Breast cancer causes, preventive tips and all about pregnancy after chemotherapy

According to the World Health Organisation, breast cancer occurs in every country of the world and in women at any age after puberty but with increasing rates in later life while health professionals point out that breast cancer is the commonest cancer in urban Indian women and the second commonest in the rural females. Experts have revealed that in India, breast cancer has been a silent killer that kills 75,000 patients every year and it has become an epidemic with its cases rising each year now.

Since no woman is immune to breast cancer, we all must be vigilant and create awareness against the disease. Ahead of World Cancer Day 2022, we got doctors on board to know more about the warning signs to watch out for or the range of symptoms which indicate the occurrence of breast cancer, how to prevent them and all about pregnancy and breastfeeding after chemotherapy.

What is breast cancer?

Breast cancers usually occur when some breast cells begin to grow abnormally. These cells divide faster than healthy cells and continue to accumulate, thereby forming a lump or mass. The cells can metastasize through the breast to one’s lymph nodes and then to other parts of the body.

Highlighting how breast cancer usually begins in the milk producing ducts of the breasts and is initially called invasive ductal carcinoma, another common region where breast cancer can begin – the glandular tissue called lobules which is diagnosed as invasive lobular carcinoma.

Studies claim that 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers are linked to gene mutations passed through one generation to another within a family with the most well known breast cancer genes being BRCA1 and BRCA2. However, a study by American Cancer Society shares that most breast lumps are benign and not cancer (malignant) and that these non-cancer breast tumours are abnormal growths but they do not spread outside of the breast nor are they life threatening yet can increase a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer.

Causes of breast cancer:

The factors that are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer include:

1. Age: The older you are the more prone you are to developing breast cancer.

2. Family and personal history: If someone in your family had breast cancer or if you have had a breast biopsy that detected lobular carcinoma or atypical hyperplasia, you have an increased risk of having breast cancer.

3. Radiation exposure: If you have received radiation treatment to your chest as a child then you are at a higher risk of breast cancer.

4. Hormone therapy: Women who take hormone therapy medications which combine estrogen and progesterone to treat the signs and symptoms of menopause have an increased risk of breast cancer.

5. Obesity: People who are overweight are at a greater risk of breast cancer.

6. Period: Girls who get period before the age of 12 are at greater risk of breast cancer.

7. Menopause: Women who get menopause at an older age are at a greater risk of breast cancer.

8. Childbirth: The women who give birth to their child after the age of 30 have an increased risk of cancer.

9. No pregnancy: Women who have never been pregnant are at a greater risk of developing cancer than the ones who have been pregnant.

10. Alcohol consumption: Drinking alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer.

Warning signs of breast cancer:

A range of symptoms which indicate the occurrence of breast cancer. These include:

1. Change in the size, shape and appearance of the breast.

2. Formation of dimple or changes in the skin around the breast.

3. A breast lump or thickening which feels different from the surrounding tissue

4. Redness or pitting like the skin of an orange over your breast

5. Crusting, peeling, scaling or flaking of the pigmented area surrounding the nipple (areola) or breast skin.

6. A newly inverted nipple.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding after breast cancer treatment:

Some cancer treatments make it difficult to conceive since chemotherapy, in addition to killing cancerous tissues, can also harm healthy cells, including oocytes. For the uninitiated, breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy are more likely to experience early ovarian failure or menopause, which can lead to infertility and young women diagnosed with breast cancer may be concerned about how it will affect their ability to conceive children in the future.

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