Generally, human cells grow and divide to form new cells as it is important for your body to function well. When the cells become old or are damaged, they start dying, and then eventually the new cells take their place. However, this orderly process breaks down, as cells become more abnormal, old, or damaged cells survive when they should die, and new cells form when they are not needed. This process is what leads to cancer. The extra cells can divide without stopping and may form growths which are called the tumors.
Cancer may start almost anywhere in the human body. One of the types of cancer is breast cancer that forms in the cells of the breasts. Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in the United States. Breast cancer may occur not only in women but also in men. Although it occurs in men, it’s far more common in women as per recent reports. So we highly recommend every individual to examine your breast at least once in a year.
The article below covers all the relevant topics of breast cancer including the symptoms of breast cancer, causes of breast cancer, its treatments, stages, how to get tested, and its prevention.
- How common is breast cancer?
- Symptoms of breast cancer
- Breast cancer causes
- Breast cancer stages
- What are the treatments for breast cancer?
- What happens if breast cancer is left untreated?
- How to get tested
- Provider’s location
How common is breast cancer?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the U.S. As per the statistics from the American Cancer Society (ACS), approximately 268,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer were diagnosed in the United States in 2019. Invasive breast cancer is nothing but cancer that has spread from the ducts or the glands to other parts of the breast. Sadly, more than 41,000 women are expected to die from this disease.
Breast cancer is also diagnosed in men. The ACS also estimates that more than 2,600 men will be diagnosed and approximately 500 men may die from the disease.
Symptoms of breast cancer
Initially, breast cancer may not show any symptoms. As in many cases, a tumor may be too small to be felt, but an abnormality can be still seen on a mammogram. If a tumor can be felt, then the first sign is a new lump in the breast that was not there earlier. But however, not all lumps are cancer. Each type of breast cancer causes different symptoms. Many of these symptoms are similar, but some are varied. The symptoms for the most common breast cancers include:
- Slight breast pain
- Red pitted skin over your breast
- Swelling or lump in the parts of your breast and arms
- Abnormal nipple discharge other than breast milk
- Discharge of blood from your nipple
- A lump in the breast that feels different than surrounding tissues
- Peeling, scaling or flaking on your nipple or breast
- Unusual growth/change it breast size/shape
- Inverted nipple
- Lump or swelling under your arm
If you find any of these symptoms in your breast, you should consult your physician for further examination and testing.
Breast cancer causes
Your Physician knows that breast cancer occurs when some breast cells begin to grow abnormally. These cells divide more rapidly than healthy cells do and continue to accumulate by forming a lump or even mass. Breast cancer may mostly begin with cells in the milk-producing ducts. It may also begin in the glandular tissue called lobules or in the other cells or tissues within the breast itself.
Few researchers have identified hormonal, lifestyle, and environmental factors that may increase your risk of having breast cancer. But it’s still not clear why some people who have no risk factors develop cancer, yet other people with risk factors never have this disease. It’s likely proved that breast cancer is caused by an interaction of your genetic makeup and your environment.
Breast cancer stages
Breast cancer stages can be divided based on how large the tumors are and how much it has spread in your breast or other parts of your body. Cancers that have invaded the nearby tissues or organs are at a higher stage than cancers that are small still contained in the breast.
Breast cancer stages are classified into five categories – stages 0 to 5.
Stage 0 breast cancer
Stage 0 is called DCIS. Cancer cells in DCIS remain confined to the ducts in the breast and which have not spread into nearby tissue of other body parts.
Stage 1 breast cancer
1) Stage 1A: The primary tumor is 2 centimeters wide and the lymph nodes are not affected at this stage.
2) Stage 1B: In this stage, the cancer is found in nearby lymph nodes, and either there is no tumor in the breast, or the tumor is smaller than 2 cm.
Stage 2 breast cancer
1) Stage 2A: The tumor is smaller than 2 cm at this stage and it has spread from 1–3 nearby lymph nodes, or it’s between 2 and 5 cm and it hasn’t spread to any lymph nodes.
