Introduction to Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is cancer of the breast tissue.
What is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is cancer of the breast tissue. Cancer occurs when normal cells multiply uncontrollably, producing a tumour. Breast cancer is the most common types of cancer in the UK and affects mostly women, but also men. Breasts are made up of many different types of tissues and therefore there are different types of breast cancer depending from which cells the cancer arises.
What causes Breast Cancer?
Like other cancers breast cancer is caused by cells multiplying uncontrollably and it is not fully understood why some people develop it and some do not. For many women breast cancer runs in families and is often caused by particular faulty genes. For women who are known to carry the gene, they are usually offered additional breast screening, as they are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
Other factors that put you at an increased risk of breast cancer are older age; this is because most women who develop breast cancer are in the menopause and why breast screening if offered to women over 50. Greater exposure to a hormone called oestrogen can also put you at an increased risk of breast cancer. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT), the combined oral contraceptive pill (COCP), having early periods, a late menopause, not having any children, not breastfeeding and having children after 35yrs all expose women to higher levels of oestrogen and hence increase the risk of developing breast cancer.
What are the symptoms of Breast Cancer?
The most noticeable symptom of breast cancer is a breast lump. Many women worry when they discover a lump their breast, but actually many breast lumps are not cancerous, but it is always best to get them checked out by a doctor. Other symptoms of breast cancer are discharge from the nipple, change in shape or size of the nipple or breast, skin changes on the breast such as a rash or dimpling and any lumps or swellings in the armpits.
How is Breast Cancer treated?
The main treatments for breast cancer are surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and biological therapy. People may have one of these treatments or a combination of several, depending on where your cancer is and if it has spread. If the cancer is small and confined to the breast, often surgery can be curative. Radiotherapy is where beams of x-rays are used to target and kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy and biological therapy are very strong medications that are given to you via a small needle and destroy cancer cells.