Cancer is caused by the uncontrollable division of cells and can come in two forms: benign and malignant. Malignant tumors invade surrounding body tissue and are able to metastasize and spread to other parts of the body, whereas benign tumors are relatively harmless.
Symptoms of breast cancer include:
- Breast Lumps (90% are not cancerous)
- Change in size/shape/feel of breast
- Breast pain
- Skin Changes
- Changes in nipple position
- Fluid from nipples
- Substance Abuse
- Overweight/Obese Patients
- Genetics – family with cancer
- Cancer genes
- Many more
The TNM staging system stands for Tumour, Node, Metastasis.
- T describes the size of the tumour
- N describes whether there are any cancer cells in the lymph nodes
- M describes whether the cancer has spread to a different part of the body
Number staging ranges from 1-4 and relate to size of tumor and its spread.
Early, locally advanced and secondary breast cancer.
Early: The cancer has not spread to areas outside the breast.
Locally Advanced: Cancer has not spread but the tumor is 5cm or larger, growing in chest skin/muscle or present in the lymph nodes in the armpits.
Secondary: Also known as stage 4 is when the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
Grading is also used:
- low grade – grade 1 (slow growing)
- intermediate grade – grade 2
- high grade – grade 3 (faster growing)
Diagnosis involves attending screenings, visiting a GP and then undertaking MRI and possibly CT scans to show the size and position of the tumor.
Treatment varies depending on the grading systems mentioned previously. Surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, hormone therapy, biological therapy and clinical trials. Surgery is usually used for the lower grade cancers that are positioned in such a way that they can be easily removed. Types include:
- Lumpectomy – removal of the cancerous tumor
- Mastectomy – removal of the breast
- Breast Reconstruction
- Lymph Node Removal
For many patients and their families, breast cancer can be incredibly scary and difficult to deal with. It is important to learn as much as you can about breast cancer and to make an informed position. Breast cancer is not only hard on the person who has it, but also their friends and family. It can be difficult to adjust but it is vital to support one another and to ensure mental health does not deteriorate rapidly.