2) Stage 2B: In this stage, the tumor is between 2 and 5 cm and has spread to 1–3 armpits lymph nodes, and it’s larger than 5 cm and hasn’t spread to any lymph nodes.
Stage 3 breast cancer
1) Stage 3A: Cancer has spread to 4–9 armpits lymph nodes and it has enlarged the internal mammary lymph nodes, and the primary tumor can be of any size.
At this stage, tumors are greater than 5 cm and cancer has spread to 1–3 armpits lymph nodes or any breast bone nodes.
2) Stage 3B: A tumor has invaded the chest wall or skin at this stage and may or may not have invaded up to 9 lymph nodes in the breast.
3) Stage 3C: Cancer is found in 10 or more armpits lymph nodes, lymph nodes near the collarbone, or internal mammary nodes.
Stage 4 breast cancer
Stage 4 breast cancers can have a tumor of any size, and its cancer cells have spread to nearby organs and distant lymph nodes as well as distant organs.
Testing your physician does will determine the stage of your breast cancer, which will affect your treatment.
What are the treatments for breast cancer?
The number of deaths associated with this disease is steadily declining and the breast cancer survival rates have also increased. Mainly due to factors such as earlier detection, a new personalized approach to the treatment, and a better understanding of this disease. The treatment for breast cancer varies for every individual as the doctor examines the breast cancer stages, how far it has invaded, and how big the tumor has grown.
Your doctor will determine your cancer’s size, stage, and grade. After that, you can discuss your treatment options with your physician Many women undergo treatments, such as chemotherapy, targeted therapy, radiation, or hormone therapy.
Through radiation therapy, the high-powered beams of radiation are used to target and kill the cancer cells. Most radiation treatments often use external beam radiation. In this technique, a large machine on the outside of the body is used.
Chemotherapy is a drug treatment that is used to destroy cancer cells. Some people may undergo chemotherapy on their own, but this type of treatment is often used along with other treatments, mainly surgery.
Hormone therapy works by blocking the hormone receptors on cancer cells. This action may help slow down and possibly stop the growth of your cancer in your body.
Surgery is the most common treatment followed in breast cancer. Several types of surgeries may be used to remove the breast cancer that includes:
- Sentinel node biopsy
- Axillaries lymph node dissection
- Contralateral prophylactic mastectomy
What happens if breast cancer is left untreated?
The untreated cancer cells will invade the other healthy breast tissue and can travel to the lymph nodes under the arms and other parts of the body. The lymph nodes are a primary pathway which helps the cancer cells to move to the other parts of your body.
If left untreated, breast cancer universally becomes a fatal disease. It happens over long periods of time, but if you don’t have surgery or if you don’t have other treatments, it doesn’t go away on its own. Because of the better diagnostic tests and advances in cancer treatments, more people live longer than after being diagnosed. According to cancer experts, there are about 2.8 million breast cancer survivors in the United States, and that number is expected to increase. That’s why we recommend every individual that they get appropriate medical treatment if affected with breast cancer.
Prevention for breast cancer
Bring changes in your daily life to help reduce the risk of breast cancer. Also, follow the above steps to reduce the risk of this disease:
- Ask your doctor about breast cancer screening
- Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all
- Exercise most days of the week
- Limit postmenopausal hormone therapy
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Always choose a healthy diet
How to get tested for Breast Cancer?
CEA blood test is done to measure the levels of CEA in the blood. Your physician will order a CEA test for the following reasons. Your physician will prescribe for a CEA blood test to detect the tumor cells. This CEA test is also used to diagnose Pancreatic cancer, Gastric, Ovary, and Lung cancer.
The following table shows the breast cancer testing (CEA Test) cost at one of our partner laboratories (CLIA – Certified) network located across the U.S.
Name of our Partner Labs
Personal Testing Lab
If your physician suspects breast cancer, they may order additional imaging tests like both mammogram and an ultrasound. If both of these tests can’t tell your physician if you have cancer, your physician may do a test called breast biopsy.
Breast cancer tests can be done in any of the following states at the provider’s location. To know the breast cancer test cost refer to the above table.
- New Hampshire
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Puerto Rico
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
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