Risks And Causes Of Breast Cancer
The exact cause of breast cancer is unknown, but factors that seem to increase risk include:
- gender being a woman
- getting older women over 50 years of age are invited to take part in yearly mammograms to screen for breast cancer
- heredity having several close family members who have had breast cancer
- previous history of breast cancer women who have had breast cancer have a greater risk of developing it again
- certain breast diseases some types of breast disease that are found through mammograms indicate an increased risk.
Can A Person Take Hrt If They Currently Have Or Have Had Breast Cancer
A person who has had or has breast cancer should not take HRT. Instead, they should speak with a doctor about alternative options.
According to the ACS, using HRT following breast cancer can increase the likelihood of recurrence or new tumors developing.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists notes that the first-line choices for managing menopausal symptoms in people during or after their treatment for breast cancer include nonhormonal approaches.
These include moisturizers, topical anesthetics, and lubricants to treat vaginal symptoms.
Those who have a history of estrogen-dependent breast cancer can use vaginal estrogen therapy if they do not respond to nonhormonal approaches. Vaginal estrogen therapy delivers low doses of hormone.
Inherited Versus Acquired Dna Mutations
Normal breast cells become cancer because of changes in DNA. DNA is the chemical in our cells that makes up our genes. Genes have the instructions for how our cells function.
Some DNA mutations are inherited or passed to you from your parents. This means the mutations are in all your cells when you are born.;Some mutations can greatly increase the risk of certain cancers. They cause many of the cancers that run in some families and often cause cancer when people are younger.
But most DNA mutations linked to breast cancer are acquired. This means the change takes place in breast cells during a person’s life rather than having been inherited or born with them. Acquired DNA mutations take place over time and are only in the breast cancer cells.
Mutated DNA can lead to mutated genes. Some genes control when our cells grow, divide into new cells, and die. Changes in these genes can cause the cells to lose normal control and are linked to cancer.
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How Is Breast Cancer Diagnosed
During your regular physical examination, your doctor will take a thorough personal and family medical history. He or she will also perform and/or order one or more of the following:
- Breast examination: During the breast exam, the doctor will carefully feel the lump and the tissue around it. Breast cancer usually feels different than benign lumps.
- Digital mammography: An X-ray test of the breast can give important information about a breast lump. This is an X-ray image of the breast and is digitally recorded into a computer rather than on a film. This is generally the standard of care .
- Ultrasonography: This test uses sound waves to detect the character of a breast lump whether it is a fluid-filled cyst or a solid mass . This may be performed along with the mammogram.
Based on the results of these tests, your doctor may or may not request a biopsy to get a sample of the breast mass cells or tissue. Biopsies are performed using surgery or needles.
After the sample is removed, it is sent to a lab for testing. A pathologist a doctor who specializes in diagnosing abnormal tissue changes views the sample under a microscope and looks for abnormal cell shapes or growth patterns. When cancer is present, the pathologist can tell what kind of cancer it is and whether it has spread beyond the ducts or lobules .
What Are The Types Of Breast Cancer
The most common types of breast cancer are:
- Infiltrating ductal carcinoma. This cancer starts in the milk ducts of the breast. It then breaks through the wall of the duct and invades the surrounding tissue in the breast. This is the most common form of breast cancer, accounting for 80% of cases.
- Ductal carcinoma in situ is ductal carcinoma in its earliest stage, or precancerous . In situ refers to the fact that the cancer hasn’t spread beyond its point of origin. In this case, the disease is confined to the milk ducts and has not invaded nearby breast tissue. If untreated, ductal carcinoma in situ may become invasive cancer. It is almost always curable.
- Infiltrating lobular carcinoma. This cancer begins in the lobules of the breast where breast milk is produced, but has spread to surrounding tissues in the breast. It accounts for 10 to 15% of breast cancers. This cancer can be more difficult to diagnose with mammograms.
- Lobular carcinoma in situ is a marker for cancer that is only in the lobules of the breast. It isn’t a true cancer, but serves as a marker for the increased risk of developing breast cancer later, possibly in both or either breasts. Thus, it is important for women with lobular carcinoma in situ to have regular clinical breast exams and mammograms.
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Risk Factors You Can Change
Weight. Being overweight after menopause increases your odds.
Drinking alcohol.Alcohol is linked to breast cancer. Compared with nondrinkers, women who drink one alcoholic drink a day have a very small increase in risk, and those who are moderate drinkers have about a 20% higher risk.
Hormone replacement therapy . Long-term use of estrogen and progesterone increases the risk of breast cancer. This risk seems to go away if you’ve stopped using them for 5 years or longer.
Being inactive. Your odds go up if you donât exercise.
Reproductive history. Having your first child after age 30 or never having a full-term pregnancy puts you at higher risk. So does not breastfeeding.
