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Home > Symptom > Breast Cancer Symptoms - Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment & Prevention

Breast Cancer Symptoms - Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment & Prevention

Breast Cancer Symptoms - Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment & Prevention

Overview of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer develops when cells in the breast multiply and expand out of control, resulting in a lump of tissue known as a tumour. The symptoms of Breast cancer may include noticing a change in breast size, feeling a lump or changes to the skin around the breasts. Early detection can be aided by mammograms.

What is Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer originates in your breast tissue. The mutation and abnormal growth of breast cells triggers the production of a mass of tissue. Just as other types of cancer, Breast cancer can spread to the tissue surrounding your breast. Additionally, it might spread to other areas of your body, developing new tumours.

Who is Mainly Affected by Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer is one of the most common cancer types in women, second only to skin cancer. Men can also develop breast cancer in unlikely scenarios. Male breast cancer affects about 2,600 males annually in India, accounting for less than 1% of total cases.

Transgender women run a greater risk of breast cancer compared to cisgender men. In addition, compared to cisgender women, transgender men have a lower risk of breast cancer.

What are the Types of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer comes in a variety of forms. The kind of cells in the breast that are impacted determines the type. The majority of breast malignancies are carcinomas. Since the tumours begin in the gland cells in the milk ducts or the lobules, adenocarcinomas are the most prevalent types of breast cancer, including ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) and invasive carcinoma (milk-producing glands). Angiosarcoma and sarcoma are two other cancer types that can develop in the breast but are not called breast cancer since they begin in separate breast cells.

Additionally, distinct types of proteins or genes that each tumour may produce are used to categorise breast tumours. Breast cancer cells are examined for the HER2 gene or protein as well as oestrogen and progesterone receptors after a biopsy. To determine the grade of the tumour, the tumour cells are also examined carefully in the laboratory. The particular proteins discovered and the tumour grade can be used to determine the cancer's stage and available treatments.

  • Ductal carcinoma in situ. DCIS, is a non-invasive condition. When you have DCIS, your breast's cancer cells are confined to the ducts and haven't moved to the breast tissue nearby.

  • Lobular carcinoma in situ. Your breast's milk-producing glands develop a cancer known as lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS). Unlike DCIS, the cancer cells have not gotten into the nearby tissue.

  • Invasive ductal carcinoma. This is the most common subtype of breast cancer (IDC). Before spreading to nearby breast tissue, this type of breast cancer begins in the milk ducts of your breast. Once breast cancer has affected the tissue outside of your milk ducts, it may begin to spread to other organs and tissue.

  • Invasive lobular carcinoma. Your breast's lobules are the initial site of the invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC), but it has already spread to nearby tissue.

Other, less common types of breast cancer include:

  • Paget disease of the nipple. This type of breast cancer initially develops in the ducts of the nipple, but as it spreads, it also impacts the skin and areola of the nipple..

  • Phyllodes tumour. The connective tissue of the breast is where this incredibly rare type of breast cancer arises. Even while benign tumours make up the bulk of them, some are cancerous.

  • Angiosarcoma. This particular type of breast cancer grows on the lymphatic or blood vessels.

Your treatment choices and overall prognosis are influenced by the type of cancer you have.

Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare but severe type of breast cancer (IBC). According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), only 1 to 5 percent of all breast cancer cases have IBC.

Because cells impede the lymph nodes around the breasts in this condition, the lymphatic capillaries in the breast cannot drain properly. Instead of resulting in a tumour, IBC causes your breast to enlarge, get red, and feel extremely warm. Your breast may have thick, pitted skin that resembles an orange peel.

IBC is known for being forceful and moving quickly. Because of this, it's imperative to contact your doctor as soon as you notice any symptoms.

Triple-Negative Breast Cancer

It only affects 10 to 15 percent of those who have breast cancer (ACS).

A tumour exhibiting all three of the following traits is classified as triple-negative breast cancer:

It lacks estrogenic receptors: which are cell-surface oestrogen receptors that link or bind to oestrogen. If a tumour has oestrogen receptors, oestrogen may promote the growth of cancer.

It lacks progesterone receptors: These cells contain progesterone receptors, which bind to the hormone. If the tumour has progesterone receptors, progesterone can promote the growth of cancer.

It lacks human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) proteins: Its surface is devoid of any extra HER2 proteins. Breast cancer is encouraged to spread by a protein known as HER2.

Because hormone therapy for breast cancer is ineffective, triple-negative breast cancers are challenging to treat.

What are the Breast Cancer Stages

Doctors divide breast cancer into several stages based on the size of the tumour and how far it has progressed.

Tumours that are huge or have spread to nearby tissues or organs are at a later stage compared to those that are tiny or remain contained within the breast. Doctors must be aware of the following in order to stage breast cancer:

  • if the cancer is invasive or non-invasive
  • how large the tumour is
  • whether the lymph nodes are involved
  • if the cancer has spread to nearby tissue or organs

The five stages of Breast cancer include: Stages 0 to 4.

Stage 0 breast cancer

DCIS is stage 0. In Stage 0, the cancer cells reside in the breast's ducts without invading any adjacent tissue.

