Cancer is a malignant tumor that occurs in the glandular tissues of the breast (BC for short). The disease is an uncontrolled division of atypical cells. This leads to the spread of the disease to nearby organs, and then cancer enters distant structures. Thus, the systems of the body cease to perform their functions, which leads to fatal consequences.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women over the age of 18. In 95% of the countries of the world, breast cancer becomes the main cause of death among patients with cancer. Therefore, the treatment of breast tumors has become one of the priorities in medicine.
In this article, we will take a closer look at the issues that are of most interest to people with breast cancer.
Causes of Breast Cancer
International studies have shown that there are several reasons that affect the occurrence of a malignant neoplasm. People who work in the chemical industry are often exposed to carcinogens (asbestos, vinyl chloride, and others). The ecological situation in certain settlements can also provoke the appearance of cancer (for example, in areas with high levels of radiation). But there are more specific factors that are often overlooked by potential cancer patients.
Why does breast cancer appear and how to detect it in advance?
The most common causes for the occurrence of malignant tumors in the mammary glands:
- Family history. We are talking about situations where older relatives were diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 60 years. This gives a reason for undergoing diagnostics (oncological check-ups) for women of the younger generation.
- Mutations at the genetic level. If there were cases of ovarian or cervical cancer in the family, it is necessary to pass special tests to detect the BRCA1, BRCA2, and PALB-2 genes.
- The presence of benign tumors in the breast. Some types of neoplasms can degenerate into malignant ones. Therefore, with any calcifications in the mammary gland, careful studies, including a biopsy, must be carried out.
- Age-related changes in the body. The calcification effect due to the negative influence of various substances in the body can provoke the appearance of atypical cells in the chest. Women over 40 years of age should be examined by a mammologist every year.
Important to remember. Indirectly, breast cancer can appear due to the presence of bad habits and a passive lifestyle. But, according to experts from the American Cancer Institute: the presence of certain factors does not indicate a 100% likelihood of breast cancer in women. Just like the absence of these reasons, it does not guarantee that a healthy person without bad habits will never develop a malignant tumor.
Breast Cancer Symptoms
The key danger of the disease is that breast cancer has no symptoms at the earliest stage. That is, independently, at home, it is impossible to understand that cancer has already appeared in the body.
In the early stages, a woman does not experience significant discomfort. Only in a number of cases, planned diagnostics can reveal a malignant tumor of the breast.
The American Cancer Society notes the following signs of breast cancer:
Why is it important to know the signs of breast cancer?
The symptoms of breast cancer require immediate examination in a medical facility. The presence of one or more signs may indicate that this is no longer the initial stage of cancer. The duration and result of the treatment will depend on the prevalence of cancer cells in the body.
What are the first signs of breast cancer?
According to patients, the first signs of breast cancer at the initial stage were accompanied by a general feeling of weakness. Feeling more often becomes associated with fatigue, apathy, and unwillingness to do anything. Most often this occurs in people with psycho-emotional disorders. However, the early symptoms of breast cancer are closely associated with these sensations.
Rarely, there are breast modifications at the initial stage. The nipples change shape and become more sunken inward (retraction). The skin can be very flaky, which is preceded by excessive dryness in this particular area of the body.
In modern medicine, doctors use the mammograph apparatus for preventive breast diagnostics. Mammography is the most accurate research method that allows to visualize the structures of the mammary glands. Thus, the doctor can detect cysts or other neoplasms in the organ.
How to test breast for cancer?
The Mayo Clinic recommends the following procedure for detecting breast cancer:
- Breast examination. A mammologist checks the breasts and lymph nodes in the armpit for lumps or other abnormalities.
- Mammography. The specialist performs breast screening. If an abnormality is found on the mammogram, the doctor will recommend further testing.
- Ultrasound of the mammary glands. An ultrasound is done to determine if a breast tumor is a solid mass or a fluid-filled cyst.
- Breast biopsy. This study allows you to finally make a diagnosis of breast cancer. During a biopsy, the doctor uses a special needle device under X-ray or other imaging techniques to remove the core of tissue from the suspicious area. The biopsy samples are sent to a laboratory for analysis, where experts determine if the cells are cancerous. The biopsy sample is also analyzed to determine the cell type, aggressiveness (grade) of the cancer, and the presence of sensitive receptors that may affect treatment options.