Immune And Excretory Systems
In the later stages of breast cancer, the tumors have spread to other lymph nodes. The underarms are some of the first affected areas. This is because of how close they are to the breasts. You may feel tenderness and swelling under your arms.
Other lymph nodes can become affected because of the lymphatic system. While this system is usually responsible for transmitting healthy lymph throughout the body, it can also spread cancer tumors.
Tumors may spread through the lymphatic system to the lungs and liver. If the lungs are affected, you might experience:
- chronic cough
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Myth: Breast Cancer Always Causes A Lump You Can Feelfact: Breast Cancer Might Not Cause A Lump Especially When It First Develops
People are sometimes under the impression that breast cancer always causes a lump that can be felt during a self-exam. They might use this as a reason to skip mammograms, thinking theyll be able to feel any change that might indicate a problem. However, breast cancer doesnt always cause a lump. By the time it does, the cancer might have already moved beyond the breast into the lymph nodes. Although performing breast self-exams is certainly a good idea, it isnt a substitute for regular screening with mammography.
There are some other myths about what types of breast lumps are less worrisome, such as: If the lump is painful, it isnt breast cancer, and If you can feel a lump that is smooth, and/or that moves around freely under the skin, its not breast cancer. Any lump or unusual mass that can be felt through the skin needs to be checked out by a healthcare professional. Although most lumps are benign , there is always the possibility of breast cancer.
As Community member Simone RC says, that you only need to worry if your lump is hard, not movable, and not smooth. Every single doctor who felt my always-lumpy breasts said they never would have thought what I felt was suspicious. I noticed the new lump on one of my best old lumps. Smooth, movable, soft, like a grape cut in half lengthwise. Thank goodness my gynecologist took me seriously despite having my annual 3D mammogram completely clear a few months before.
Can A Person With A Family History Of Breast Cancer Take Hrt
A 2019 article in the journal Archives of Breast Cancer states that there are no guidelines on the safety of HRT use in those with a family history of breast cancer.
A systematic review from 2021 notes that HRT does not have a relevant effect on the risk of cancer in those who carry the BRCA gene.
Another study from 2018 found that the use of estrogen after surgery to remove the ovaries does not increase the chance of breast cancer in those with the BRCA1 gene. However, they also note that further research is needed on the effect of progesterone-containing HRT.
Breast Cancer Now suggests that a person should speak with a doctor before using HRT if they have inherited a breast cancer gene, such as BRCA1 or BRCA2.
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Where Is The First Place Breast Cancer Spreads
The first place that breast cancer commonly spreads to outside the breast are the lymph nodes in the armpit . Surgery is usually needed to remove one or more lymph nodes to help check for breast cancer spread. This operation to remove lymph nodes in the armpit is known as axillary surgery.
Breast cancer found in the lymph nodes will impact the breast cancers staging, and the treatment plan will often be affected as well.
If cancer is found in the lymph nodes, there is a higher chance that cells have travelled through the lymphatic system and bloodstream to spread to other parts of the body. In this instance, treatment with systemic therapies, such as; chemotherapy, is likely to be recommended.
If cancer is found in a large number of axillary nodes, radiotherapy may also be recommended to kill any breast cancer cells that remain in the armpit but cannot be removed by surgery.
Ovarian Ablation Or Suppression
In women who haven’t;experienced the menopause, oestrogen is produced by the ovaries. Ovarian ablation or suppression stops the ovaries working and producing oestrogen.
Ablation can be carried out using surgery or radiotherapy. It;stops the ovaries working permanently and means you’ll experience the menopause early.
Ovarian suppression involves using a medication called goserelin, which is a luteinising hormone-releasing hormone agonist . Your periods will stop while you’re taking it, although they should start again once your treatment is complete.
If you’re;approaching the menopause , your periods may not start again after you stop taking goserelin.
Goserelin is taken as an injection once a month and can cause menopausal side effects, including:
- hot flushes and sweats
- Breast Cancer Now: Hormone therapy
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Breast Exam By Your Doctor
The same guidelines for self-exams provided above are true for breast exams done by your doctor or other healthcare professional. They wont hurt you, and your doctor may do a breast exam during your annual visit.
If youre having symptoms that concern you, its a good idea to have your doctor do a breast exam. During the exam, your doctor will check both of your breasts for abnormal spots or signs of breast cancer.
Your doctor may also check other parts of your body to see if the symptoms youre having could be related to another condition.
Who Provides Breast Cancer Treatment
A medical team may involve several different health professionals. It may include a GP, a radiologist, an oncologist, a breast care nurse, a surgeon and other allied health professionals such as counsellors and therapists. Having a multi-disciplinary team means a patient can receive the best care possible.
