Breast Cancer: Is it Curable?
Dr. Nikhil Eric Saldanha
July 9, 2022
Dr. Nikhil Eric Saldanha
July 9, 2022
There are around 7.8 million women who were diagnosed with breast cancer in the last five years. If that is no startling, do you know that according to the American Cancer Society, one out of 8 women is at risk of developing breast cancer? Breast cancer usually occurs in middle-aged and older women.
Breast cancer spreads silently. The best way to detect it is to undergo a physical exam and mammography. It is due to poor diagnosis. Tumours in the breast spread lymphatically and haematological, leading to a metastatic state. With modern technology, breast cancer survival rates have improved. With modern technology, survival rates from breast cancer improved.
This article focuses on breast cancer, its types, and risk factors associated with breast cancer, as well as the role of the inter professional team in the management of breast cancer.
A breast is a tissue overlying the pectoral muscles of the chest. The breast also contains blood vessels, lymph vessels, and lymph nodes. Three types of tissues constitute it:
Various researches state that when the breast cells start to have unchecked cell growth, it is known as breast cancer. Most breast tumours are benign, not malignant. Benign tumours are non-cancerous abnormal masses of cells that don’t grow outside the breast. Breast tumours become malignant when it starts to spread in the body.
Breast cancer spreads through the lymphatic system. Lymph vessels of the breast drain into the following lymph nodes:
Breast cancer can be invasive and non-invasive, depending on its association with the basement membrane.
The types of breast cancer depend on non-invasive and invasive cancer. Usually, it is based on abnormal growth in breast cells.
This type of breast cancer is rare. It starts in the cells that line the blood vessels or lymph vessels. Angiosarcoma develops and spreads rapidly. It can reoccur again in 8-10 years after the radiation treatment. In this skin, purple-coloured nodules or lumps form in the breast.
In DCIS, abnormal cell growth is present inside the breast’s milk duct. It is a non-invasive and early-stage cancer. Non-invasive cancer means it has not invaded the body. Since it’s an early form, you can cure it.
This type of cancer occurs when cancerous cells block the lymphatic vessels covering the breast. It develops rapidly and causes redness and swelling of the breast. It is a metastasised cancer as it has spread to other tissue.
In LCIS, you can see the presence of cancerous cells in milk-producing lobule cells of the breast. Therefore, there are high chances that women with LCIS will develop invasive lobular Carcinoma.
It is the most common type of invasive breast cancer. In addition, women with DCIS cancer are highly likely to develop invasive ductal Carcinoma. This cancer has the potential to spread to the rest of the body.
When the lobular Carcinoma spreads to lymph nodes and other parts of the body, it is called invasive lobular Carcinoma.
It is the most common form of non-cancerous breast lumps. It is a painless mobile lump or tumour in the breast. Women between the age of 20 and 30 go through breast fibroadenoma more.
Though symptoms are rare and are seen at a later stage, it is always better to have a self-examination weekly, for lumps around the breast. However, these are the easily noticed symptoms of breast cancer.
With the increased prevalence of breast cancer, it was essential to determine the identifying factors responsible for causing breast cancer. These factors are checked during general health screening of women to prevent the incidences of breast cancer. Unfortunately, Fibroadenoma, fat necrosis, and breast abscess are sometimes mistaken for breast cancer because of similar symptoms.
Diagnosis of breast cancer is a three-step process – clinical evaluation, imaging, and tissue biopsy. Breast cancer is always present in the form of calcification, dense lumps, and breast distortion. Various diagnostic techniques to determine breast cancer are:
A person can examine their breast by looking for lumps around the breast. This is a great procedure for early detection. Also, one may also see a doctor who would thoroughly examine lumps, skin changes, nipple discharge, lymph nodes in the breast, and surrounding underarm tissue. The size, shape, and texture of breast lumps determine the kinds of breast cancer.
Healthcare professionals use mammograms for the early detection and screening of breast cancer. It compresses each breast and takes low-dose X-rays. Digital mammograms store electronic images of breasts in computer-readable format.
The ultrasound machine works on the skin, and high-frequency sound waves pass through the breast tissue. A breast ultrasound helps determine the presence of cysts or lumps inside the breast.
This MRI scan provides detailed images of breasts and surrounding structures of breasts. In addition, it includes additional information on mammograms.
