Breast Cancer FAQs
Reviewed By : Dr. Anjali D.
Following are the common questions about Breast Cancer:
- What factors can lead to Breast Cancer?
- What tests are suggested for diagnosing Breast Cancer?
- What are the lab values for tests required for Breast Cancer?
- What are the test rates for Breast Cancer diagnosis in India?
- What are the common signs and symptoms of this disease?
- What are the different types of Breast cancers?
- What are the different stages of Breast Cancer?
- What is the rate of survival for Breast Cancer?
- What are preventive measures to adopt for avoiding Breast Cancer?
- What are the different treatment methods for Breast Cancer?
What factors can lead to Breast Cancer?
The exact causes that lead to breast cancer are yet to be known; however, there are several risk factors that may be possible reasons to cause this ailment.
These factors include:
- Aging: Increasing age is the most risky cause for development of breast cancer. Almost 3/4th cases occurring are seen for individuals aged more than 50.
- Inheritance: Family history is an indicator for being affected by breast cancer. However, it is also true that most individuals developing breast cancer don't have family history for this ailment.
- Overweight: Overweight is also a risk for breast cancer development. Women who are overweight are most likely to develop this cancer post menopause.
- Alcohol consumption: Consuming more than 2 standard measures of alcohol per day will accentuate risk for breast cancer development.
- HRT (Hormone replacement therapy): Some women opt for HRT post menopause in continuity for over 5 years. The risk for breast cancer may increase due to this; however, it will vary with different women.
- Oral contraceptive: Women taking oral contraceptives have a small breast cancer risk associated with it.
- Child birth: Having kids at early age lowers the risk for breast cancer. However, women who have kids late and those who never try for having a child are at high risk for breast cancer development.
What tests are suggested for diagnosing Breast Cancer?
The common tests for breast cancer are:
What are the lab values for tests required for Breast Cancer?
Normal values for test needed for breast cancer are as follows:
- CA 15.3: <30 U/ml (For both males & females)
What are the test rates for Breast Cancer diagnosis in India?
Depending on the type of diagnostic center or hospital that patients visit and also based on their city of residence, the test rates for breast cancer in India may vary. You can get a fair idea of the costs for breast cancer tests in India here.
What are the common signs and symptoms of this disease?
Though presence of a lump in the breast is the primary symptom for breast cancer, it needs to be understood that almost 90 percent of these lumps do not cause cancer.
Some important signs and symptoms for this disease include:
- Thickened tissue area or lump in any of the breast
- Altered shape or size of any one or both the breasts
- Discharge from nipples (any one) that might be blood streaked
- Swelling or lump in any one armpit
- Dimpling on breast skin
- Rash on nipple or around it
- Altered appearance of nipple like seeming to sunk into breast
- Pain in armpit or breast (not in relation to period)
What are the different types of Breast cancers?
Following are the different breast cancer types:
- Intraductal carcinoma: This is a non-invasive type of breast cancer which results in cells lining the ducts changing look to resemble cancer cells.
- Invasive or infiltrating ductal carcinoma: This is the most commonly seen breast cancer type that begins in milk ducts, breaks the duct wall and grows to fatty tissue present in breast.
- Invasive or infiltrating lobular carcinoma: This cancer begins in the glands (Lobules) that produce milk.
What are the different stages of Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer stages help in determining the correct method to first contain cancer and eventually
eliminate it. The various stages include:
- Stage 0: This stage describes breast cancers that are non-invasive. In this stage, no evidence about abnormal non-cancerous cells or cancer cells is found. No sign about cells invading or getting through normal tissues is visible during this stage.
- Stage 1: This stage describes about invasive breast cancer. Cancer cells break through or invade surrounding normal breast tissue during such a state. Microscopic invasion becomes possible during this stage. During microscopic invasion, cancer cells just begin invading tissues present outside duct lining or lobule; however, the measure of these invading cells cannot be over 1 millimeter.
- Stage 2: During this stage the cancer is considered to be in its earlier stages; however, evidence about the cancer beginning to grow or even spread is present during this stage. The cancer is still confined to breast area and can be treated effectively.
- Stage 3: This is considered as the advanced stage and the cancer extends beyond immediate tumor region. It might invade nearby muscles and lymph nodes; however, it cannot spread to the distant organs. Though being advanced, breast cancer in this stage can be treated effectively with latest methods.
- Stage 4: During this stage, breast cancer spreads to different body regions such as bones, liver, lungs and brain. Though this stage is said to be incurable, advancements in recent times have ensured that treatments are made available to increase the life of patients for some more years than was possible previously.
What is the rate of survival for Breast Cancer?
Following are rates of survival (5 year relative) for breast cancer based on different stages:
- Stage 0: 100%
- Stage 1: 100%
- Stage 2: 93%
- Stage 3: 72%
- Stage 4: 22%
What are preventive measures to adopt for avoiding Breast Cancer?
Some preventive measures to avoid breast cancer include:
- Limiting alcohol intake: Limiting alcohol intake to less than a drink every day will significantly reduce risk of breast cancer.
- Avoid smoking: Especially women who have not reached menopause need to avoid smoking to keep themselves away from breast cancer.
- Control weight: Being obese or even overweight increases breast cancer risk. This is especially true for women after menopause.
- Physical activity: Adequate physical activity ensures healthy weight and also reduces breast cancer risk.
- Breast feeding: Breast feeding for longer duration creates a protective field for breast cancer.
- Limit hormone therapy: Limiting hormone therapy to less than 5 years is good to keep breast cancer at bay.
- Avoid radiation exposure along with environmental pollution: High radiation dose needs to be avoided as far as possible to reduce breast cancer risk.
What are the different treatment methods for Breast Cancer?
Depending on the patient's age, condition, breast cancer type, and overall health, treatment methods may vary.
Treatments may include:
Surgeries may include:
- Breast reconstruction: Numerous surgical processes are done in this surgery method for recreation of breast.
- Lumpectomy: Tumor is removed surgically in this process along with small part of the healthy tissue that surrounds it.
- Mastectomy: The breast is removed surgically in this process. Simple mastectomy involves removal of fatty tissue, areola, some skin, ducts and lobules while radical mastectomy involves removal of chest wall muscle, and lymph nodes from armpit.
- Sentinel node biopsy: One of the lymph nodes is removed surgically in this process.
- Axillary lymph node dissection: Several lymph nodes from armpit are removed in this process that is used if sentinel node is found having cancer cells.