cells. This excessive growth of cells causes cancer as the tumor requires nutrients and energy causing the depletion of surrounding cells. Breast cancer typically starts in the inner lining of milk ducts or the lobules that supply milk. It can also spread to other parts of the body leading to metastatic breast cancer.
What causes breast cancer?
The precise causes of breast cancer are unclear but the main risk factors are known. Nevertheless, most women who are considered at high risk for breast cancer do not get it, while many do with no known risk factors. There are various causes for breast cancer including:
- Increasing Age
- history of breast cancer
- Inherited genes that cause cancer risk
- Exposure to radiation
- Being obese or overweight
- Postmenopausal hormone therapy
- Never been pregnant