- Magnetic resonance imaging of the chest. An MRI machine uses a magnet and radio waves to create images of the inside of the chest. Before the MRI procedure, the patient is injected with a special dye. This allows you to detect all metastases in the body.
Additional tests and procedures may be used depending on the specific situation. Oncologists in Turkey, Israel, and Spain know exactly how to detect breast cancer with the help of modern examinations. Among the most effective methods for diagnosing cancer is PET-CT, which shows even the smallest metastases up to 2 mm in size.
What does breast cancer look like on an MRI?
An MRI scan may show a voluminous neoplasm with indistinct contours. So the specialist determines the location and size of the tumor in the breast.
Important to know. An accurate diagnosis allows doctors to understand how quickly breast cancer spreads to nearby and distant structures in the body. The tactics of treatment and the prognosis of the disease will depend on these data.
Stages of Breast Cancer
If during the diagnosis it is determined that the patient really has breast cancer, doctors will determine the stage of the disease.
Breast cancer stages range from 0 to IV. What do they mean:
Stage 0 breast cancer indicates non-invasive cancer. This is carcinoma in situ – a malignant tumor that grows inside the ducts and lobules of the breast and does not go beyond them.
Stage 1 breast cancer indicates a neoplasm with a diameter of up to 2 cm. At the same time, the tumor has not yet had time to grow into deep tissues and spread to regional lymph nodes.
Stage 2 breast cancer means that the tumor has reached 5 cm in diameter. In this case, malignant cells penetrate into the lymph nodes.
At stage 3 breast cancer, the tumor exceeds the size of 5 cm. Atypical cells enter the bloodstream and spread to other organs.
Stage 4 breast cancer means the tumor can be any size. There is an active metastatic process. This is accompanied by an extensive spread of cancer cells to parts of the body remote from the chest. In this case, secondary tumors arise, which complicates the treatment process.
Types of Breast Cancer
In European, Korean, Turkish, and Israeli clinics, it is customary to examine the patient not only for the stage but also for the type of breast cancer. Foreign oncologists select the most effective treatment when they have comprehensive information about the patient's disease.
A malignant tumor in the breast can be invasive (extends beyond the breast) and non-invasive (does not extend beyond the milk ducts).
The most aggressive type of this cancer is triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). The cells of such a tumor do not contain sensitive receptors for estrogen, progesterone, and HER-2 protein. It is very difficult to treat this disease. The prognosis for survival is about one year.
Important to remember. Even in the most severe cases, therapy is necessary. Innovative treatment is available in university clinics such as in Germany. Aggressive breast cancer is an active area of research for advanced institutions abroad.
Rare types of breast cancer include:
- Paget's disease (the tumor begins to develop in the ducts of the nipple and spreads to the areola);
- medullary carcinoma (a subtype of invasive ductal carcinoma, it has an elongated shape);
- mucus-forming carcinoma (it grows rapidly and is accompanied by mucus from the nipple);
- tubular carcinoma (cancer cells form tubules from one layer of epitheliocytes surrounded by fibrous stroma);
- metaplastic cancer (squamous form of breast cancer).
The node-positive breast cancer is quite common. It is diagnosed in approximately 80% of patients with breast cancer. Due to the different structures, this form of breast cancer is sometimes detected by palpation by the patients themselves.
How fast does breast cancer spread?
The rate of spread of atypical cells in breast cancer directly depends on the stage and type of cancer. Aggressive tumors with rapid metastasis develop from 1 to 3 years. Tumors with slow growth are those that have been developing for more than three years.
Often, malignant tumors of the breast have infiltrating growth, that is, rapid development and infiltration into the tissues surrounding the gland. In this case, metastases even grow into nerves and blood vessels.
What breast tumors grow slowly?
For years, benign breast tumors can develop. At the same time, they squeeze the surrounding structures of the mammary gland, which causes pain. This is what most often becomes the reason for contacting a mammologist.
Some types of breast cancer can grow by 1 cm in about 9 years. At the same time, a person does not experience significant discomfort, which slows down the early diagnosis.
