What Is Cancer?
Cancer affects one out of every three people in the United States. Cancer has most likely affected you or someone you know. Here is some information to help you understand cancer better.
You are made up of trillions of cells that grow and divide as needed throughout your life. Cells normally perish when they become aberrant or aged.
Cancer develops when something goes wrong in this process and your cells continue to produce new cells but the old or abnormal ones do not die as they should. Cancer cells can crowd out normal cells as they grow out of control. This makes it difficult for your body to function normally.
Cancer can be successfully treated in many cases. In fact, more people than ever before are living full lives following cancer treatment.
Cancer is a multifaceted disease
Cancer comes in numerous forms. Cancer can develop anywhere in the body and is named after the location where it first appears. Breast cancer, for example, is still considered breast cancer even if it spreads (metastasizes) to other parts of the body.
Cancer is classified into two types:
Hematologic (blood) cancers, which include leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma, are cancers of the blood cells.
Solid tumor malignancies are tumors of any other organ or tissue in the body. Breast, prostate, lung, and colorectal cancers are the most frequent solid tumors.
These cancers are similar in some ways, but they can differ in terms of how they grow, spread, and respond to treatment. Some tumors spread quickly. Others develop more slowly. Some are more likely to spread to other areas of the body than others. Others tend to remain where they began.
Cancer of larynx respond well to surgery, while others respond better to medications such as chemotherapy. To achieve the best results, two or more treatments are frequently used.
What is a tumur?
Tumors are lumps or growths. Some lumps are cancerous, but the majority are not.
- Benign lumps are those that are not cancerous.
- Malignant lumps are cancerous lumps.
Cancer differs from benign tumours in that it can spread to other parts of the body, whereas benign tumours do not. Malignancy cells can spread from the spot where the cancer began. These cells can spread throughout the body and end up in lymph nodes or other organs, creating issues with regular processes.
What causes cancer?
Cancer cells evolve as a result of several mutations in their DNA. There are numerous potential causes for these alterations. Lifestyle choices, genes inherited from parents, and exposure to cancer-causing agents in the environment can all play a role. Often, there is no clear cause.
What is the stage of cancer?
When a cancer is discovered, tests are performed to determine the size of the cancer and whether it has spread from its original location. This is referred to as the cancer 4 stages.
A lower stage (such as stage 1 or 2) indicates that the cancer has not progressed widely. A higher number (such as stage 3 or 4) indicates that it has spread further. The fourth stage is the most advanced.
The stage of cancer is critical in determining the appropriate treatment for a person. Inquire with your doctor about the stage of your cancer and what it means for you.
What causes cancer to spread?
Cancer can spread to different places of the body from where it began (the original site).
Cancer cells that break free from a tumor can travel to other parts of the body via the bloodstream or the lymph system. Cancer cells that spread through the bloodstream have the potential to reach distant organs. Cancer cells may end up in lymph nodes if they migrate through the lymph system.
In either case, the majority of the escaped cancer cells die or are killed before they can begin to grow elsewhere. However, one or two may settle in a new location, begin to grow, and form new tumors. Metastasis refers to the spread of cancer to a new part of the body.
A metastasis is made up of the same type of cells as the primary cancer. They are not a new cancer kind. Breast cancer cells that move to the lungs, for example, are still breast cancer and NOT lung cancer. And colon cancer cells that have spread to the liver are still considered colon cancer.
Cancer cells must go through various alterations in order to move to new regions of the body. They must first be able to separate from the primary tumor and connect to the exterior wall of a lymph vessel or blood vessel. They must then pass through the vessel wall with the blood or lymph to reach a new organ or lymph node.
What Factors Contribute to Breast Cancer?
We have no idea what causes each individual occurrence of breast cancer. However, we do know a lot about the risk factors for these cancers. For example, lifestyle-related risk factors such as what you eat and how much you exercise can raise your risk of developing breast cancer, but it’s unclear how some of these risk factors induce normal cells to become cancerous. Hormones appear to play a role in many occurrences of breast cancer, although the exact mechanism is unknown.
Normal breast cells can become cancerous due to changes or mutations in genes. However, only around 1 in 10 breast tumors (10%) are connected to known faulty genes passed down from parents (inherited).
Because many genes have yet to be discovered, women with a family history of breast cancer may have inherited a faulty gene that is not detected by a genetic test. The majority of breast cancers (about 90%) are caused by acquired (rather than inherited) gene changes that have yet to be identified.
How genetic alterations can cause breast cancer
Genes govern how our cells work. They are composed of a chemical known as DNA, which is inherited from both of our parents. DNA influences more than just our appearance; it can also influence our risk of getting certain diseases, including some types of cancer.
Proto-oncogenes are genes found in normal cells that help control when the cells grow, divide to generate new cells, or stay alive. When a proto-oncogene is mutated (changed), it becomes an oncogene. These mutant oncogenes can cause cancer in cells.
Tumor suppressor genes are found in normal cells and assist govern how frequently normal cells split in two, repair DNA mistakes, or force cells to die at the appropriate moment. If a cell’s tumor suppressor gene is mutated, the cell can develop cancer.
Gene alterations that turn on oncogenes or turn down tumor suppressor genes can cause cancer. Breast cancer is frequently caused by changes in many distinct genes.
Gene changes that are inherited
Some gene variations (mutations) are passed down from your parents. This indicates that the mutations are present in all of your cells at birth.
