With the sudden rise in cases of all types of cancer, it comes as no surprise that many people are worried about their health. The term ‘cancer’ is seemingly so scary that many people don’t even like acknowledging it. However, it is essential to know the signs and symptoms of cancer to catch it early, before it can cause permanent damage to the body.
According to the World Health Organization, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer diagnosed in women. There have been many deaths reported due to breast cancer. However, with significant advancements in technology and medicine, breast cancer rates have significantly dropped. Due to better screening and testing techniques available today, it is much easier to detect breast cancer than it ever was before. The number of cases of breast cancer has slightly increased by 0.3% every year, but death rates have significantly decreased. A lot of this success is due to early detection and increased awareness about breast cancer globally and better screening and testing facilities that are now more readily available.
When should you visit a doctor?
Many women feel too nervous about visiting a doctor because they think they may have found a mass in their breast. Ignoring the first signs can delay the screening process for a cancerous tumor that might be present, ultimately decreasing the chances of survival. The best strategy to beat any cancer is early diagnosis. Don’t hesitate to consult a doctor if you discover an abnormal lump in your breasts. It is better to get it checked than leaving it to grow and spread.
Consult your doctor if you feel any abnormal mass in your breasts. | Source: freepik.com
Some of the more vital signs and symptoms are listed below. These are signals that the body gives so that you can get yourself checked as early as possible.
- Swelling in all parts of the breast
- Dimpling of the skin
- Skin irritation
- Retracted nipples (nipples turning inward)
- Painful breasts
- Scaliness and redness in the area of the nipple
- Discharge from the nipples that is either bloody or clear (not milky)
- Lumps in the area of the underarm (swelling of the lymph nodes)
It is important to note that cancerous lumps and masses are usually painless with rough edges, but there are also cancerous lumps that may be round and tender. Therefore, it is essential to get checked by a physician if any lump or mass is felt during a self-examination. They will do some basic tests to determine if the further treatment will be needed.
Many people think that breast cancer can only affect women. However, some men are diagnosed with it, as well. The ratio of breast cancer cases in men is comparatively lower than in women. Nonetheless, it still exists, and men should be equally aware of it. Men diagnosed with breast cancer often have a terrible prognosis and decreased survival rates due to the delay in getting screened and tested.
What are lumps? Are they all cancerous?
The biggest concern that many women have is finding a lump in their breast. These lumps or masses are usually the first indications of cancer, and it is because of the presenting lumps and masses that breast self-examination is encouraged.
Having that said, not all lumps or masses are cancerous, and most of them are benign. Many changes occur in the breast tissue as a woman ages. It is due to these changes that women often develop lumps. Some of the common causes of benign breast lumps are discussed below.
- Breast infection – Any infection in the breast can cause lumpiness in the breast; this usually resolves itself after proper treatment.
- Fibrocystic breast disease – This is a condition that causes painful lumps, but they are benign and not dangerous.
- Fibroadenoma – This is a non-cancerous tumor that appears in the breasts due to hormonal fluctuations. They usually regress after menopause.
- Fat necrosis – Whenever there is damage to the breast tissue, some lumps may be noticed. These lumps are extremely difficult to distinguish from a cancerous mass; therefore, a biopsy is performed to identify the mass as either safe or dangerous.
Procedures to evaluate a breast lump
Your doctor might recommend the following test/s to evaluate the breast lump further:
1. Diagnostic Mammogram: This is a specialized breast x-ray that enables your healthcare provider to investigate abnormal breast changes. It takes several x-ray images from multiple angles.
2. Breast Ultrasound: Sound waves are used to paint a picture of the inside of your breast. This ultrasound imaging technique helps determine if a breast lump is filled with fluid or completely solid.
3. Breast MRI: Using magnetic and radio waves, an MRI machine can create images of your breast’s interior. A breast MRI is reserved as a final option when the diagnosis is in question.
