Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer is one of the most common cancer types, with more than 1.1 million cases diagnosed  around the world each year. it holds 23% of all female cancer and is the most prevalent cause of cancer death in women. It is observed that cancer rates increases with industrialized and urbanized countries. High-income countries such as Europe and the USA remain the highest in cancer records, but as time passes, middle and low-income countries now present with a rapidly increasing number of cases.

Here are some facts:

  • Incidence rates have increased significantly, by over 50% in the last 25 years.
  • More than 1.1 million women are diagnosed every single year.
  • Cancer rates are higher in Northern and Western Europe, North America, and lowest in Northern, Eastern and Middle African countries and Asia.
  • There are 8 out of 10 women diagnosed that are aged 50 and over.
  • Only 5-10% is inherited. Children can inherit a cancer gene from either the mother or the father.
  • Survival rates have improved significantly over the past 20 years. In the 1970’s, 5 out of 10 patients survive beyond 5 years after diagnosis. At present, 8 out of 10 women survive this cancer.
  • It mainly affects women, but men can acquire it too.

In the past years, hundreds of women wear pink and join the race to promote breast cancer awareness. Many cancer awareness programs and campaigns are geared towards achieving donations all over the world to help fund innovative and world-class research that could lead to an improved breast cancer diagnosis, breast cancer treatment, prevention and cure. These programs attract women from all over, to take part and be educated about the development , the types and breast cancer symptoms.

The female breast is an important defining feature in a woman’s body. They are made up mainly of lobules, ducts and stroma. The milk-producing glands are called lobules while the passage where milk flows through from the lobules to the nipples are called ducts.  Stroma consists of fatty and connective tissues that surrounds the ducts, the lobules, and also blood vessels and lymphatic vessels.

Breast Cancer usually begins in the cells that line the ducts. In some cases, cancer cells attack the lobules while a few small number starts in other tissues. Breast cancer types are determined from the point of origin, from where they started. These are:

  • In Situ – This type of cancer is non-invasive. The cancer cells are confined to their place of origin and not spread to any breast tissue around the duct or lobule. Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS) is the most common noninvasive type. This is confined to the lining of the milk ducts.
  • Invasive – This type infiltrates and spreads outside the membrane that lines the lobules or the ducts. It invades the surrounding tissues then travels to nearby lymph nodes and other parts of the body. There are two kinds of invasive breast cancer:

1) Invasive Ductal Carcinoma -It is the most common breast cancer type, accounting to about 70% of all breast cancers. The cancer cells in this type start to form along the lining of the milk ducts, break in through the ductal walls, invading the nearby breast tissue.

2) Invasive Lobular Carcinoma – This type starts along the milk-producing lobules, then spread throughout the surrounding breast tissue. ILC is less common than IDC but can also spread and metastasize to other parts of the body. This type of cancer does not present as a lump but rather a feeling of fullness or an area of thickening in one part of the breast.

There are other types that are less common. Where it does not just begin in a duct or a lobule. it may arise from supporting tissues of the breast such as the fibrous connective tissue, the blood vessels and the lymphatic system.

Awareness helps women spot changes and new developments in their bodies, which may be unusual. These breast cancer symptoms are very important and are to be considered as warning signs when doing breast examination. It is best to consult with a physician when one of these symptoms is spotted. When a cancerous tumor grows in size, symptoms that may be experienced are:

  • a change in size or shape of breast
  • a lump or thickening in the breast and the underarm
  • nipple turning inwards
  • a discharge from the nipples, which can be blood and unusual
  • visible ridges or dimpling of the skin