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Why Shouldnt I Use Plastic In The Microwave
Like many other questions about chemicals and human health, there is a lack of scientific data on the issue of plastics and the microwave. What we do know is that a number of plasticizers, or compounds added to plastics to make them soft, mimic the hormone estrogen when theyre ingested into the human body. Estrogen is a hormone closely related to the development of breast cancer. We also know that these compounds DEHA , phthalates, and bisphenol-A can migrate from plastics to food when heated to microwave temperatures, especially foods with a high fat, oil, or sugar content. The Food and Drug Administration and the American Plastics Council state that its still safe to use plastic in the microwave because there is no evidence that the small amounts of these chemicals being ingested is harmful. But lack of evidence does not equal lack of harm. Studies that test the effects of exposure from microwaved plastics do not take into account that were exposed to these chemicals through many other mediums and that they can accumulate in our bodies. Dioxin, a known carcinogen, is also used in some plastics and plastic wrap and is often included in the microwave debate. Dioxin is released when plastics are incinerated, but theres no evidence that it leaches out at microwave temperatures. Its best to abide by the precautionary principle and reach for safe alternatives, like ceramic or glass cookware, when youre using the microwave.
Living With Breast Cancer
Being diagnosed with breast cancer can affect daily life in many ways,;depending on what stage;it’s at and what treatment you’re having.
How women cope with their diagnosis and treatment varies from person to person. You can be reassured that there are several forms of support available, if you need it. For example:
- your;family and;friends can be a powerful support system
- you can communicate with other people in the same situation
- find out as much as possible about your condition
- don’t try to do too much or overexert yourself
- make time for yourself
Read more about breast screening
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Treatment For Breast Cancer
Treatment options for breast cancer include surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and hormone therapy. Usually, more than one is used. Treatment for breast cancer in men is similar to the treatment for breast cancer in women.
Treatment depends on several factors, including:
- whether you have had your menopause
- the type of breast cancer you have
- the size of your breast tumour in relation to your breast
- the stage of your breast cancer
- the grade of your cancer cells
- the results of tests on your cancer cells
- your age, general health and personal preferences.
Who Gets Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women other than skin cancer. Increasing age is the most common risk factor for developing breast cancer, with 66% of breast cancer patients being diagnosed after the age of 55.
In the US, breast cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in women after lung cancer, and it’s the leading cause of cancer death among women ages 35 to 54. Only 5 to 10% of breast cancers occur in women with a clearly defined genetic predisposition for the disease. The majority of breast cancer cases are “sporadic, meaning there is no definitive gene mutation.
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Tests To Determine Specific Types Of Treatment
You’ll also need tests that show whether the cancer will respond to specific types of treatment. The results of these tests can give your doctors a more complete picture of the type of cancer you have and how best to treat it. The types of test you could be offered are discussed below.
In some cases, breast cancer cells can be stimulated to grow by hormones that occur naturally in your body, such as oestrogen and progesterone.
If this is the case, the cancer may be treated by stopping the effects of the hormones, or by lowering the level of these hormones in your body. This is known as “hormone therapy”.
During;a hormone receptor test, a sample of cancer cells will be taken from your breast and tested to see if they respond to either oestrogen or progesterone. If the hormone is able to attach to the cancer cells , they’re known as “hormone receptor positive”.
While hormones can encourage the growth of some types of breast cancer, other types are stimulated by a protein called;human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 .
These types of cancer can be diagnosed using a HER2 test, and treated with medication to block the effects of HER2. This is known as “biological” or “targeted” therapy.
Can Breast Cancer Be Prevented
Unfortunately, there isnt a way to prevent breast cancer completely. However, lifestyle choices such as maintaining a healthy weight and lowering alcohol consumption can help to reduce your risk of breast cancer.
If you are at high risk of developing breast cancer, your doctor may suggest hormone treatments , or a pre-emptive mastectomy.
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What Environmental Factors Are Linked To Breast Cancer
A growing body of evidence from experimental, body burden and ecological research indicates that there is a connection between environmental factors and breast cancer. There are over 85,000 synthetic chemicals on the market today, from preservatives in our lipstick to flame retardants in our sofas, from plasticizers in our water bottles to pesticides on our fruits and vegetables. The U.S. government has no adequate chemical regulation policy, therefore companies are allowed to manufacture and use chemicals without ever establishing their safety. As the use of chemicals has risen in the U.S. and other industrialized countries, so have rates of breast and other cancers.
Here are some key facts you should know about the environment and breast cancer:
Not enough research is being done on environmental links to breast cancer and other cancers and BCA is working to change this. As we pursue the research that will lead to even more definitive answers, we can and should reduce our exposure to substances we believe cause cancer by using the precautionary principle of public health.