The most significant risk factors for the development of breast cancer are considered to be the following:
- Inflammatory diseases of the ovaries and uterus;
- Liver diseases;
- Mastopathy or breast cancer in blood relatives;
A history of mastopathy is also a precancerous disease.
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External signs of breast cancer
When self-examination for breast cancer may indicate the following manifestations:
- Nipple retraction;
- Changing the color and shape of the nipples;
- The appearance of ulceration on the nipples;
- Changes in the skin of the mammary glands (edema, changes in skin color).
An important symptom of the possible development of breast cancer are signs of mastopathy.
The initial stages of breast cancer are characterized by the presence of a small, painless tumor in the form of a dense node. It is possible to determine the mobility of axillary lymph nodes.
The skin symptoms of the initial stage are wrinkling and umbilication. Also characteristic is the “site symptom”.
In the presence of stage III or IV cancer, the tumor becomes much larger. The mammary gland changes shape, ulceration and the symptom of “lemon peel”can be observed on the skin. Possible swelling of the hand.
The tumor in breast cancer can grow at different rates. The primary tumor can double in size in a period of 1 to 12 months. The faster the growth, the higher the degree of malignancy.
Breast cancer detected at an early stage is much easier to treat and has a favorable prognosis with timely treatment. Therefore, self-examination is an important component of prevention and early detection of the disease. It should be carried out on the 6-12 day of the menstrual cycle: standing or lying on your back, you need to feel the chest and armpits.
Primary diagnostic methods
Mammography (the use of the X-ray method) gives very high diagnostic indicators. The reliability of mammographic examination in cases of suspected breast cancer is 80-90%.
Ductography is a diagnostic method using the introduction of a contrast agent into the ducts of the mammary glands.
Ultrasound is recommended for women under 40 years of age. The effectiveness of this method for the diagnosis of breast cancer according to various sources ranges from 60 to 90%.
At the slightest suspicion of the occurrence of a malignant process in the mammary gland, a deeper examination is necessary: an analysis of the discharge from the nipple and a study of the taken tissue (puncture biopsy).
If breast cancer is suspected, the medical institution sends patients for a full examination.
Breast cancer symptoms by stage
The described system for identifying the stages of breast cancer was developed by domestic oncologists and corresponds to the international classification of stages of breast cancer TNM
The size of the tumor is not more than 2 cm in diameter. There are no regional metastases, and there is no germination into the skin and surrounding adipose tissue.
The size of the tumor is 2-5 cm in diameter, germination in the tissue does not occur at all or there is a partial fusion with the skin. There are no metastases.
The main symptoms of stage IIa breast cancer are
“Symptom of wrinkling” – the appearance of shallow wrinkles on the skin of the breast when captured in a fold; wrinkles are perpendicular to the fold,
the “site symptom” is the appearance of an area with reduced elasticity on the skin of the breast; this area of the skin does not straighten out after even a short infringement.
The size of the tumor is 2-5 cm in diameter. The presence of no more than 2 metastases on the affected side of the breast. The initial manifestations of umbilication are possible.
The size of the tumor is more than 5 cm in diameter. There is no sprouting into the skin and surrounding adipose tissue.
Symptoms of stage III breast cancer:
the symptom of umbilication is the retracted skin above the tumor;
a symptom of “lemon peel”;
puffiness of the skin, possibly retraction of the nipple.
For this stage, no more than 2 metastases are allowed.
The tumor spreads, affecting the entire mammary gland. There may be extensive ulceration, metastasis.
A cancerous breast tumor metastasizes to various tissues and organs. Metastatic lesions occur through the milk passages, capillaries, and blood vessels. In breast cancer, metastases spread to the axillary, subcapular, subclavian, and supraclavicular lymph nodes. Distant metastasis occurs in soft tissues, skin. Metastases can affect the liver, lungs, ovaries, and pelvic and femoral bones.
Breast Cancer Treatment
Modern medicine has several thousand ways to treat patients with breast cancer. The treatment regimen is selected individually and is based on a number of factors.
At the I and IIa stages of breast cancer, 2 options for surgical treatment are possible:
organ-preserving surgery + radiation therapy.
Patients at stages IIb and III are subject to complex treatment:
chemotherapy (in pre-menopausal patients) surgery +
radiation therapy (during menopause).
1. Surgical treatment.
It is a leader in the treatment of breast cancer.
Removal of the small (and in some cases, large) pectoral muscle of the breast affected by cancer. Lymph nodes located in the area of the sternum can also be removed.
Radical sectorial resection of the breast.
It allows you to preserve the mammary gland, since only part of the chest muscles affected by the tumor is removed. With sectorial resection, the risk of relapses is quite high. Therefore, after such an operation, radiation therapy is usually prescribed.
2. Radiation therapy.
In the treatment of breast cancer, it is used to prevent relapses in the postoperative period. Radiation therapy in the preoperative period is designed to reduce the degree of malignancy of the tumor.
It is aimed at blocking the spread of breast tumor metastases. Chemotherapy in many cases helps to lower the stage of breast cancer, also improves the results of operations and helps to control the symptoms of the disease. The duration of the course of chemotherapy for breast cancer is 14 days. Repeat the course every month.
4. Hormone therapy.
Estrogens play a huge role in the course of breast cancer. That is why hormone therapy plays a prominent role in treatment.
Since the immunological status of the body decreases during chemo-and radiation therapy, and especially during surgery, immunotherapy is designed to increase the body’s defenses. Various immunomodulators are used for this purpose.
Since the specifics of the treatment of breast cancer in many patients are associated with social and psychological difficulties, much attention is currently being paid to rehabilitation measures. In addition to psychological and social adaptation (preservation or restoration of working capacity), the attention of doctors is directed to the use of reconstructive plastic surgery to restore the appearance of the breast.
The most important data for predicting the results of treatment of patients with breast cancer are the prevalence of the tumor, the number of metastases in the lymph nodes, the degree of swelling of the breast, and the malignancy of the tumor.
The effectiveness of treatment depends on these and many other factors. Thus, with timely treatment of stage I breast cancer, the effectiveness of treatment reaches 96%, at stage II-80-90%. Patients with stage III breast cancer are cured in 60-80% of cases.
Cure refers to the absence of a progressive or recurrent tumor for 5 years.