Breast Cancer- Diagnosis and Prevention
To understand breast cancer specifically, it is important to first know what cancer basically is. It is all related to the growth of cells. Cancer occurs when the cells start to experience abnormal growth in a disorderly manner; not replacing the old cells. What happens as a result is the cluster formation of cells which are called tumors. A tumor is either benign or malignant. It is the malignant tumors that cause cancer as they have the tendency to spread unlike benign ones which stay where they form. Breast cancer most commonly happens when the cells of the milk-forming ducts of the breast start to grow abnormally forming malignant tumors inside the ducts. Breast cancer has nine stages which fall between 0 to IV. Stage IV signifies that the cancer has already spread to other body parts.
Breast cancer is one of the most commonly occurring diseases in women today. According to statistics put forward by breastcancer.org, an informative website regarding breast cancer, 1 in 8 women in the US are expected to develop this disease once in her life. Further statistics from the same organization suggest about 250,000 more cases of invasive breast cancer expected to be reported the current year. As such, it is extremely important to have the right information about what this disease is, which has briefly been discussed initially, and what symptoms to look for as it can be highly deceptive and hidden in the initial stages.
What to Look For
What makes breast cancer one of the most dangerous diseases is its hidden nature. Initially no symptoms are shown which keeps women in the blind. The most common symptom of breast cancer is the lump formation which may not show or be visible in the beginning. In some cases though, it can be felt by hand as slightly protruding out. According to doctors, lumps that do not hurt on pressing, are hard and uneven have higher chances of being a sign of breast cancer; but it is not entirely unlikely that soft lumps are cancerous. This ambiguity makes it all the more necessary that anything unusual should be gotten checked by a professional doctor.
Some of the widely defined symptoms by doctors are redness, irritation, thickening of breast skin, nipple discharge and scaling among others. Any of these must never be ignored and must preemptively be checked.
Screening is done by either of the two processes; Mammogram and Breast MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). These are not preventative or treatment measures rather a way of getting the breasts thoroughly checked before any of the symptoms start to show. Screening is recommended for all women generally, and specifically for those who have family history of the disease. It is the only way that cancer can be detected in the early stages. Mammogram is, in simplest terms, an X-Ray of the breasts; while MRI involves radio and magnetic waves to take images of breasts for a detailed examination. MRI screening is only done on women who are at a high risk (family history, previous treatment). Generally, at an average risk, mammogram is enough.