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Breast Cancer: Symptoms, Risk Factors, And Treatment

Mar 2, 2008
Breast cancer is the abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells in the breast. Under normal circumstances, the cells of the body reproduce in an orderly manner in order to facilitate growth and replace worn-out or damaged tissues. Cancer is caused when the cells grow uncontrollably into a mass of tissue, which is called a tumor. These tumors could be non-cancerous (benign) or they could be cancerous (malignant). The malignant or cancerous cells keep building up and form a tumor. Sometimes these malignant cells spread to other parts of the body through the lymph system, forming new cancers called metastases or secondaries.

Breast Cancer Symptoms

There are no symptoms and no pain in early cancer. Cancer is first suspected when an individual discovers a breast lump or when an abnormality is found on mammography. Though all breast lumps are not necessarily cancerous, it is important to get them evaluated by a doctor to rule out the incidence of cancer.

Other signs of cancer could be a lump above the collarbone or in the armpit that does not go away or nipple inversion that is a new development and was not present earlier. Breast discharge that is bloody or only from one breast are also cause for concern and should be checked by a doctor.

Risk Factors for Cancer

Gender, age and hereditary factors are the three major determining factors for breast cancer.

Gender is a critical factor and women are at a much higher risk of developing breast cancer than men.

Though breast cancer can occur at any age, the risk increases with age. A 60 year old woman has a 1 in 30 chance of developing cancer as opposed to a 30 year old woman who has once chance in 280.

Women who have a family history of cancer are also at a higher risk of developing cancer.

When to seek Medical Care

Breast cancer is not an overnight development; it develops and grows over months and years. However once it is identified, treatment should be sought immediately as breast cancer is much more difficult to treat when it spreads.

It is critical that you see a doctor as soon as possible if you notice any of the possible symptoms of cancer or if any abnormality has been found in your mammogram.

Treatment of Breast Cancer

Treatment of cancer has the highest success rate is treatment is started in the early stages. There are several different treatment methods available, which are often used in combination taking into consideration individual circumstances.

Some of the possible treatment methods include:

Chemotherapy- where the cancer cells are controlled or killed with a course of drugs.

Radiotherapy- where the cancer cells are controlled or killed with a course of high energy X-rays.

Surgery- this could involve either a lumpectomy, where the cancer along with a small part of the breast surrounding it is removed or a mastectomy , where the entire breast is removed.

Hormone therapy- this form of treatment is used to control the growth of breast cancer that develops and grows due to changes in hormones.
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