Overview of Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is a malignant, abnormal tumor growth of the breast parenchyma tissues which is autonomous and exceeds the growth of surrounding normal tissues. Breast cancer is typically seen in women, and incidence increases with age. In the early stage, breast cancer has no specific symptoms except when defined by the presence of a painless breast lump or abnormal results on mammogram in the later course of development.
There are different types of breast cancer stages. Breast cancer stages may involve the early, curable breast cancer to the metastatic breast cancer type, which may have spread to affect other vital organs. Each type of breast cancer stages requires different treatment modalities. Generally, the chances of any tumor being completely cured increases if the breast cancer stages are early and reported early. There is a good prognosis if the breast cancer staging is between stages 1 and 2; and if the doctor observes the signs of breast cancer in women early enough.
The male breast cancer type is also becoming increasingly common these days and must also be taken seriously. Quite strange as it may seem but not as common as in the female gender, the male gender is also susceptible to developing breast cancer( though not common), particularly in men who have much breast tissues as seen in exposure to high oestrogen levels and gynaecomastia.
Gynaecomastia is a disease condition affecting males in which there is reduced testosterone – a chemical secreted by the Leydieg cells of the testes, which enhances male secondary characteristics when secreted in adequate amounts. So, males who have gynaecomastia have poorly developed testis and reduced testosterone secretion but have high oestrogen levels, which make them develop female features such as breasts, round body structure and so on.
Symptoms of Breast Cancer
Usually, in the early stages, breast cancer is symptomless. But with development and progression of the disease, the following signs may be seen:
- One of the breast cancer early symptoms is a lump in the breast or underarm, which persists even after your menstrual cycle. The lumps usually are painless but may give you a pricky sensation. A lump can be better detected earlier on a mammogram before it can be seen or felt but not all lumps are cancerous, as some lumps may show fibro-adenoma instead.
- Swelling in the armpit
- Although breast lumps are usually painless, pain or tenderness can be a sign of breast cancer in some people
- A noticeable change in the nipple – which may be nipple retraction, itching, burning sensation, ulceration or dimpling. As in the case of Paget’s disease which has been associated with an underlying breast cancer, you may experience a scaly rash
- A change in the size, texture, temperature or contour of the breast may be indicative of breast carcinoma. When you observe a reddish, swollen, pitted surface of the skin of the breast similar to the orange skin known as “peau de orange” is indicative of a metastatic breast cancer.
- Presence of an unusual discharge from the nipple which may be clear or bloody. The causes of this discharge may be due to other disease conditions or sometimes cancer
- An area similar to the appearance of marble under the skin or when you have a distinct surface on the skin different from other areas.
If you experience any of the above breast cancer symptoms, understand that you need to have it fully investigated by a qualified medical doctor. Prompt reporting of suspected breast cancer cases can enhance diagnosis and hasten treatment intervention plans.
If you don’t have any of these breast cancer symptoms, you should take regular breast cancer screening so your doctor can check even before you have noticeable breast cancer symptoms.
During a visit to the doctor, bear in mind that your doctor may take records of your personal and family medical history; and may perform a physical breast examination as a routine in breast cancer diagnosis. In addition, your doctor may also order for an imaging test, such as a mammogram to substantiate his diagnosis of one of the breast cancer stages if any.