Breast Cancer - Causes and Treatment
In keeping with the system used for referring to various types of cancers wherein the disease is named after the organ which it afflicts first, breast cancer is so named because its point of origin is the human breast, specifically along the length of the ducts.
Breast cancer is particularly associated with two myths pertaining to whom it attacks namely –
- First is that it occurs only in women. While repeated research in the field has corroborated the fact that one out of every eight women suffer from this malady thus establishing its widespread prevalence, it does not imply that men are out of its grasp. Although chances of contracting it are much lesser in case of men, its incidence cannot be completely ruled out simply on the basis of gender.
- The second myth pertains to the fact that if the tumor is diagnosed as being benign then there is no risk at all. True though it is that the risk factor is negligent as compared to a malignant tumor, it is believed to pave the way for cancerous growth later on and can subsequently grow to the point of pressing down on neighboring organs.
Whether benign or malignant, the very first symptom with which breast cancer reveals itself is a lump that tends to become more painful with the onset of menstrual cycle.
How is breast cancer caused?
There have been few definite guidelines in terms of risk factors like genetics, family history, ethnicity and lifestyle that have been found to lead to the incidence of this disease. That said there have also been cases wherein women who are completely beyond the risk zone have been diagnosed with baleful presence of tumors.
The most common symptom is when a pea-shaped lump is detected in the breast area. It may or may not be accompanied by other symptoms like subtle transformation in the shape of the breast, nipple assuming a scaly or inflamed appearance or releasing a clear discharge. These might manifest either simultaneously or over a period of time and that makes self-examination at frequent intervals mandatory to facilitate early detection.
From Stage 0 to Stage IV there are five stages that mark the progress of this illness with the first being the least worrisome and the last being terminal. Once the presence of a lump is detected and confirmed through procedures like physical examination, mammography and ultra-sound, a biopsy is conducted wherein a sample of tissue is examined minutely by the pathologist. Depending on the results the method of treatment as also its duration is chalked by a physician who is specialized in this field.
Some of the possible forms of treatment are –
- Local, meaning surgery or radiation, wherein the abnormal cells in a particular area are aimed at for destruction;
- Systemic, wherein carcinogens all over the body are destroyed by chemotherapy or hormone therapy;
- Surgery, in form of lumpectomy or mastectomy, is an invasive procedure wherein the former entails removal of certain lymph nodes and the latter entails removal of entire breast.
Then there are complementary and alternative therapies wherein the former are meant to just help the individual cope with symptoms and the latter are supposed to cure without the use of knife, scalpel and medication.