Certain inherited gene changes have been linked to many cancers that run in families. The BRCA genes (BRCA1 and BRCA2), for example, are tumor suppressor genes. When one of these genes changes, it no longer controls aberrant cell proliferation, increasing the likelihood of cancer. A mutation in one of these genes can be passed down from parent to child.
Advances in understanding the genetic underpinnings of breast cancer have already begun to assist women. Some women can be identified by genetic testing if they have inherited mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 tumor suppressor genes, as well as other less prevalent genes including PALB2, ATM, or CHEK2.
These women can then take steps to reduce their risk of breast cancer by increasing breast awareness and adhering to appropriate screening recommendations to detect cancer at an earlier, more treatable stage. Because these mutations are frequently related with malignancies other than breast cancer, women with these mutations should consider early screening and preventive measures for other cancers.
Mutations in tumor suppressor genes, such as the BRCA genes, are referred to be “high penetrance” because they frequently result in cancer. Although many women with high penetrance mutations develop cancer, this type of mutation is not responsible for the majority of cases of cancer (including breast cancer).
Low-penetrance mutations or gene variants are more frequently implicated in cancer formation. Each of them may have a minor impact on cancer in a single person, but the cumulative impact on the population can be significant because the mutations are prevalent and people frequently have more than one at the same time.
The genes involved can influence hormone levels, metabolism, and other risk factors for breast cancer. These genes may also be responsible for a significant portion of the familial risk of breast cancer.
Gene mutations acquired
The majority of breast cancer-related gene mutations are acquired. This suggests that the alteration occurs in breast cells over time rather than being inherited or born with them. Acquired DNA mutations occur over time and are only found in breast cancer cells.
Other factors, such as radiation or cancer-causing chemicals, may cause these acquired mutations of oncogenes and/or tumor suppressor genes. However, certain gene modifications may be random events that occur within a cell without an outside influence. So yet, the reasons of the majority of acquired mutations that may lead to breast cancer remain unknown. The majority of breast cancers have multiple acquired gene mutations.
Breast Cancer Symptoms and Signs
Knowing how your breasts appear and feel is a crucial aspect of maintaining your breast health. Although regular breast cancer screening tests are important, mammograms do not detect all breast cancers. This means that you should be aware of any changes in your breasts by knowing what they regularly appear and feel like.
A new lump or tumor is the most prevalent symptom of breast cancer (although most breast lumps are not cancer). Breast cancer is more likely to be a painless, hard mass with irregular edges, but it can also be soft, round, tender, or even painful.
Other possible breast cancer symptoms include:
- Breast swelling that affects all or a portion of the breast (even if no lump is felt)
- Dimpling of the skin
- Breast or nipple discomfort
- Retraction of the nipple (turning inward)
- Red, dry, flaking, or thickened nipple or breast skin
- The discharge of nipple (other than breast milk)
Lymph nodes swollen under the arm or towards the collarbone (Sometimes this can be a sign of breast cancer spread even before the original tumor in the breast is large enough to be felt.)
Many of these symptoms can be attributed to benign (non-cancerous) breast conditions. Still, any new breast mass, lump, or other change should be evaluated by an experienced health care provider so that the reason can be identified and treated, if necessary.
Remember that knowing what to look for does not replace regular breast cancer screening. Mammography screening can often detect breast cancer early, before symptoms appear. Early detection of breast cancer increases your chances of successful treatment.
Breast Cancer Treatment by Stage
The stage of your breast cancer is an important consideration when deciding on treatment options. In general, the more advanced the breast cancer, the more treatment you will most likely require. Other elements, however, can be significant, such as:
- If cancer cells contain hormone receptors
- If the cancer cells contain a high concentration of the HER2 protein (that is, if the cancer is HER2-positive)
- If the cancer cells contain a certain gene mutation (change)
- Your overall health as well as your personal preferences
- Whether or not you have gone through menopause
How quickly the cancer is progressing (as determined by grade or other criteria) and whether it is impacting important organs such as the lungs or liver
Discuss with your doctor how these factors may impact your treatment options.
Stage 0 tumors are non-invasive and restricted to the interior of the milk duct (does not invade nearby tissues).
DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ) is a stage 0 breast tumor.
Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) was previously classified as stage 0, but this has been revised due to the fact that it is not cancer. Nonetheless, it indicates an increased risk of breast cancer. For more information, see Lobular Carcinoma in Situ (LCIS).
Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS) Treatment Stages I-III Surgery and radiation therapy are typically used to treat stage I to III breast cancer, with chemo or other drug therapies used either before (neoadjuvant) or after (adjuvant) surgery.
Stage I: These breast cancers are still small and have either not spread to the lymph nodes or have only a small area of cancer spread in the sentinel lymph node.
Breast cancers in stage II are larger than those in stage I and/or have spread to a few nearby lymph nodes.
Stage III: These tumours have grown into nearby tissues (the skin over the breast or the muscle beneath), or they have spread to a large number of nearby lymph nodes.
Breast Cancer Treatment Stages I-III Stage IV
Stage IV cancers have spread to other parts of the body from the breast and nearby lymph nodes.
Breast Cancer Treatment in Stage IV (Metastatic)
Breast cancer recurrence
When cancer returns after primary treatment, it is referred to as recurrent cancer. Local recurrence (in the same breast or in the surgery scar), regional recurrence (in nearby lymph nodes), or distant recurrence Treatment for recurrent breast cancer is determined by where the cancer returns and previous treatments.