The first thing you need to know about breast cancer (as, indeed, about any kind of cancer): today this is not that terrible, the earlier the stage of the disease, the higher the chances of completely defeating cancer.
And even in the later stages, there are more and more opportunities to effectively fight the disease through the emergence of modern revolutionary therapies. One of the main conditions on which the patient’s life expectancy depends is the earliest diagnosis.
Breast cancer is a malignant neoplasm that occurs in almost every tenth woman. Breast cancer can be diagnosed at any age, but after 65 years the risk of tumor formation is six times higher than before this age.
Researchers identify the following causes of the disease:
- burdened heredity: if the relatives, especially the maternal line, were diagnosed with breast cancer, female genital organs, and other oncological disorders, the risk of developing breast cancer increases;
- early onset of menstruation (up to 12 years) and later onset of menopause (after 55 years);
- primary infertility, late first childbirth (after 30 years), lack of lactation or a short period of breastfeeding, postpartum mastitis;
- irregular sex life;
- trauma of the mammary gland;
- the diagnosis of “hormonal hyperplasia of the mammary glands”;
- thyroid dysfunction;
- hormone replacement therapy.
An increased risk of developing cancer does not necessarily lead to the formation of a tumor. There are cases when a woman from a risk group does not develop breast cancer. At the same time, completely healthy woman but with poor heredity can get cancer. Therefore, it is very important to take good care of your health, regularly perform self-examination of the mammary glands. Early detection of the tumor improves the patient’s life expectancy.
In medical practice, the tumor in the mammary gland is in most cases detected by the woman or spouse, which also happens. A tumor can be detected on examination by a mammalian doctor, gynecologist, surgeon or an accidental finding in a screening examination.
What signs should alert:
- except for groping formation in the breast, a woman can observe the changes of the nipple: ulceration, retraction, spotting from the nipple. This is an occasion to see a doctor immediately!
- at later stages there is a noticeable increasing weakness, deterioration of well-being, cough, expressed shortness of breath, pain in the bones.
At the primary consultation, the doctor should find out the patient’s complaints and conduct an examination, in which the shape, size, consistency, contours, compaction surface in the mammary gland, nipple discharge and their nature, ulceration, swelling, and redness of the skin are evaluated. Mandatory examination of axillary, subclavian and supraclavicular lymph nodes.
In detecting pathological changes in the mammary glands, the doctor directs the patient for instrumental follow-up.
The classical, basic method of diagnosis is mammography. It is an x-ray study of the mammary glands, which allows you to quickly and painlessly conduct a screening test.
Mammography can detect breast cancer at an early stage in the absence of clinical symptoms and diagnose the disease if they are present. In the case of early detection, as already mentioned, the chance for a high duration and quality of life is significantly increased.
In some cases, the patient is prescribed a breast MR scan with intravenous contrast. Most often it is required in such situations:
- ambiguous conclusions from other surveys (see above),
- high density of breast tissue,
- if there are implants in the breast,
- in cases of lobular breast cancer, hereditary breast cancer.
After receiving the results of a comprehensive examination and confirming the tumor in the mammary gland, it is necessary to perform a biopsy, that is, taking a piece of the tumor for a morphological and immunohistochemical study. It is necessary for planning further tactics of patient treatment, the expert says.
Treatment of breast cancer is carried out in several stages using different methods. Today, three primary methods are used:
Drug antitumor therapy. There are several types of such therapy, namely:
- chemotherapy: in this case, drugs used to destroy tumor cells;
- hormone therapy or the use of drugs that suppress the hormonal activity of the tumor and the body;
- targeted therapy is a relatively new direction, the approach when the drugs are “sharpened” on the target effect on tumor cells and act most sparingly on healthy human tissues;
- immunotherapy is the newest trend, which today at international congresses of oncologists is called one of the most advanced and encouraging methods of fighting against different types of cancer. The essence of immunotherapy is lying in the special programming of the patient’s immune cells. Thanks to unique technology, they turn into a powerful weapon that can recognize and aim to destroy cancer cells.
With the diagnosis of “breast cancer,” surgical treatment and radiation therapy are also used.
At the moment, these three methods of treating breast cancer used with proven efficacy. The sequence of application of the methods, as well as the type of therapy, is selected individually in each specific case. The choice depends on the stage of the disease, the type of cancer, the effectiveness of the previous treatment, the condition of the patient and other factors.
If one of the relatives of a woman of the 1st and 2nd degree of kinship has had cancer of the mammary glands, female genital organs or other cancer, she should consult a doctor oncologist-mammologist for 7-10 years before the age when the cancer was diagnosed with a relative.
Every woman should know her genetic predisposition to breast cancer and other malignant diseases. It can be determined using a genetic test. In some cases, it reveals a significantly increased risk.
Common recommendations do not help 100% protect against breast cancer. However, if you adhere to the rules of healthy eating, lead an active lifestyle, get rid of bad habits, minimize stress levels and, in general, take good care of your health, you can reduce the risk of oncology.