A biopsy is a procedure in which you have a tissue sample removed and examined under a microscope. The results of a biopsy can tell us a lot about the condition of the tissue and how to proceed in a treatment plan if necessary.
1. Fine-needle aspiration biopsy: A fine needle is used to extract fluid from the suspicious area into the syringe for testing later.
2. Core-needle biopsy: A larger syringe needle is used to remove a sample of breast tissue.
3. Vacuum-assisted biopsy: A needle-probe linked to a vacuum removes a small sample of the breast tissue.
4. Stereotactic biopsy: Images of the suspected area are produced from several angles via mammography. The doctor then removes a sample of breast tissue with a fine needle.
5. Surgical biopsy: A minor incision is made in the skin and breast tissue to remove all or part of the lump.
There are times when women may feel pain or tenderness in their breasts and immediately think of the worst possible scenario. However, breast pain can also be due to several other reasons not related to cancer. Some of the reasons that cause breast pain are as follows:
- Hormonal changes due to menstruation – The fluctuations of hormones during menstruation are often associated with tender breasts, which usually disappear after the cycle.
- Some infertility treatments – Infertility treatments also indirectly affect the hormonal balance in the body, which can cause tenderness in the breasts.
- Use of contraceptive pills – If you take a prescription for birth control, having minor pain in your breasts is nothing to worry about. It will resolve as soon as you stop taking the pills.
Hormonal changes during mensuration can cause mild pain in the breasts. | Source: freepik.com
Cancer is indeed terrifying and causes the body to go through many changes from the illness inside or from the treatments applied. With increased awareness, better technology, and effective treatment options available, many people have survived cancer and became stronger. Every female over the age of 40 is advised to get an annual mammogram to be screened for cancerous lumps in the breast. A self-examination should also be part of every woman’s monthly healthcare routine to catch the first signs of cancer as early as possible.
Bonus video: How to Recognize Breast Cancer Symptoms
What kind of lumps are normal in breasts?
Cysts, which are fluid-filled lumps, are common in the breast and are benign. They form when fluid builds up inside the breast glands, and tend to be smooth or round. Fibroadenomas are benign tumors made up of glandular and connective breast tissue. They are usually soft and firm or rubbery to the touch.
What does a cancerous lump in the breast feel like?
A cancerous lump may feel rounded, soft, and tender and can occur anywhere in the breast. Some women have dense, fibrous breast tissue. Feeling lumps or changes in your breasts may be more difficult if this is the case.
Where are breast cancer lumps usually found?
Commonly developing from the mammary glands or ducts, about 50 percent of malignant lumps appear in the upper, outer quadrant of the breast and extend into the armpit where the tissue is thicker than elsewhere.
When should I be concerned about a lump in my breast?
Lumps that feel harder or different from the rest of the breast (or the other breast), or that have changed are a concern and should be checked. This type of lump may signify breast cancer or a common benign breast condition (such as a cyst or fibroadenoma). Testing is the best way to find out.
What should I do if I feel a lump in my breast?
How fast does a breast cancer lump grow?
Breast cancer has to divide 30 times before it can be felt by touch. Up to the 28th cell division, neither you nor your doctor can detect it by hand. With most breast cancers, each division takes one to two months, so by the time you can feel a cancerous lump, cancer has been in your body for two to five years.
What percentage of breast lumps are cancerous?
Finding a lump in your breast can be frightening — but although breast cancer is the most common cancer found in women, most breast lumps are not cancer. More than 80 percent of lumps end up being benign. In a small percentage of women, a painful breast lump turns out to be cancer.
What should a breast cancer patient avoid eating?
Limit the intake of highly saturated foods such as beef, lamb, organ meats, cheeses, cream, butter, and ice cream—decrease foods containing trans-fatty acids, such as commercially prepared baked goods, crackers, and margarine. Increase your intake of poultry, fish, and vegetarian proteins (legumes and lentils). Overall, ensure that you eat a healthy diet. Detox diets can also help cancer patients.
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