Women and Breast Cancer
Over the years, researchers have identified breast cancer as the most common cancer in women and the second most common cause of cancer death in women. In the United Kingdom alone, more than 50,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, of which less than 300 are men. Until few years ago, the causes are not completely understood, but it is now believed that hormonal and genetic factors are the primary risk factors of.
Recently, breast cancers are diagnosed as a result of a lump or change in the consistency of the breast tissue and abnormality seen on a mammogram can also be sign of the disease. Awareness in the risk has led to increase in the number of women undergoing breast screening, this leading to early detection and improvement in survival rate.
Although breast cancer is common in women, male breast cancer does occur and accounts for about 1% cancer death in men.
Some Risk factors associated with Breast Cancer
1, Hormonal factor – include having higher level of hormones in the blood after menopause, having no children or having them late in life, women who have taken Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) at anytime in their life, taking contraceptive pills, late menopause, women who have never breast fed and women who start their periods at a young age (early puberty)
2, Genetic factor – Family history has long been associated with breast cancer. This risk is high if any of the parents or relatives have had it in the past. There is great interest in genes linked and about 5-10% are believed to be hereditary.
3, Age factor – Age is a critical factor because it may occur at any age from 30years and above, although it usually increase with age.
4, Ethnic group factor – It is widely believed that white women are slightly more likely to develop breast cancer than African-American women in the United State and other part of Africa.
5, Personal lifestyle – Daily consumption of alcohol over a period of years can increase the risk of breast cancer.
6, Personal history – If a woman has had breast cancer before, she is at a greater risk of developing a new breast cancer.
7, Weight and Height – If a woman is overweight before menopause, her risk of breast cancer is lower than average. If she is overweight after menopause, her risk of having it is higher than average. This is simply because women who are overweight ovulate less than average and as a result of this their breast cells are exposed to lower level of o estrogen (however, its not advisable premenopause women should become overweight for this reason)
Tall women have risk of having breast cancer than short women because taller women usually have more breast tissue than shorter women, which might increase the risk.
8, Old age – Like most cancers, breast cancer increases as women get older. Cells tend to deteriorate and turn into cancer cells and the longer we live, the more time that happens. Obviously you cannot do much about getting older.
Treatment of Breast Cancer
In recent years, there have been increase in the types of treatment choices, and this has brought hope and excitement. However, let me point out clearly that its your doctor that determines the treatment options based on the type, the stage, sensitivity of the cancer cells to hormone and your overall health condition, before considering your preferences.
(a) Removing the cancer (lumpectomy) – Here the tumor and a small margin of surrounding tissue is removed.
(b) Removing the entire breast (Mastectomy) – Here breast tissue is completely removed. Mastectomy can be radical, that is the underlying muscle of the chest wall is removed along with the surrounding lymph nodes in the armpit.
(c ) Removing one lymph node (Sentinel node biopsy) – this is applied when the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes and other parts. The doctor then determines which lymph node near the breast tumor receives the lymph drainage from the cancer. This lymph node is then removed and tested for cancer cells. If no cancer is found, then chances of finding cancer is small and no other node is removed.
(d) Removing several lymph nodes (auxiliary lymph node dissection) – If cancer is found in the sentinel node, then additional lymph node is removed from the armpit and if cancer has spread to lymph node then further treatment may be considered after the surgery.
2, Chemotherapy – Here drugs are used to kill cancer cells when the cancer has spread to other parts.
3, Radiation therapy – Here high energy rays are used to damage cancer cells and stop them from growing.
4, Hormonal therapy – This also involves the use of drugs in treatment of breast cancer.