A small tissue is extracted from abnormal breast tissue to examine the cancerous cells. It only needs minor surgery.
Radiotherapy is relevant after the cancer is localised. In addition, when there is a risk of recurrence, various systemic treatments for breast cancer management help prevent a metastatic recurrence. These treatments include hormonal therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, or combined.
These techniques reduce local recurrence and the risk of metastatic spread.
A lumpectomy is the surgical removal of the breast lump and tissue surrounding the breast.
Surgical removal of the entire breast, sometimes chest wall muscle, and surrounding lymph nodes.
Surgical removal of lymph nodes in the armpit may have been affected by breast cancer.
Surgical removal of the whole breast with surrounding healthy tissues and axillary lymph nodes
Surgical complications: Pain, bleeding, permanent scarring, infection, loss of sensation in the chest or the reconstructed breast, and cosmetic issues
Physicians prescribe chemotherapy to reduce the size of cancer or diminish the risk of spreading cancer. Medicines can either be orally consumed or given through veins. Its primary purpose is to kill carcinogenic cells.
Chemotherapy complications: Memory loss, clouded senses, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, hair loss, vaginal dryness, neuropathy, fertility issues, and menopausal symptoms
Hormonal Therapy complications: Hot flashes, nausea, fatigue, lethargy, impotence in males, vaginal dryness
In this therapy, high-energy radiation waves penetrate the breast, chest wall, and armpit to kill the cancerous cells after surgery. Sometimes brachytherapy is also used in which radioactive material is placed in close proximity to the cancer and this allows it to strongly irradiate the cancerous cells.
Complications associated with radiation therapy: Nausea, hair loss, fatigue, pain, skin changes, long-term heart and lung issues, and neuropathy.
Breast reconstruction occurs after a mastectomy using implants or tissue from the patient’s body.
It is hard to say that breast cancer is curable. Even if the early stages of breast cancer are curable and successfully treated, there are still high chances of breast cancer recurrence. Sometimes, there is a risk of spreading cancer to other parts of the body. If the tumour has invaded the other body parts, the treatment plans get more complicated.
After breast cancer treatment, follow-up is necessary to achieve early detection of possible metastatic relapse. A patient needs to follow multidisciplinary rehabilitation programs. Educational and psychological help, social participation, psychosocial adjustment, healthy dietary habits, regular exercise, and optimistic thinking significantly improve the patient’s conditions. Weekly meetings with people suffering from breast cancer help boost morale and adjust to a new normal.
A. A benign tumour of the breast is a non-cancerous growth that has not spread to other body parts. Though a benign tumour is not life-threatening, it still needs to be removed with surgery to prevent cancer recurrence.
A. Breast cancer cells need to segregate at 30 times their average size before being detected via physical exam. A detectable tumour takes about 2-5 years. Each division in the breast takes about 1-2 months to grow. The more cells divide, the bigger the tumour grows.
A. There are no such ways to recover fast from chemotherapy. It takes about six months to 1 year to fully recover from chemotherapy. But by administering a healthy lifestyle, clean eating, staying hydrated, and regular exercise with optimistic thinking, one can have a better recovery.
A. After the diagnosis of breast cancer, the optimal time for surgery is usually less than 90 days. The most common surgical procedures used to treat breast cancer are lumpectomy, mastectomy, and lymph node removal.
A. With advanced medical treatment, either the tumour can be removed, shrank, or diminished. By incorporating complementary therapies, lifestyle changes, and regular medical check-ups, one can live everyday life.
A. Survival rate compares women with the same type and stage of breast cancer to the overall population. If the breast cancer has spread regionally, i.e., in nearby organs such as lymph nodes, then the survival rates are 86%.
A. Doctors determine the life expectancy of a cancer patient based on the patient’s prognosis. Their estimate is based on published data relating to past experiences, the extent of the patient’s functional recovery, and similar diagnoses.
A. Oncotype score evaluates the risks of recurrence in early-stage breast cancer patients. An Oncotype score between 0-and 10 shows low breast cancer recurrence and can be treated only with hormone therapy while skipping chemotherapy.
A. Yes, when breast cancer spreads to lymph nodes, it is called metastatic cancer. It can apply to the body through the lymphatic system.