BREAST CANCER

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Breast is a collection of glands and fatty tissues that lies between the skin and the chest wall. Milk is produced by the glands inside the breast when the woman has a baby. The milk gets to the nipple by way of glands through a tube called ducts. 

At times, the cells in the breast grow out of control and attack the nearby tissues. Without any check, this growth spreads throughout the body and becomes breast cancer. These out of control tissues are called tumors. Some of the tumors are harmless, as they cannot spread and threaten one’s life. So they are called benign tumors. The other harmful tumors are called malignant tumors. 

Any type of tissue in the breast can form a cancer but it either comes from the ducts or the glands. It takes months or years for a tumor to get large enough to feel in the breast. Screening of the breast to check for tumors is called mammograms.

Women in North America and Europe are prone to get affected by breast cancer. In fact, every woman is at risk for breast cancer. Statistics prove the breast cancer in American women are the second largest and the first largest is the lung cancer.

Some of the factors, which influence the breast cancer are being a women growing older, having a family history of breast cancer, or previous history of cancer and radiation therapy to the chest region, initiation of periods when still young, i.e., below 12 years of age, and starting menopause quite late after 50’s, never having children, or having children late after 30’s.  Hormone Replacement Therapy in some cases, can also lead to breast cancer. Overweight or alcoholic women are prone to get cancer.

Proper screening and early detection are the best methods in which most of the cancer can be treated. Regular check ups with the physicians, and learn to perform breast self exam is also a natural way to check for breast cancer. X ray of the breast is called a mammogram. The breast is placed between two plates for some seconds and the x ray is taken. If something appears abnormal, then a better angled film can be taken with the magnified view. 

Every woman after the age of 40 should take mammogram every year.  Every month, one should check your breast on your own. About 15% of the tumors can be felt but cannot be seen in the regular mammography screen. Women above 20 and below 39 should go for check up at least once in three years. A diagnostic mammogram or ultra sound can be done and then biopsy can be sent for checking. 

Breast cancer has four stages. In stage one the tumor is less than 2cms. In the second stage, it is more than 2 cms but less than 5cms. In stage three, it is more than 5 cms and spread up to the lymph nodes.  In stage four, it spreads outside the breast and inside the other parts of the body. 

Depending upon the stages, doctors will decide if the treatment would be surgery, or chemotherapy, radiotherapy, hormonal therapy and biologic therapy.  Once the patient has undergone this treatment, the follow up testing is very important.

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