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Breast Cancer: Symptoms, Types, Causes & Treatment

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Introduction

Breast cancer is a malignant tumor that develops from breast cells. It is one of the most common cancers affecting women globally, though it can also affect men. This guide will provide comprehensive information on the symptoms, types, causes, and treatment options for breast cancer, along with an overview of the cost and best treatment facilities in India.

Symptoms of Breast Cancer

Recognizing the symptoms of breast cancer early can significantly improve the chances of successful treatment. Common symptoms include:

  1. Lump in the Breast or Underarm: A new lump or mass is the most common symptom of breast cancer. These lumps are usually hard, painless, and have irregular edges, but some can be soft and tender.
  2. Change in Breast Shape or Size: Any noticeable changes in the size, shape, or appearance of the breast should be monitored.
  3. Skin Changes: This includes dimpling, puckering, or redness of the skin over the breast, which might resemble an orange peel.
  4. Nipple Changes: Look for changes such as inversion of the nipple, discharge (other than breast milk), or pain in the nipple area.
  5. Swelling: Part or all of the breast may become swollen even if no distinct lump is felt.
  6. Breast or Nipple Pain: Persistent pain in the breast or nipple area can be a warning sign of breast cancer.

Types of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer can be categorized into several types based on where they start and their behavior. The major types include:

  1. Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS): This is a non-invasive cancer where abnormal cells are found in the lining of the breast milk duct but have not spread outside the duct.
  2. Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC): The most common type, IDC begins in the milk ducts and invades nearby tissue.
  3. Invasive Lobular Carcinoma (ILC): This type starts in the milk-producing glands (lobules) and can spread to other parts of the body.
  4. Triple-Negative Breast Cancer: This is a type of cancer that lacks estrogen, progesterone receptors, and HER2 protein. It is more aggressive and difficult to treat.
  5. Inflammatory Breast Cancer: A rare but aggressive form where cancer cells block lymph vessels in the skin of the breast, causing redness and swelling.
  6. HER2-Positive Breast Cancer: This type has an excess of the HER2 protein, which promotes cancer cell growth. It tends to grow and spread faster than other types but may respond well to targeted therapy.

Causes of Breast Cancer

While the exact cause of breast cancer is not fully understood, several risk factors can increase the likelihood of developing the disease:

  1. Genetic Mutations: Inherited mutations in genes such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 can significantly increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancers.
  2. Family History: A family history of breast cancer increases the risk, especially if close relatives were diagnosed at a young age.
  3. Age: The risk of breast cancer increases with age, particularly after menopause.
  4. Reproductive History: Early menstruation before age 12 and late menopause after age 55 can increase the risk due to prolonged exposure to estrogen.
  5. Hormone Replacement Therapy: Postmenopausal hormone therapy, especially combined estrogen and progesterone, can increase the risk.
  6. Lifestyle Factors: Obesity, lack of physical activity, alcohol consumption, and a diet high in saturated fats can contribute to breast cancer risk.
  7. Radiation Exposure: Previous radiation therapy to the chest area can increase the risk of breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Treatment

The treatment for breast cancer depends on the stage and type of cancer, as well as the patient’s overall health and preferences. The main treatment options include:

  1. Surgery
    • Lumpectomy: Removal of the tumor and a small margin of surrounding tissue.
    • Mastectomy: Removal of one or both breasts, partially or completely. This may include:
      • Total Mastectomy: Removal of the entire breast.
      • Modified Radical Mastectomy: Removal of the entire breast and some of the lymph nodes under the arm.
      • Radical Mastectomy: Removal of the breast, chest wall muscles, and all of the lymph nodes under the arm.
  2. Radiation Therapy: High-energy waves are used to target and destroy cancer cells. It is often used after surgery to eliminate any remaining cancer cells.
  3. Chemotherapy: The use of drugs to destroy cancer cells, typically administered before surgery (neoadjuvant) to shrink tumors or after surgery (adjuvant) to kill any remaining cancer cells.
  4. Hormone Therapy: Used for cancers that are hormone receptor-positive. This treatment blocks the body’s natural hormones from reaching the cancer cells.
    • Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators (SERMs): Drugs like tamoxifen block estrogen receptors on breast cancer cells.
    • Aromatase Inhibitors: Drugs that lower the amount of estrogen produced by the body.
  5. Targeted Therapy: Uses drugs that specifically target certain characteristics of cancer cells, such as HER2 protein.
  6. Immunotherapy: Employs the body’s immune system to fight cancer. It is mainly used for cancers with specific characteristics, such as triple-negative breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Treatment Cost in India

Breast Cancer Treatment Cost in India varies widely based on the type of treatment, hospital, and city. Generally, the costs are as follows:

  1. Surgery: The cost of a lumpectomy can range from INR 1,00,000 to INR 2,00,000, while a mastectomy can cost between INR 2,50,000 to INR 5,00,000.
  2. Radiation Therapy: The cost ranges from INR 2,00,000 to INR 5,00,000 depending on the number of sessions required.
  3. Chemotherapy: The cost of chemotherapy varies widely depending on the drugs used and the number of cycles required. Typically, it ranges from INR 50,000 to INR 2,00,000 per cycle.
  4. Hormone Therapy: The cost can vary from INR 10,000 to INR 1,00,000 per month, depending on the medication.
  5. Targeted Therapy: These treatments can be quite expensive, ranging from INR 1,00,000 to INR 2,00,000 per dose.
  6. Immunotherapy: Costs can be significant, often ranging from INR 1,00,000 to INR 3,00,000 per dose.

Also Read: Lung Cancer Treatment Cost in India

Best Breast Cancer Treatment Hospitals in India

India is home to several world-class hospitals that specialise in breast cancer treatment. Some of the best hospitals include:

  1. Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai: Renowned for its comprehensive cancer care, research, and advanced treatment facilities.
  2. All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi: Offers state-of-the-art treatment and highly skilled oncologists.
  3. Apollo Hospitals, Chennai: Known for its advanced technology and multidisciplinary approach to cancer treatment.
  4. Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurgaon: Offers cutting-edge treatment options and a team of experienced oncologists.
  5. Max Super Speciality Hospital, Delhi: Provides comprehensive cancer care with a focus on personalised treatment plans.
  6. Medanta – The Medicity, Gurgaon: Equipped with the latest technology and a team of skilled oncologists specialising in breast cancer.
  7. Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute and Research Centre, Delhi: Known for its advanced treatment options and research in cancer care.
  8. Christian Medical College (CMC), Vellore: Offers high-quality cancer treatment and care with a focus on affordability.
  9. Manipal Hospitals, Bangalore: Provides multidisciplinary cancer care with a team of experienced specialists.
  10. BLK Super Speciality Hospital, Delhi: Known for its comprehensive cancer care and advanced treatment facilities.

Conclusion

Breast cancer is a significant health concern that requires early detection and comprehensive treatment. Understanding the symptoms, types, causes, and treatment options is crucial for effective management of the disease. India offers a range of treatment options and world-class facilities that provide quality care at a relatively affordable cost. Early diagnosis and prompt treatment are key to improving survival rates and quality of life for breast cancer patients.

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