The History of Susan Love MD
susanlovemd.com was started around 2000. This was a blog about breast cancer research by the very much respected Susan Love. After a few years on this domain Susan Love created a new website to help other with Breast Cancer information and research. We are in no way affiliated with Susan Love, but we are big fans of her work and commitment to breast cancer.
Everything You Need to Know About Breast Cancer
Breast cancer ranks second after lung cancer when it comes to cancer deaths in women. You will be surprised to know that 1 out of 38 women in the United States have a risk of dying due to breast cancer, while 1 in 8 women have dormant breast cancer. The American Cancer Society states that the US is most likely to see nearly 276,480 new cases of breast cancer by the end of 2020. Honestly, the numbers are pretty alarming.
The sad part is many women don't realize they have breast cancer until it's too late. You need to remember the symptoms by heart to make sure that the doctor diagnoses the issue in the early stages so that there are more chances of survival.
Breast cancer symptoms
There are multiple symptoms for breast cancer but the most common one is a lump under your armpit or just above your breast. This happens because of the thickening of the tissue around your breast region. The lump starts getting bigger indicating metastasis of the cancer cells. Apart from the growing lump, here are some of the other symptoms that you shouldn't ignore:
Rash on or around the nipples.
Change in shape or size of your breast.
Inverted or sunken nipple.
Reddening of the breast skin.
Pain in your breast and armpit. Many women think that it's due to their menstrual cycle, but if it continues to persist throughout the month, then contact a doctor immediately.
Flaking, scaling, or peeling of the breast's skin or nipple.
Blood discharge from the nipple.
Sometimes breast lumps may not turn out to be cancer. But it's the doctor who should rule that possibility out only after diagnosing you thoroughly.
Causes of breast cancer
A woman's breasts start developing thousands of lobules, fat, and connective tissues after she hits puberty. The lobules are responsible for producing milk that helps in breastfeeding babies. These ducts send the milk to your nipples. The cells die and regenerate automatically. But breast cancer multiplies these cells uncontrollably. The used cells don't die their normal life. They keep growing until they form a tumor. This tumor starts eating up the nutrients, thus depriving the cells from regenerating.
Breast cancer stages
The different stages of cancer depend on the size of the tumor and the speed of metastasis of carcinogenic cells. A doctor would rate your breast cancer between stages 0 to 4. Here's what different stages mean:
• Stage 0 – Doctors call this stage DCIS or ductal carcinoma in situ where the cells stay limited within the ducts. They are still not strong enough to affect the surrounding tissues.
• Stage 1 – The size of the tumor starts growing and measures approximately 2 cm. Although there are tiny groups of cancer cells, they don't affect the lymph nodes drastically.
• Stage 2 – The tumor still hasn't touched the lymph nodes but its size is now between 2 to 5 cm.
• Stage 3 – The tumor has now metastasized to some of the lymph nodes and crossed the 5 cm size.
• Stage 4 – Considered as the last and most fatal stage of breast cancer, the carcinogenic cells have not only spread to the distant organs but also to your liver, brain, lungs, or bones.
Types of breast cancer
There are four types of breast cancer depending on where they occur and how the cells spread.
1. Lobular carcinoma – It starts in the lobules of your breast that carry breast milk.
2. Ductal carcinoma – It is the most common type of breast cancer. The carcinogenic cells start growing in your milk duct and then spread slowly to the surrounding areas.
3. Invasive breast cancer – This happens when the cancer cells metastasize from the ducts or lobules and affect the nearby tissues, thus increasing the chances of cancer to spread to other organs of your body.
4. Non-invasive breast cancer – This is a comparatively safer stage, which, if treated in time, can cure the cancer completely. In this type of cancer, the cells stay inside their origin. But that doesn't mean they won't spread in due time.
Now that you know the different symptoms, stages, and types of breast cancer, let's take a look at the possible treatments for this disease.
• Radiation therapy
• Targeted drug therapy
• Hormone therapy
The treatments depend on the stage and type of cancer, your sensitivity towards hormones, and your age, health, and treatment preference.
1. Surgery – There are 5 types of surgery for breast cancer patients, such as mastectomy, lumpectomy, sentinel node biopsy, auxiliary lymph node dissection, and reconstruction. The doctor is the best person to recommend the type of surgery according to your health condition and stage of cancer.
2. Radiation therapy – It involves targeting the tumor and killing the cancerous cells with radiation. You may need to undergo radiation therapy for a month after the surgery takes place.
3. Chemotherapy – Cytotoxic chemotherapy drugs can kill cancer cells before they spread to other organs. Like radiation therapy, you may need to undergo chemotherapy after surgery. Sometimes doctors prefer to shrink the tumor by cytotoxic chemotherapy drugs so that it becomes easier to remove the tumor during the operation.
4. Hormone therapy – Also known as hormone-blocking therapy, it prevents the reoccurrence of breast cancer after the surgery. It is also widely popular for treating progesterone receptor-positive and estrogen receptor-positive cancers. Hormone blocking therapy is often the last resort for patients who are not suitable for other treatments like chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or surgery.
5. Targeted drug therapy – Targeted drugs, such as lapatinib, trastuzumab, and bevacizumab may destroy the carcinogenic cells that metastasize from your breast to other organs. But these medicines work only if the doctor diagnoses the condition at an early stage.
According to The American College of Physicians, women between 40 and 49 years should go for breast screenings at least once a year, while women between 50 and 74 years should go for screenings once in two years. It may help to detect breast cancer at an early stage so that it doesn't become drastic and beyond the reach of possible treatments that can cure the issue.