Breast cancer is one of the most common health conditions faced by most females from all over the world.
Breast cancer is caused due to formation of malignant cells in the breast area. It can occur in men and women, but it is much more common among women.
Did you know breast cancer consists of several types which include ductal carcinoma In Situ (DCIS), invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC), infiltrating lobular carcinoma (ILC), Paget’s disease and inflammatory breast cancer?
- Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS): DCIS develops in the milk ducts of the breast and is a non-invasive type of breast cancer. It is often detected on a mammogram before spreading to the surrounding tissue.
- Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC): IDC is a common type of cancer, accounting for approximately 80% of all cases. It develops in the milk ducts of the breast and can spread to surrounding tissue.
- Invasive Lobular Carcinoma (ILC): 10% of breast cancer cases are registered under ILC. It develops in the milk-producing glands of the breast and further spreads to surrounding tissue.
- Triple-Negative Breast Cancer: Triple-negative breast cancer is an aggressive type that is very difficult to treat. in such cases, patients lack the receptors for estrogen, progesterone, and HER2/neu.
- HER2-Positive Breast Cancer: HER2-positive breast cancer is a type of breast cancer that is tests positive due to a protein called HER2/neu. This type of breast cancer tends to grow more quickly than other types and may be treated with targeted therapies.
- Inflammatory Breast Cancer: Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare but aggressive type of breast cancer. in such cases, patients may experience symptoms such as breasts becoming red, swollen, and inflamed.
Early Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer!
Early signs and symptoms of the problem often include a lump or thickening in the breast tissue, changes to the skin such as dimpling or puckering, nipple discharge that is not milk, and redness or scaling of the nipple or surrounding area. These are a few points that every person should notice from time-to-time intervals, especially females.
However, there have been cases registered in the medical history where patients had no symptoms or any early signal of breast cancer. One good piece of advice to all is to get routine body check-ups every year. A lot of medical health policy allows one free body check-up every year.
How is Breast Cancer Diagnosed ?
After a physical examination by a doctor, he may suggest imaging tests such as mammograms and ultrasounds. Such types of medical tests often help to identify abnormalities in the breasts.
In case an abnormality is detected doctor may proceed with a further test such as biopsies. This test includes taking samples from suspicious areas for laboratory analysis. Specialized imaging techniques like MRI scans may also be recommended depending on the severity of the case.
All of these diagnostic tests will help provide accurate information about the size and stage of any tumors if present. Depending on that the doctor may recommend a treatment option.
So quickly let’s look at some of the often-used treatments for breast cancer:
- Surgery: This medical procedure is done in two different ways Mastectomy (removal of the entire breast) or Lumpectomy (removal of a tumor only). In simple terms, either the infected part or the entire affected tissue is removed to prevent further spreading.
- To prevent it from regrowing other treatments like chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or hormone therapy may also be included along with surgery. Depending on the type and stage of cancer different kinds of surgical procedures may be recommended.
- Chemotherapy: This form of treatment for breast cancer often includes using of medical drugs to destroy cancer cells. It can either be given before surgery to shrink tumors, after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells or both. Chemotherapy can often lead to hair loss, nausea, and fatigue.
- Radiation therapy: Common treatment option for breast cancer which involves using high-energy beams such as X-rays to target and destroy malignant tissue in the body including tumors located in the breasts. Radiation therapy can also help reduce recurrence rates by eliminating any microscopic tumor cells still present following surgery or chemotherapy.
- Hormone Therapy: It is recommended when hormone receptors present in some types of cancers like estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancers that respond well to medications. Such type of medication helps block hormones from attaching to these receptors thus preventing their growth and spread throughout the body.
In minor cases, medicines alone may do their best but in major cases, a combination of chemotherapy, surgery, or radiation works best. This treatment may often result in other side effects to health such as fatigue, breast pain, depression, anxiety, swelling in arms/legs, and sexual health disorders such as vaginal dryness, low libido, etc.
Here are a few tips and tricks used by breast cancer patients that work best in managing side effects caused due to breast cancer treatment.
- Fatigue: Let’s start with the most common side effect of breast cancer treatment often caused by the physical strain of treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy. To avoid fatigue there are 3 best ways to follow.
Take rest to reduce stress
Exercise but at the appropriate level with guidance from a doctor
Adopt healthy lifestyle
- Pain: Breast cancer treatments are often painful. To overcome such pain the best management techniques may include medications, relaxation exercises, massage therapy or other therapies recommended by your doctor.
- Anxiety and Depression: These mental health conditions are often caused due to fear of breast cancer or due to undergoing treatment and results. This can have a negative impact on the quality of life you are living and can often bring negative thoughts to mind. In case a person feels disturbed due to addressed illness or during the treatment, it is best to consult psychiatrists who are often aware of how to make patients’ mental health comfortable and stable in such a situation.
- Lymphedema: Fluid buildup due to damage/removal of lymph nodes during surgery leads to swelling in the arms or legs near where the lymph nodes were removed from (axillary region). This condition requires specific care including compression garments/bandages, and manual lymphatic drainage massage therapy. It is a must to follow skin care practices such as avoiding sun exposure or hot showers/baths etc. Make sure your precautions are aimed towards preventing further exacerbation of lymphedema symptoms over time.
- Sexual Health Concerns: Breast cancer treatment can often lead to low libido in women due to vaginal dryness. Depression, stress and certain medication and treatment options can lead to vaginal dryness. In such conditions, women often feel pain during intercourse leading to a low desire for sex. To overcome such sexual health issue doctor may suggest using coconut oil or lubrication to manage vaginal dryness.
Women often look forward to maintaining their body posture. In such conditions, breast cancer treatment such as Mastectomy surgery (removal of the entire breast) can have a bad impact on women’s mental health. Now it is what it is and can’t be changed. To overcome such mental health conditions, it is very important to make the patient feel comfortable in the surrounding. Psychiatrists again play a major role in helping women overcome the trauma caused by their mirror image.
Living with Breast Cancer
- Diet and nutrition: It plays an important role not only in treating breast cancer but keeping your body healthy and fit. Hence adding a balanced diet of whole foods such as fruits, vegetables and lean proteins is very essential. Such type of food intake often helps to reduce inflammation which may be beneficial for those undergoing treatment or living with the disease. Eating smaller meals throughout the day can also help to increase energy levels as well as keep blood sugar levels stable. Limiting processed foods and avoiding alcohol at all costs is very important.
- Exercise: To reduce stress and anxiety caused by the treatment of cancer it is very important to exercise regularly. Exercise helps the release of certain dopamine in the brain which helps to calm and remove stress and anxiety.
- Massage Therapy or Acupuncture: I do not think this needs a brief explanation. The use of Massage therapy or acupuncture technique can often help in getting relaxation from the pain. In the end, now let’s look at some ways in which breast cancer can be prevented or avoided at all causes. Self-examination is the best examination ever. Especially for women above 20 years of age or menopausal women should do a self-breast examination at least once a week. So that in case they notice any abnormal change such as a lump can be easily detected and treated well in advance if needed.
- Family History: If your family history belongs to breast cancer it is good to get an x-ray imaging test done on time especially post-’40s. This can help identify any abnormalities early on so that treatment options can be considered within no time.
- Lifestyle Modifications: Lifestyle modifications such as regular exercise, a healthy diet and avoiding carcinogens such as tobacco use, smoking, illicit drug use, drinking of alcohol, etc is very important to remain fit and healthy in today’s unhealthy environment.