Stage 1 breast cancer

  • Stage 1A.  The primary tumour is less than 2cm broad. There is no impact on the lymph nodes.
  • Stage 1B. Adjacent Lymph nodes have cancer. The tumour is either smaller than 2 cm in size or the breast is free of tumour.

Stage 2 breast cancer

  • Stage 2A.  It is between 2 and 5 cm in size, has no lymph node dissemination, or is less than 2 cm in size and has spread to one to three nearby lymph nodes.
  • Stage 2B. The tumour is greater than 5 cm in size and has not metastasized to any lymph nodes, or it is between 2 and 5 cm in size and has metastasized to one to three axillary (armpit) lymph nodes.

Stage 3 breast cancer

  • Stage 3A
  1. The internal mammary lymph nodes have grown larger or the malignancy has migrated to 4 to 9 axillary lymph nodes. Any size primary tumour is possible.
  2. more than 5 cm tumours One to three lymph nodes in the axilla or any nodes in the breastbone have developed malignancy.
  • Stage 3B.  It's possible or unlikely that a tumour that has progressed to the skin or chest wall has penetrated up to 9 lymph nodes.
  • Stage 3C.  At least 10 internal mammary nodes, axillary lymph nodes, or lymph nodes around the collarbone are cancerous.

Stage 4 breast cancer (metastatic breast cancer)

Tumors in stage 4 breast cancer can be of any size. Along with distant organs, its malignant cells have also infected local and distant lymph nodes.

The findings of the tests your doctor does to determine the stage of your breast cancer will have an impact on your therapy.

Male Breast Cancer

The tissue of men's breasts can develop cancer, known as male breast cancer. Breast cancer can affect men, despite the fact that it is typically associated with women.

Male breast cancer can afflict males of any age, but older men are more frequently affected.

The likelihood of a successful therapy increases with early discovery of male breast cancer in men. In order to remove the breast tissue, surgery is frequently performed as a method of treatment. Additional treatments, like as chemotherapy and radiation therapy, may be advised based on your unique circumstances.

Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer

A mammography can often detect an anomaly even when a tumour is too small to be felt when Breast cancer may go undetected in its early stages.

The initial indication of a tumour, if one can be felt, is typically a new lump in the breast that wasn't there before. But not every lump is cancer.

A number of symptoms can be brought on by various breast cancer types. The following signs symbolize the most prevalent breast cancers:

a breast lump or tissue thickening that feels different from surrounding tissue and is new

  • breast pain
  • red or discoloured, pitted skin on the breast
  • swelling in all or part of your breast
  • a nipple discharge other than breast milk
  • bloody discharge from your nipple
  • peeling, scaling, or flaking of skin on your nipple or breast
  • a sudden, unexplained change in the shape or size of your breast
  • inverted nipple
  • changes to the appearance of the skin on your breasts
  • a lump or swelling under your arm

Breast cancer is not always the cause of these symptoms even if one experiences any of the above signs. For instance, a lump or pain in the breast could be caused by a benign cyst.
But if you find a lump in your breast or have other symptoms, schedule a visit with your doctor for extra examination and testing.

What Causes Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer develops when abnormal cells in your breast multiply and enlarge. However, experts are unaware of the exact event that started this process in the first place.

There are, however, a variety of risk factors that could increase your risk of developing breast cancer, claims the study. These include:

  • Age:  Your risk of breast cancer rises if you are 55 or older.

  • Sex: Breast cancer is far more common in women than in men.

  • Family history and genetics: You have a higher chance of getting breast cancer at some point in your life if your parents, siblings, children, or other close relatives have. 5% to 10% of breast cancers are caused by a single faulty gene that is handed down from parents to children as per genetic testing.

  • Smoking: Breast cancer is one of the many cancers that tobacco usage has been related to.

  • Alcohol use: According to research, drinking alcohol may make you more likely to get particular types of breast cancer.

  • Obesity: Obesity can raise your risk of developing breast cancer and having it return.

  • Radiation exposure: You are more likely to get breast cancer if you've previously undergone radiation therapy, especially to the head, neck, or chest.

  • Hormone replacement therapy: Utilizers of hormone replacement treatment (HRT) are more likely to get breast cancer.

Multiple other variables can increase the risk of acquiring breast cancer. Find out if you're at danger by speaking with your healthcare practitioner.

How is Breast Cancer Diagnosed?

Your doctor will check your breasts and enquire about your family history, medical history, and any current symptoms in addition to performing the breast exam. Additionally, your doctor will advise testing to look for abnormalities in your breasts. These tests could consist of:

  • Mammogram: By using these specialised X-ray photos, your breast alterations or abnormal growths can be found. Mammograms are frequently used to screen for breast cancer.

  • Ultrasonography: The inside tissues of your breast are photographed during this test using sound waves. It aids in the diagnosis of breast anomalies or masses.

  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scanning:  To highlight questionable spots during a PET scan, specific dyes are used. Your doctor performs this test by injecting a specific dye into your veins while the scanner captures images.

