The most common cancer in women is breast cancer. It has a relatively slow development and is not associated with infectious agents. Unlike other types of cancer, a hereditary factor plays a major role in breast cancer. That is if in one generation of women there is this pathology – in the next, it can develop with a high probability.
What is the disease
In our body, hundreds of cells appear and die every second. New cells are formed in the process of division and, in most cases, have the right structure and necessary function. They live out their term and die after their allotted time. But some of the cells are wrong from the moment they appear, they are different from healthy cells. They don’t die like the rest of the healthy cells. The immune system can destroy them on its own, but sometimes, under the influence of several factors, this does not happen. Then the modified cells begin to multiply, forming a tumor and forming their blood vessels. Over time, they sprout deep enough and enter the healthy blood vessels, allowing them to freely persist in the body. They are capable of disabling an entire organ, and even entire systems.
Breast cancer has a slow progression. A tumor of up to 1 centimeter can grow for 5 years. But after it has grown to this size, most often a clinical picture begins to develop, and the tumor begins to grow faster. If not diagnosed in time, and if no therapy is given, breast cancer can kill a patient within 4 years.
Unfortunately, too many factors influence the development of cancer. Even an irregular menstrual cycle and changes in the hormonal background during the premenopausal period can lead to the formation of tumor cells.
Breast cancer can also affect men, but they only account for 0.5-1% of all cases.
The main problem with all female breast cancer patients is the long ranting “Why me? I don’t smoke, I take care of my health and I eat right. Why am I being punished like this?” And many look for it in themselves, their past, which is destructive and prevents them from moving on.
It’s important to understand that it can happen to anyone, regardless of lifestyle, and the most important thing now is to put up a fight.
Medically, there are several factors that can lead to the development of breast cancer:
- Age 50+;
- Lack of childbirth;
- Late childbirth after 30;
- failure to breastfeed;
- early onset of puberty (before the age of 12);
- Abuse of bad habits (smoking, alcohol);
- abnormalities of the thyroid gland;
- diabetes mellitus;
- Abuse of fatty foods and fast food.
In addition, a hereditary factor plays a role, if a mother, grandmother, or sister had breast cancer, there is a chance that any woman in the family may develop cancer. The reason for this may be a mutation in one of the genes in the cells, transmitted from generation to generation. To determine it, one of the CHEK, NBS1, BRCA1,2, or P53 tests can be done. If a positive result is obtained, the probability of developing breast and ovarian cancerous tumors is about 80%. In such a case, the only option to exclude the development of cancer is the complete removal of the ovaries or mammary glands, even if cancer has already developed in one of the organs of the body.
Types and stages of cancer
Mammary glands are made up of lobules, which produce milk, and ducts that carry it to the nipples. Most often, cancer of the ducts develops, and only 15-20% is in the lobules. When a tumor develops inside these structures, it doesn’t cause any discomfort and is called preinvasive cancer, stage 0 cancer, or cancer in situ.
But because of its ability to grow to any size, sooner or later it gets to other tissues of the breast. Such cancer is called invasive breast cancer. Then it spreads to regional lymph nodes-regional metastasis and different organs and systems-remote metastasis.
Invasive cancer is also divided into:
- invasive ductal cancer;
- invasive lobular;
Each type has its peculiarities of course and a suitable therapy option.
It is also divided into:
Primary cancer – a tumor that first developed in a lobule or duct of the gland;
Secondary cancer – a tumor (metastasis) that has developed in another organ due to the cells of the primary tumor spreading through the body.
What is TNM
There are also different stages of breast cancer from 0 to 4, and three criteria for evaluating the course – TNM.
The evaluation criteria allow us to assess the degree of tumor involvement in the body:
T – tumor – the size of the primary tumor in the organ itself is assessed;
N – modulus – the degree of regional lymph node involvement is assessed;
M – metastases – the presence/absence of metastases in different organs and systems are assessed.
When the development occurs in the lobules or ducts – treatment allows cancer to be completely cured in a relatively short period. Therefore, regular screening is required for women who are at risk. Breast cancer can spread through the blood vessels and lymph nodes, and also affect absolutely any organ of the body. In the presence of a tumor, the final diagnosis is made once, and then only the result of the treatment is evaluated.
Types of therapy for this type of cancer
Each type of breast cancer requires a specific treatment tactic. Treatment is totally individual and, unfortunately, no doctor can give a 100% prognosis.
The earlier the cancer is detected and therapy started, the greater the chance of a complete cure.
The main types of treatment include:
Targeted biological therapy.
Breast cancer most often requires combined therapy and includes several types of treatment at once. In this way, it is possible to influence tumors systemically – to cure and prevent their growth and spreading.
Previously, this type of cancer was treated only by surgery through mastectomy – the complete removal of the breast and lymphadenectomy – removal of regional lymph nodes (with the spread of cancer). Today, the initial stages of breast cancer are treated conservatively with radiation therapy. And if metastases in lymph nodes are suspected, they are first diagnosed by biopsy.
If surgery is necessary, medication is given first, which has excellent results. With hormone-dependent cancer, long-term administration of hormones is prescribed. Therapy may last for 5-10 years.
Chemotherapy is given for cancer when the cancer cells do not produce PR and ER. In this case, they are immune to hormone therapy.
Targeted biological therapy is aimed at treating HER2-positive cancer. The method consists of administering specific biological agents, namely antibodies. It is often done in conjunction with chemotherapy. This allows for better results for the lesion of cancer cells.
Radiation therapy is a good alternative to surgical treatment.
Treatment for metastatic cancer is primarily aimed at removing all secondary tumors.
Each method is effective in a particular case, but a full course is always required.
How it goes and what to expect from chemotherapy
Chemotherapy is performed when a systemic lesion develops before or after surgery.
Today, it is most often performed on an outpatient basis. Only when there are complications may the patient be admitted to the hospital. Chemotherapy is prescribed as a whole course of 4 to 8 procedures. Several medications from different groups are chosen at once for therapy.
The method gives an excellent result and prevents the spread of cancer.
As a result of chemotherapy, side effects such as hair loss, nausea, vomiting, anemia, etc. are possible. This is due to the toxicity of the drugs. Some of these can be prevented with timely prevention.
Psychological problems with the disease
A woman diagnosed with breast cancer more often than not cannot believe what has happened. Finding fault with the diagnosis, an unstable psycho-emotional background, and trying to reassure oneself that it was a mistake only push back the possibility of starting a fight.
Some patients believe that the best way to get rid of cancer is to walk away from the problem and forget about the diagnosis. This also wastes precious time.
Yes, cancer is always unexpected! The diagnosis doesn’t make anyone want to believe it! Cancer always ruins immediate life plans! But the bottom line is that you still have life, which means you have the opportunity to fight!
How to start living again
Psychological problems always walk alongside cancer and are perfectly normal, but they also need to be linked to the start of treatment. It’s best to give yourself some time for emotional distress, after which to perk up and find the beautiful things, even in a terrible diagnosis.
If you find it difficult to cope alone – ask your loved ones or a psychologist. When your inner feelings are joined by more serious disorders like panic attacks, sleep problems, gastrointestinal disorders, and inability to normally sleep at night – it is better to go to a session with a psychotherapist who will prescribe medication therapy.