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Breast Cancer Definition and Treatment Report

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Updated: Jan 10th, 2020

Definition of the Breasts

Both men and women have breasts. Considering the case of females, the breasts consist of the milk glands. A milk gland is made up of lobules in which milk is formed and it also consists of ducts which are tubes that facilitate the movement of milk to the breast nipples. On the other hand, considering the case in men, suppressing of lobule development by testosterone during the puberty stage can be observed.

The breasts in both men and women have “supportive fibrous tissues and fatty tissues” (Cancer Council, 2011, p.6). Some of the breast tissues go up to the armpit. Armpits have a set of the lymph nodes that make up a part of the “lymphatic system” (Cancer Council, 2011, p.6).”The lymphatic system forms a part of the body’s immune system and serves to offer protection to the body against diseases and infections” (Cancer Council, 2011, p.6).

Definition of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer comes about at the time the breast ducts’ or lobules’ cells grow in an abnormal way. “There can be formation of a tumour within the breast lobules or ducts. The breast tissue is made up mainly of fat, glandular tissue, milk ducts and connective tissue” (Garvan Institute of Medical Research, 2010, p.1). In most of the “invasive breast cancers”, development of the tumour starts within the milk ducts lining (Cancer Council, 2011).

If it is not detected, these affected cells may also move to the rest of the parts of the breast and to the lymph nodes in the armpit and to other body parts as well. It is important to point out that breast cancer can develop not only in women but in men as well, though its occurrence is very rare among men. However, the breast cancer symptoms in both men and women are quite common (Cancer Council, 2011).

It has also been noted that breast cancer “is not just one single disease” (Garvan Institute of Medical Research, 2010, p.1) but takes a large number of different forms marked as “differences in disease aggression and response to treatment” (Garvan Institute of Medical Research, 2010, p.1).

There are various types of breast cancers. In the case where “the cells which appear like breast cancer are still confined to the ducts or lobules of the breast, it is called pre-invasive breast cancer” (Cancer Council, 2011, p.8). “The most widespread pre-invasive type of breast cancer is ductal carcinoma in-situ” (Cancer Council, 2011, p.8).

A large number of the breast cancer types are identified at the point they are found to be invasive. This implies that there is spreading of the breast cancer into the tissue around from the breast lobules or ducts. The types that are commonly found include invasive ductal cancer and invasive lobular cancer (Cancer Council, 2011, p.8).

Facts about Breast Cancer

Considering the case in Australia, breast cancer is found to be the most widespread form of cancer among women. It is also found to be the second most widespread cause of death that is related to cancer; the most common cause being lung cancer (Watson, et al.,1998).

It has also been found out that one Australian woman in every nine of them will be found to have breast cancer and one woman in every thirty eight of them will end up being killed by this disease by the age of eighty five years. Every year, more than twelve thousand of Australian women are diagnosed with the disease (Garvan Institute of Medical Research, 2010, p.1).

Due to the presence of the ageing population in Australia, breast cancer cases in this region remain to be on the increase. But on the other hand, at the present, breast cancer survival rate among the Australian women is increasing more than it has ever been in the past.

It has been found out that “the 1 year survival rate is 97% and 88% of women diagnosed with breast cancer can expect to be still alive 5 years after diagnosis” (Garvan Institute of Medical Research, 2010, p.1). Remarkable advances realized in the early detection as well as treatment of this disease imply that a larger number of women “are surviving the disease than ever before” (Garvan Institute of Medical Research, 2010, p.1).

The Risks of Developing Breast Cancer

According to Queensland Government, breast cancer has been found to be the most commonly reported form of cancer for women in Australia. It is also reported that among the greatest risk factors is the increasing age (Queensland Government, 2011). The risk is found to be approximately one in two hundred and fifty for a woman in Australia who is in her 30s.

But on the other hand, an Australian woman who is about 70 years or above, the risk is about one woman in every thirty. Diagnosis of a larger number of the breast cancers is made after menopause, having approximately three quarters of the total number of cases taking place among those women who are fifty and above (Cancer Australia, 2013).

