Breast cancer occurs when breast cells have abnormal growth. It usually begins in the cells of the milk-producing ducts (invasive ductal carcinoma), the lobules (invasive lobular carcinoma) or other tissues of the breast. The mutation of breast cell causes uncontrolled duplication resulting in forming a mass of cells also known as a breast tumor. This tumor then begins to invade and destroy the healthy tissues. These cells have the tendency to metastasize (spread to other parts of the body).
Breast cancer is one of the most common cancer in women. However, men are also at risk for breast cancer as well.
It can be categorized by staging from O up to IV. Stage O means that the cancer is localized in the milk ducts only while stage IV means that the cancer has spread to other parts of the body (metastasis).
Breast cancer manifests itself differently from person to person. Various factors lead to differences, such as the status of the molecular receptor of cancer cells and how aggressive the cancer is.
It is vital to keep your eye on breast cancer symptoms carefully as the symptoms differ from person to person. Sometimes it is even hard to detect a lump on the breast precisely from self-examinations.
Breast cancer may have the following signs and symptoms;
- Change in the size, shape of the breast
- Changes in the breast, like skin dimpling or bulging
- Sign of redness over the surface of the breast, swollen like the appearance of an orange peel, open wound that does not heal, rash surrounding the nipple that cannot be cured
- A lump or thickening of the breast
- A lump in the underarm
- Inverted or retracted nipple
- Paget’s disease of the nipple, which always starts in the nipple and may extend to the areola
- Ulceration of breast skin, which may extend to the areola
- Unusual nipple discharge such as blood or a clear fluid
- Non-cyclical breast pain or pain that is unrelated to menstrual cycle
If you have any of these symptoms, consult a breast doctor immediately. They might not always be caused by breast cancer, but make you aware of another underlying health issue.
Early diagnosis of cancer increases the chance for successful treatment.
The cause of breast cancer is unknown but environmental and genetic factors may have an
influence to it.
Breast cancer is a commonly inherited mutated genes by about 5 to 10 percent of the disease
population. There are 2 genetic mutations identified to increase risk of developing breast cancer
which are breast cancer gene 1 (BRCA1) and breast cancer gene 2 (BRCA2). These two have
higher chances of developing cancer of the breast and ovaries. Having a family history of breast
cancer will show certain BRCA mutations or other familial genes which can be detected through
blood test that the doctor will advise.
Molecular receptor status of cancer cells
Cancer cells produce molecules called receptors on their surface. A human body has certain
proteins and hormones that can bind with these receptors.
Unfortunately, some receptors stimulate the development of breast cancer. Now three major
receptor subtypes are found to be highly associated with the growth of breast cancer. They are
- HER2 (Human epidermal growth factor receptor 2)
- Hormone receptor-positive
The receptor in HER2-positive breast cancer stimulates cell growth and multiplication. This kind of
cancer accounts for up to 20% of all breast cancers.
Thankfully, the cancer can be cured from its initial stage with targeted therapy.
For the hormone receptor-positive/ER-positive breast cancer, its receptors bind with estrogen
and/or progesterone. The binding can be stopped with hormone therapy, which strives to lower
the level of estrogen and progesterone in the body. Such therapy can also prompt the receptors
to ignore those hormones. This subtype can be cured the most easily among all the three
The last subtype, triple-negative breast cancer, comprises a wide range of molecular receptors
without things in common that can be easily predicted. Therefore, it is the subtype that is the
hardest to treat.