Beware of Breast Cancer Early Detection
In 2020, 2.3 million women were diagnosed with breast cancer and 685,000 deaths occurred globally. By the end of 2020, there were about 7.8 million women diagnosed with breast cancer in the last five years, making it the most common cancer in the world. Breast cancer occurs worldwide and can affect both men and women of all ages and the risk increases in older age.
Breast cancer is a characterized by breast cells that grow uncontrollably. The type of breast cancer depends on which breast cells become cancerous. Breast cancer can originate from different parts of the breast. The breast is composed of three main parts: lobules, ducts, and connective tissue. Lobules are glands that produce milk. Ducts are the tubes that carry milk from the lobules to the nipple. Connective tissue (which consists of fibrous tissue and fat) surrounds and holds everything in place. Most breast cancers occur in the lobules or ducts. Breast cancer can spread outside the breast through blood vessels and lymphatic vessels. When breast cancer spreads to other parts of the body, it is called metastasis.
Image of the breast showing the location of lobules, lobes, ducts, areola, nipple, and fat
Factors that increase the risk of breast cancer include older age, obesity, harmful alcohol use, family history of breast cancer, radiation exposure, reproductive history (such as age at first menstruation and age at first pregnancy), tobacco use, and postmenopausal hormone therapy. But nearly half of breast cancer cases that develop in women known have no risk factors for breast cancer other than gender (female) and age (over 40).
Interventions and modifications of lifestyle and behavior can reduce the risk of breast cancer, such as breastfeeding for the appropriate length of time, regular physical activity, weight control, and by avoiding alcohol, smoke, long-term hormonal therapy, and excessive radiation exposure. By controlling the risk factors, it can reduce the risk of breast cancer up to 30%.
However, many cases of breast cancer were diagnosed after reached the advance or the late stage. The prognosis of late stage shown the poor outcomes. Only 22% of stage IV breast cancer patients will survive their next 5 years. The earlier stage breast cancer is detected, the greater chance of living longer. In addition, not only by avoiding the risk factors, but also do the breast cancer detection regularly to get the better outcomes.
In general, signs of breast cancer include a lump or thickening/hardening in the breast, changes in breast size, shape, and appearance, the presence of a dent, redness, or other changes in the skin, changes in the appearance of the nipple or the skin around the nipple/areola, and the presence of abnormal discharge from the nipple. If found any abnormal lump in the breast, please consult a doctor immediately without delaying more than 1-2 months even if the lump is painless. Further examinations such as breast imaging (breast ultrasound, mammography) or biopsy (tissue examination) should be done to determine whether the lump is cancerous or benign.
1. Breast Cancer at World Health Organization. Accessed at https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/breast-cancer on Sept 6th, 2022.
2. Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed at What Is Breast Cancer? | CDC https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/basic_info/what-is-breast-cancer.htm on Sept 6th, 2022