The reasons for the growth of tumors in the chest depending on many factors such as taking hormonal drugs, mechanical injuries of the chest, types of neoplasms, and so on. Therefore, the prognosis for the development of the disease is made individually for each patient.
Breast Cancer Treatment
The leading oncological centers of the world carry out complex treatments for breast cancer. The team of doctors in a foreign clinic consists of:
- specialists in internal medicine;
- plastic surgeon;
A multidisciplinary team of doctors allows the patient to comfortably go all the way from diagnosis to rehabilitation of breast cancer.
Breast cancer treatment methods in foreign clinics
According to the international protocol, breast cancer is treated surgically in combination with various types of therapy.
Key methods of breast cancer treatment:
These are special medicines that are administered intravenously or taken in the form of tablets. In modern medicine, adjuvant (fights against metastases) and non-adjuvant (reduces tumor size) chemotherapy is used. Palliative chemotherapy for breast cancer in the last stages alleviates the patient’s condition.
Breast surgery for cancer can be organ-preserving in the early stages of the disease. If the tumor has reached a large size and there are metastases, then a total mastectomy (complete removal of the breast) is performed.
Radiation therapy for breast cancer is carried out in courses. It is relevant before surgery, after removal of the tumor to prevent recurrence, or in the later stages to slow down the growth of the neoplasm.
The use of special preparations effectively destroys cancer cells in the hormone-dependent form of breast cancer. Hormone therapy for breast cancer increases the chances of a full recovery after removal of the tumor.
What is important to know about breast cancer therapy processes?
Most often, doctors diagnose the second stage of breast cancer. For women with this diagnosis, it is important to understand that adjuvant chemotherapy for stage 2 breast cancer is a chance to remove all the smallest metastases after surgery.
Before starting treatment, it is necessary to pass special tests. If it turns out that the patient has hormone-dependent breast cancer, then you can receive modern and safe therapy. This reduces the load on the body and allows to comfortably survive all stages of treatment.
In most cases, doctors are forced to carry out a partial resection or complete removal of the mammary gland. Before undergoing surgery, it is worth finding out if surgeons can perform a one-stage breast reconstruction. The best clinics in the world offer patients to remove the tumor in 1 session, followed by restoration of the shape and volume of the breast. This allows a woman to maintain mental health and a sense of her own attractiveness.
How to treat breast cancer if there are contraindications to surgery?
If, according to indications, surgical removal of the tumor is not possible, doctors perform radiosurgery. When exposed to high doses of radiation, simultaneous destruction of a malignant neoplasm occurs.
How breast cancer is treated in the world's leading cancer centers?
The most advanced medical centers use the latest developments for the treatment of oncological diseases.
For breast cancer, patients are recommended the following methods:
- Targeted Therapy
The most gentle treatment option for breast cancer. Special drugs affect only cancer cells, while the body does not suffer from side effects..
The immunopreparation is able to activate the body’s potential for an independent fight against atypical cells. Thus, the patient’s immunity itself learns to fight cancer.
Intraoperative radiotherapy with a high dose of radiation. It is carried out during a surgical intervention, which allows a point impact on the pathological tissue. This is the best prevention of recurrence, since the area of tumor removal is subject to exposure.
Cryotherapy is effective when stage 1 breast cancer is diagnosed. The doctor injects a liquid nitrogen solution into the tumor, due to which it freezes and dies.
With the help of special equipment, a small radioactive source is injected into the tumor area. This device remains in the breast tissues for some time, radioactive pellets are placed in it for 15-20 minutes. Brachytherapy for breast cancer is a contact method of irradiating the tumor, not the whole body.
- Cancer vaccine
As an additional type of treatment, the breast cancer vaccine is not available in many clinics around the world. Creating a cancer vaccine is an individual process that requires special laboratory conditions. This is not about the prevention of the disease, but about a specific method of treating breast cancer.
An integrated approach with the use of modern medicines and devices gives a good chance for a full recovery. To choose the best clinic and doctor for the treatment of breast cancer, leave a request on the Experts Medical website. Medical coordinators will provide a free consultation and help with organizing a trip to another country.
