Inforgraphic from the CDC
Breast cancer, like any other cancer, occurs when a mutation or abnormal change deforms the genes responsible for healthy cell growth. Such a change could lead to uncontrolled or undesirable cell growth. The cells that result from this also carry the faulty gene combination meaning that the cell growth becomes exponential resulting into a tumor.
The resulting tumor could be either malignant or benign. Benign tumors grow slowly and contain almost normal cells. They do not invade surrounding tissue or spread to the rest of the body hence are not really a big threat.
Malignant tumors, on the other hand, consist of highly mutated cells that not only grow fast but also have the power to invade and affect other parts of the body.
How Does This Relate to Breast Cancer?
A cancer becomes breast cancer if a malignant tumor develops from the breast cells. These could be cells in the milk-producing glands (lobules,) the ducts or sometimes the stromal tissues.
If left unchecked, the cancer can invade surrounding healthy tissue and later make their way to the underarm lymph nodes. If the cells make get to the lymph nodes, they will have unlimited access to other parts of the body and the condition can escalate faster.
The spread of the mutated cells from the initial tumor determines the stage of the cancer. Comparing this against the breast cancer stages chart will give you a visual impression of the infection.
The Causes of Breast Cancer
Contrary to the common belief that most of the breast cancer is inherited, research has shown that only 5 to 10 percent of the cancers result from inherent genetic material mistakes. 85 to 90 percent of the conditions result from abnormalities arising from aging, exposure to mutagens and the natural tear and wear of life.
Staying on Top of Breast Cancer
The best card you could ever deal malignant tumors is by discovering them as soon as possible. The simplest way to identifying tumors before they spread is by taking regular mammograms. Mammograms are x-ray pictures of the breast tissue. They are a sure way to identifying tumors that are too small to feel or detect during a physical exam.
- Screening mammograms search for any changes in women without any signs of breast cancer. They are an early warning sign and the physician will only act when he or she sees something suspicious.
- Diagnostic mammograms are taken when you have identified a lump during the physical examination or the screening mammogram. It involves taking x-rays from different angles for better inspection of the anomaly.
While the mammogram is the real deal in identifying breast cancer, a regular physical examination between the regular mammograms will be another early warning strategy. Feel your breasts and underarms looking for:
- Lumps in or near the breasts
- Lumps under the arms
- Thick or firm tissue near the breasts or sometimes under the arms
- Changes in breast size and shape
Contacting an expert when you spy a lump is always wise. You must note that the breasts will feel lumpy during pregnancy or during your menstruation period. This should cause any alarm unless it persists beyond menstruation or sticks to one part of your breast for a month or two during pregnancy. Only then should you seek medical advice.
Since breast cancer is in essence cancer, understanding cancer in general will help you know the dynamics of breast cancer better. Exploring the different treatment and maintenance options as soon as you get a positive diagnosis will give you a better shot at beating the cancer.
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