Breast Cancer Fully Explained
If you were to look up “breast” in the dictionary, you’d find that it relates to the chest area. The reason for such a broad definition is that both males and females have chests and hence breasts, and both males and females can get breast cancer.
The difference, however, between male and female breast cancers and why women are more at risk of developing breast cancer is because of their make-up. Womens breasts is a gland designed to make milk. The lobules in the breast make the milk, which then drains through the ducts to the nipple.
Like all parts of your body, the cells in your breasts usually grow and then rest in cycles. The periods of growth and rest in each cell are controlled by genes in the cell’s nucleus. The nucleus is like the control room of each cell. When your genes are in good working order, they keep cell growth under control. But when your genes develop an abnormality, they sometimes lose their ability to control the cycle of cell growth and rest. Breast cancer then, is an uncontrolled growth of breast cells.
If that wasn’t enough, the cancer has the potential to break through normal breast tissue barriers and spread to other parts of the body. While cancer is always caused by a genetic “abnormality” (a “mistake” in the genetic material), only 5-10% of cancers are inherited from your mother or father. Instead, 90% of breast cancers are due to genetic abnormalities that happen as a result of the aging process and shall I dare say “life in general” or the “abuse of life in general”.
While there are things every woman can do to help her body stay as healthy as possible (such as eating a balanced diet, not smoking, minimizing stress, and exercising regularly), breast cancer is never anyone’s fault. Feeling guilty, or telling yourself that breast cancer happened because of something you or anyone else did, is counterproductive.
There are different stages of breast cancer and they can be briefly categorized as follows:
Stage 0 – This stage is used to describe non-invasive breast cancer. There is no evidence of cancer cells breaking out of the part of the breast in which it started, or of getting through to or invading neighboring normal tissue.
Stage I – This stage describes invasive breast cancer (cancer cells are breaking through to or invading neighboring normal tissue) in which the tumor measures up to 2 centimeters, and no lymph nodes are involved.
Stage II – This stage describes invasive breast cancer in which the tumor measures at least 2 centimeters, but not more than 5 centimeters, OR cancer has spread to the lymph nodes under the arm on the same side as the breast cancer. Affected lymph nodes have not yet stuck to one another or to the surrounding tissues, a sign that the cancer has not yet advanced to stage III. (The tumor in the breast can be any size.)
Stage III – Stage III is divided into subcategories known as IIIA and IIIB.
Stage IIIA – describes invasive breast cancer in which the tumor measures larger than 5 centimeters, OR there is significant involvement of lymph nodes. The nodes clump together or stick to one another or surrounding tissue.
Stage IIIB – This stage describes invasive breast cancer in which a tumor of any size has spread to the breast skin, chest wall, or internal mammary lymph nodes (located beneath the breast right under the ribs, inside the middle of the chest). Stage IIIB includes inflammatory breast cancer, a very uncommon but very serious, aggressive type of breast cancer. The most distinguishing feature of inflammatory breast cancer is redness involving part or all of the breast. The redness feels warm. You may see puffiness of the breast’s skin that looks like the peel of a navel orange (“peau d’orange”), or even ridges, welts, or hives. And part or all of the breast may be enlarged and hard. A lump is present only half of the time. Inflammatory breast cancer is sometimes misdiagnosed as a simple infection.
Stage IV – This stage includes invasive breast cancer in which a tumor has spread beyond the breast, underarm, and internal mammary lymph nodes, AND a tumor may have spread to the supra-clavicular lymph nodes (nodes located at the base of the neck, above the collarbone), lungs, liver, bone, or brain.”Metastatic at presentation” means that the breast cancer has spread beyond the breast and nearby lymph nodes, even though this is the first diagnosis of breast cancer. The reason for this is that the primary breast cancer was not found when it was only inside the breast. Metastatic cancer is considered stage IV.