However, it is imperative to bear in mind that all females are at risk of developing breast cancer, regardless of the risk category to which one may belong (Donegan, 2002). Among women who are at a higher risk, there are those who never end up developing breast cancer.

On the other hand, among the women who may be classified as being at a low risk, there are those who end up developing this disease. Other than an increase in age, there are also other factors that may increase the risk of this disease (Miller, Boyer & Dunn, 1995). These factors are “family history, specific genetic profile, breast diseases such as ductal carcinoma in situ and lobular carcinoma in situ, hormonal factors and body weight and size” (Queensland Government, 2011, p.1).

Moreover, the lifestyle factors may also increase the risk and such factors include; taking of alcohol, lack of physical activity, and getting exposed to the ionization radiation. It is pointed out that a large number of risk factors like breast cancer family history, ageing, and genetic condition are factors that are “not readily modifiable” (Queensland Government, 201, p.1).

Symptoms of Breast Cancer

Every woman may become aware of a change in her breast or her doctor may detect an extraordinary change in the course of carrying out an examination. There are a number of signs which may indicate the presence breast cancer. Some of them include;

  1. Lumpiness or thickening in the breast
  2. Changes occurring on the nipple
  3. Changes in the breast skin like dimpling and strange redness of the skin among other changes.
  4. An enlargement or reduction in the breast size
  5. An alteration in the breast shape
  6. A swell in the armpit
  7. Continual, strange pain which is not related to a woman’s menstrual cycle, stays after the period and happens in just one breast.

It is important to point out that the changes that may occur in one’s breast do not essentially imply that one has developed breast cancer. But on the other hand, if a person has developed any of the symptoms linked to this disease, she needs to have these symptoms examined by a medical expert in the soonest time possible. It is has also been found out that there are women who might not be having any symptoms and the breast cancer is detected by a “screening mammogram” (Cancer Council Australia, 2013).

Detecting Breast Cancer

In the case where detection of breast cancer is made early, women have higher chances of receiving effective treatment and for a larger number of them, the disease will not return after receiving treatment. At the present, screening mammograms are found to be the most excellent method that is available and can be used to detect breast cancer at an early stage.

The mammograms may detect a breast cancer that is too minute to be felt. Mammograms refer to “low dose x-rays of a woman’s breasts” (Cancer Council Australia, 2013, p.1). The performance of screening mammograms is carried out on those women who do not have any symptoms of this disease. They are offered at no cost based on the “BreastScreen Australia program” (Cancer Council Australia, 2013). For the women who are more than fifty years old, recommendations have been made. (National Breast Cancer Center, 2001).

A biopsy can also be used to detect breast cancer. A medical expert may recommend a biopsy in a situation where a strange or abnormal tissue area is identified in one’s breast. When a biopsy is carried out, a small quantity of tissue from one’s breast is to be removed. The removed tissue is carefully checked by a pathologist to see whether there are any cancer cells. In order to check it, a microscope can be used. A person may be required to go through more than just one biopsy (Cancer Council, 2011).

Breast Self-Examination

As it has already been found out, the survival rate for breast cancer is higher if its detection is carried out earlier. One of the most excellent and effective ways of identifying breast lumps is to undertake a breast examination on a monthly basis (Sterrett, et al., 1994). In spite of this, it is reported that around thirty three percent of women in Australia carry out regular breast self-examinations (Women’s & Breast Imaging, 2013).

After surveying women in Western Australia on breast cancer self-examination, it was found out that just about seventeen percent of the women in the region performed the self-exams on a monthly basis (Women’s & Breast Imaging, 2013). The findings from the survey also indicated that only about thirty percent of the respondents had never performed “breast cancer self-examination” (Women’s & Breast Imaging, 2013).

A “breast self-examination” comprises of the manual exam either lying down or standing and “a visual examination in the mirror” (Women’s & Breast Imaging, 2013, p.1). This should be performed on a monthly basis. A female person has to be aware of what is supposed to be normal for her breast and carrying out a breast self-exam will assist her in detecting any changes that may have occurred in her breast (Women’s & Breast Imaging, 2013).

