What is Breast Cancer?
Cancer occurs when changes occur in the genes that regulate the division of cells. The mutations in these genes allow for an uncontrolled division and multiplication of cells. These cells continue to grow, resulting in tumors. Breast Cancer is a division of the cells in the breast tissue. It’s typically confined to the mammary glands and ducts (lobules) which act as pipes, transporting milk to the nipple. However, there are other random causes for breast cancer that originate in the fatty tissue or fibrous connective tissues within the breast. The uncontrolled breast cancer cells are invasive and overtake healthy breast tissue, spreading through the lymph nodes. These are the primary route that cancer cells use to travel to other parts of the body.
In its early stages, breast cancer does not always cause symptoms. In many cases, a tumor may be too small to be felt, but an abnormality can still be observed on a mammogram. If a tumor is large enough to feel, the first sign is usually a new lump in the breast that was not there before. Each type of tumor has different symptoms at first, that grow into more severe symptoms as the condition worsens. Symptoms for the most common types of breast cancers include:
- A newly developed lump in the breast different from the surrounding tissue
- Breast pain
- Red and pitted skin on the breast
- Nipple discharge (that isn’t breast milk)
- Swelling of the breast (whole or partial)
- Bloody discharge
- Skin in the breast or nipple peeling or flaking
- Random sudden changes in breast size and/or shape
- Inverted nipple
- Difference in appearance of the skin
- Lump or swelling under the arms
These symptoms can also point to different medical conditions. If experiencing any of these, it is best to see a doctor right away as cancer is best treated early.
Types of Breast Cancer
There are multiple different types of breast cancer. They are categorized into two main groups, ‘invasive’ and ‘non-invasive. Non-invasive is also known as ‘in situ’. Invasive means the cancer has spread to other glands and tissue, while non-invasive means it has not.
- Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) – Cancer growth confined in the breast ducts. Has not invaded other tissues
- Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) – Cancer growth in the milk-producing glands of the breast. Has not invaded other tissues.
- Invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) – This is the most frequent and common case of breast cancer. It can spread to not only other parts of the breast but also to other organs and tissue. This is the fourth most common cancer among women worldwide, with about 1.35 million new cases each year. This type of breast cancer begins in your milk ducts, then invades nearby breast tissue. When this happens, the cells may have already begun to move into surrounding spaces or lymph vessels or blood vessels near your breast.
- Invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC) – Develops first in the lobules of the breast (milk-producing glands) and has invaded other tissue
Other more rare types of breast cancer include:
- Paget disease of the nipple
- Phyllodes tumour
- Inflammatory breast cancer
- Metastatic breast cancer
- Triple-negative breast cancer
If you think you might have breast cancer, then visit your doctor, get a mammogram check or come and see us at Centre of Balance. Centre of balance practices Traditional Chinese medicine that uses a holistic approach to diagnosing and treating breast cancer patients.
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