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): This examination creates crystal-clear, finely detailed images of the internal breast tissues using magnets and radio waves.

Your healthcare provider might do a breast tissue biopsy if they notice anything worrisome on the imaging tests. The sample will be sent to a pathology lab for analysis.

Breast cancer Treatment

There are many breast cancer treatments available, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, immunotherapy, and targeted drug therapy. What's best for you will depend on a number of factors, including the location and size of the tumour, the results of your lab tests, and whether the cancer has spread to other parts of your body. Your healthcare provider will modify your treatment plan to suit your unique needs. Receiving a variety of treatments is also common.

Breast Cancer Surgery

An area of healthy tissue surrounding the tumour as well as the diseased section of your breasts are removed during breast cancer surgery. Depending on your circumstances, there are various forms of surgery, including:

  • Lumpectomy: A lumpectomy, often known as a partial mastectomy, involves the removal of the tumour and a thin margin of healthy tissue surrounding it. Most often, a few lymph nodes in the breast or beneath the arm are also removed for analysis. In the weeks following a lumpectomy, radiation therapy is frequently administered to the patient.

  • Mastectomy: Another choice is to have your entire breast removed. Doctors may occasionally conduct a nipple-sparing mastectomy to protect your areola and nipple (the dark skin around your nipple). Following a mastectomy, many women opt to have either immediate or delayed breast reconstruction.

  • Sentinel node biopsy: The sentinel node biopsy was created to avoid the needless removal of a significant number of lymph nodes that are not affected by the cancer because early detection of breast cancer typically results in the lymph nodes being negative (for cancer). Doctors inject a dye that tracks to the first lymph node that cancer would spread to in order to locate the sentinel lymph node. Other lymph nodes do not need to be removed if that lymph node is cancer-free. Additional lymph nodes may need to be removed if that lymph node contains malignancy. There are frequently more than one sentinel nodes found, however the fewer lymph nodes removed, the lower the risk of arm swelling (lymphedema). Either a lumpectomy or a mastectomy can be combined with a sentinel lymph node biopsy.

  • Axillary lymph node dissection: An axillary lymph node dissection may be performed to remove any lymph nodes that the malignancy has spread to. Several of the lymph nodes under your arm must be removed (your axilla).

  • Modified radical mastectomy: Your entire breast as well as your nipple are removed during this treatment. Your chest muscles are not affected, but nearby lymph nodes under your arms are taken out. Breast reconstruction is a frequently opted option.

  • Radical mastectomy: Nowadays, unless the breast cancer has gone to your chest wall muscles, this surgery is rarely used. A radical mastectomy involves the complete removal of your breast, nipple, underarm lymph nodes, and chest wall muscles by your surgeon. Those who get this operation may also decide to get breast reconstruction.

Chemotherapy for breast cancer

Before performing a lumpectomy, your doctor may advise chemotherapy for breast cancer in an effort to reduce the size of the tumour. It is sometimes given following surgery to eliminate any cancer cells that may still be present and lower the risk of recurrence (coming back). Your healthcare practitioner can suggest chemotherapy as your primary treatment if the cancer has spread from your breast to other places of your body.

Radiation therapy for breast cancer

After a mastectomy or lumpectomy, radiation therapy for breast cancer is frequently administered to eradicate any leftover cancer cells. Individual metastatic tumours that are hurting or producing other issues can also be treated with it.

Hormone therapy for breast cancer

Hormones like progesterone and oestrogen are used by some kinds of breast cancer to fuel their growth. Hormone therapy can either reduce oestrogen levels in certain situations or prevent oestrogen from binding to breast cancer cells. After surgery, hormone therapy is most frequently used by medical professionals to lower the possibility of breast cancer recurrence. However, they might also use it to treat cancer that has spread to other parts of your body or to reduce the tumour before surgery.

Immunotherapy for breast cancer

Immunotherapy targets and destroys breast cancer cells by harnessing the power of your own immune system. It is administered intravenously (through a vein in your arm or hand). Immunotherapy and chemotherapy may be combined by your doctor to treat breast cancer.

Targeted drug therapy for breast cancer

Some medications can specifically target cancer-causing cell traits. If your breast cancer has spread to other parts of your body, your doctor may advise you to take a targeted medication therapy. Monoclonal antibodies (such as trastuzumab, pertuzumab, and margetuximab), antibody-drug conjugates (such as ado-trastuzumab emtansine and fam-trastuzumab deruxtecan), and kinase inhibitors are some of the most popular medications used to treat breast cancer (such as lapatinib, neratinib and tucatinib).

Breast Cancer Prevention

While breast cancer cannot be completely prevented, there are several things you can do to lessen your chance of finding it when it is well advanced. For instance:

  • Get routine mammograms.  The doctors advise starting screening mammograms at age 35 and continuing them annually after turning 40.
  • Examine breasts monthly post 20 years of Age.  You'll develop accustomed to the shape and texture of your breasts and become more perceptive to changes.
  • Breasts examined by a healthcare provider after the age of 20, and every year after the age of 40, have your breasts inspected by a medical professional. Lipos can be found during clinical breast exams that mammograms can miss.

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