Causes of relapse of breast cancer
In countries with underdeveloped medicine, the main cause of relapse is the inaccessibility of advanced technologies. Outdated equipment is not able to completely destroy the remnants of cancer in the body. Modern treatment protocols have not yet been implemented in all states.
Another side of the problem is the high cost of innovative anti-cancer drugs. To prevent relapse, we need those drugs and technologies that are currently available only in some clinics in Europe, Turkey, and Israel.
Why does a relapse of breast cancer occur?
There is a risk of relapse of the disease. Sometimes this is due to the following reasons:
- mechanical trauma in the area where the operation was performed to remove the tumor;
- getting into the body of a serious infection;
- cancer treatment that has not been completed (all preventive measures against relapse have not been taken).
Before making a decision to stop therapy against breast cancer, it is necessary to consult an oncologist. Only a specialist can state the fact of a complete cure for breast cancer.
Prevention of Breast Cancer
According to information published on the American Cancer Society (ACS) website, there is no 100% effective way to prevent breast cancer. But following certain recommendations can reduce the risk of the disease.
ACS recommendations for women on breast cancer prevention:
- Control of body weight. Obesity significantly increases the risk of various types of cancer.
- Stay physically active. Studies have shown that at least 300 minutes of physical activity per week has a beneficial effect on health.
- Moderate or no alcohol consumption. The constant presence of alcohol in the blood contributes to the development of abnormal cells in the mammary gland.
- Support for breastfeeding. For women who have given birth, this is one of the best preventive ways to reduce the risk of breast cancer in the future. Even a few months of breastfeeding have a positive effect.
- Refusal of hormonal drugs during menopause. To reduce discomfort, it is better to use non-hormonal drugs. To do this, you need to consult a doctor who can individually select the most effective and safe remedy for a woman.
Annual breast screening for women after 40 years of age is the most reliable method for detecting and early treatment of breast cancer.
Localized chest pain may occur regardless of the menstrual cycle. In the later stages, sharp pains occur in the area of the shoulder blades and in the hands. Most often in men, breast cancer occurs due to hormonal imbalance (increase in estrogen levels) and hereditary factors. The ICD is an international classification of diseases. For example, code C50 indicates a malignant neoplasm of the mammary gland according to the ICD. Most often, elderly patients note burning and tingling in the chest area. The intensity of pain may vary depending on the stage of the disease. Nutrition for breast cancer should be balanced and free of carcinogens. Well tolerated during the period of active treatment of breast cancer: sea fish, lean poultry meat, whole grain bread, pasta, rice and potatoes. All options for thermal procedures are prohibited: bathing in a hot bath, prolonged exposure to the sun, and visiting a bath or sauna. Smoking and alcoholic beverages are also prohibited. Breast cancer most often spreads to the lymph nodes, bones, brain, lungs, and liver. Multicentric breast cancer means that there are several tumors in the breast. Ductal cancer is characterized by localization in the ducts of the breast. At the same time, the survival prognosis is favorable.
Localized chest pain may occur regardless of the menstrual cycle. In the later stages, sharp pains occur in the area of the shoulder blades and in the hands.
Most often in men, breast cancer occurs due to hormonal imbalance (increase in estrogen levels) and hereditary factors.
The ICD is an international classification of diseases. For example, code C50 indicates a malignant neoplasm of the mammary gland according to the ICD.
Most often, elderly patients note burning and tingling in the chest area. The intensity of pain may vary depending on the stage of the disease.
Nutrition for breast cancer should be balanced and free of carcinogens. Well tolerated during the period of active treatment of breast cancer: sea fish, lean poultry meat, whole grain bread, pasta, rice and potatoes.
All options for thermal procedures are prohibited: bathing in a hot bath, prolonged exposure to the sun, and visiting a bath or sauna. Smoking and alcoholic beverages are also prohibited.
Breast cancer most often spreads to the lymph nodes, bones, brain, lungs, and liver.
Multicentric breast cancer means that there are several tumors in the breast.
Ductal cancer is characterized by localization in the ducts of the breast. At the same time, the survival prognosis is favorable.
If you have any questions, please leave your phone number on the website. You will be able to get a free consultation from a medical expert about the options for diagnosing and treating breast cancer abroad.