Breast Cancer History

Human beings have known the breast cancer disease since the ancient times (De Moulin, 1983; Papac, 2002). Due to the symptoms that can be clearly seen, particularly during the later stages “the lumps that progress to tumours have been recorded by physicians from early times” (Mandal, 2013, p.1).

However, during the early times, this was regarded as a taboo and a cause of shame and this implied that diagnosis and detection of this disease was very rare (Yalom, 1997). Having more women involved in revealing the breast cancer in an open way is an occurrence that came up about forty years ago. In the course of the last decade of the 20th century, the “pink ribbon”, which is a breast cancer symbol, introduced a revolution against this form of cancer (Mandal, 2013).

By the mid 1990s, following the introduction of modern medicine, the number of women who had a mastectomy had gone below ten percent. At this point, new therapies for the disease “including hormone treatments, surgeries and biological therapies” have been set up (Mandal, 2013, p.1). There was also development of mammography and since that time, the early detection of breast cancer has become possible (Mandal, 2013).

Treatment of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer treatment may include surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy and targeted therapies (Cancer Council, 2011, p.24). In most cases, more than one treatment for breast cancer can be used at a time. The doctor’s advice are required regarding the best breast cancer treatment that any particular person may require.

The kind of treatment to be given will depend on a number of factors and these include the patient’s test results, where the cancer is located, the patient’s general health and age, the patient’s preferences, and the extent to which the cancer has moved among other factors.

Looking at surgery, it can be of two kinds: mastectomy and breast conserving surgery. The ‘breast conserving’ surgery involves removing some portion of the breast that has the cancer cells. This type of surgery is carried out when the size of cancer is smaller than the breast’s size. The doctor undertakes the removal of the most minimal amount of breast tissues possible. On the other hand, mastectomy involves the removal of the entire breast (Hartmann, 1999).

However the chest muscles are not removed. Some of the lymph nodes or even all of them, found under the arm, which are very close to the breast having the cancer, may be removed as well (Lee et al. 1992). This kind of surgery may be performed if the size of cancer is bigger than that of the breast or if the cancer is found in multiple areas (Hartmann, 1999).

Another breast cancer treatment method is radiotherapy. This one makes use of “high-energy x-rays” in killing the cancer cells or stopping the growth of these cells (Cancer Council, 2011).

Recommendation for radiotherapy is made by the doctor for a patient after she has gone through “breast conserving surgery” in order to assist in destroying any remaining cancer cells and to bring down the level of chance of having the cancer returning. Sometimes, this kind of treatment is also given to patients who have gone through a mastectomy. Some of the side effects of radiotherapy include tiredness, dry and red skin, and blistering and inflammation of skin.

Chemotherapy is another method of breast cancer treatment. It involves the use of drugs to either kill or slow down the rate of growth of the cancer cells (Bonadonna, et al., 1976). This method may be used when the chances of the cancer coming back are high, when the cancer is back after performing surgery or even radiotherapy and the method may also be used in case the cancer does not show any response to the hormone therapy (Pierce, 1993).

There is a number of drugs that are used in this treatment of the cancer and some of them include carboplatic, docetaxel and fluorouracil drugs among many others (Harris &Swain, 1996).

The drug gives a specific drug combination to the patient depending on the kind of breast cancer she is having and the kind of treatment she has already gone through. In most cases, chemotherapy is administered via a vein and the patient will have approximately four to six sessions of chemotherapy in the course of every two to three weeks over a period of several months.

The side effects associated with this treatment are dependent on the kind of drugs that have been used but some of these effects include nausea and vomiting, changes in weight, loss of hair and tiredness among other effects.

Hormone therapy is also used for breast cancer treatment. This method of treatment is applied to the patients that have “ER+ hormone receptors on their breast cancer cells” (Cancer Council, 2011, p.36). The main objective of this method is to slow down or put a halt to “the growth of hormone receptor positive cancer cells” (Cancer Council, 2011, p.36).


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