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Breast Cancer

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Facts Related to Breast Cancer

  • According to World Health Organisation, about 2.3 million women were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2020 and the mortality rate was 685,000.
  • The mortality of the disease has dropped since the 1980s when most nations initiated an early cancer detection programme.
  • In the UAE, breast cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in both females (38.8%) and males (21.4%) as reported in 2020.

October is marked as breast cancer awareness month across the globe. Read the following write-up to know more about the disease.

What is Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer is a disease where the cells in the breast grow beyond control. The disease begins in different regions of the breast including lobules, ducts, and connective tissues. It often develops in either lobules or the ducts in the breast. The uncontrollable cancer cells then invade healthier breast tissue and travel to the lymph nodes under the arms. Once cancer reaches the lymph nodes, it has access to move to other organs as well.

Different Types of Breast Cancer

The types of breast cancer can be bifurcated into invasive and non-invasive cancers. Invasive cancer grows from breast ducts to other regions of the breast. Non-invasive cancer does not grow from the main tissue and is also called breast cancer in situ. There are several types of breast cancer. The major ones are explained below in detail -

  • Ductal Carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is a non-invasive kind of cancer. The cancer cells are confined to the ducts and do not invade other areas of the breast tissue.
  • Lobular Carcinoma in situ (LCIS) develops in the mammary glands. Just like DCIS, the cancer cells are confined in the gland and do not invade other areas of the breast.
  • Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC) is the most common kind of breast cancer. It begins from the mammary ducts and invades the surrounding tissues in the breast. Once cancer grows to the tissues around the milk ducts, it can start to grow to other organs.
  • Invasive Lobular Carcinoma (ILC) first grows in the lobules and then grows to the surrounding tissues.

Some other, less common breast cancer types are -

  • Paget Disease of the Nipple - This type of breast cancer grows in the nipple ducts. As it grows, it affects the skin and areola.
  • Angiosarcoma - This cancer develops in the breast’s lymph vessels or veins.
  • Phyllodes Tumour - It is one of the rarest breast cancer types. The cancer cells develop in the connective tissue. Such tumours are usually benign.

Symptoms of Breast Cancer

The following are the symptoms of breast cancer that can help in diagnosing the disease and early treatment -

  • Lump in the breast or armpit
  • Swelling in a part of the breast
  • Irritation on the breast’s skin
  • Flaky or red skin in the areola or the breast
  • Pain in areola
  • Pain in the breast area
  • Change in the shape and size of the breast
  • Nipple discharge that is other than milk, usually, blood

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Factors that Increase the Risk of Breast Cancer

The following are the factors that increase breast cancer risk -

  • Age - The risk of getting diagnosed with breast cancer rises as an individual grows older. Majority of the breast cancer cases surface around the age of 50.
  • Genetic Mutations - Women who have inherited mutated genes like BRCA1 and BRCA2 are at higher risk to get diagnosed with breast and ovarian cancer.
  • Reproductive History - The likelihood of getting diagnosed with breast cancer is high in women who begin their menstrual cycle before the age of 12 or start going through menopause after the age of 55. This is because they are exposed to reproductive hormones for a longer duration.
  • Dense Breasts - Dense breasts usually have more connective tissue than fatty tissue, making it difficult to see the tumour on a mammogram. Women with dense breasts are at higher risk of developing breast cancer. 
  • History of Breast Cancer or a Non-Cancerous Breast Disease - Women who have history of breast cancer are more likely to get the disease a second time as well. Non-cancerous breast diseases also increase the risk of breast cancer.
  • Family History of Breast Cancer or Ovarian Cancer - The risk of breast cancer increases among women if their mother, sister or daughter, or several family members on the maternal and paternal sides have had the disease. If the father or brother has suffered from breast cancer, it can also increase the risk of breast cancer among the present and next generations.
  • Reproductive History - Women who have their first pregnancy after the age of 30 or who never had a full-term pregnancy are at higher risk of breast cancer.

Listed below are some other risk factors of breast cancer that can be changed by adopting a healthy lifestyle -

  • Physical Inactivity - Women who are not active physically are at a higher risk of breast cancer. 
  • Overweight or Obesity Post Menopause - Older women who are obese or overweight are at risk of getting breast cancer in comparison to women who maintain a healthy weight post-menopause.
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy – Women t hormone replacement therapy for more than 5 years during menopause are likely to get diagnosed with breast cancer. 

How is Breast Cancer Diagnosed?

In case an individual observes any of the aforementioned symptoms, they should connect with a doctor immediately. The doctor will ask you to undergo one of the following diagnostic tests or more -

  • Breast Ultrasound - Under this diagnostic procedure, a machine that employs sound waves to make pictures is used to see the areas inside the breast.
  • Breast Magnetic Resonance Imaging (BMRI) - The individual goes for an MRI to get detailed pictures of areas in the breast.
  • Diagnostic Mammogram - In case the individual’s breast appears abnormal during the screening mammogram, the doctor can suggest they go for a diagnostic mammogram. It provides a detailed X-ray of the breast.
  • Biopsy - Under this test, tissue or fluid is taken from the breasts for a microscopic examination and further testing. There are different types of biopsies including fine needle aspiration, open biopsy, and core biopsy.

What is Mammogram?

A mammogram is a diagnostic procedure where the doctor takes X-ray pictures of the breasts to find out early signs of breast cancer. The patient needs to stand before the X-ray machine to get a mammogram done. Most women over the age of 40 need to get annual mammograms to keep a check on breast cancer development. If the doctor doubts that the patient might have a tumour or a suspicious spot, they may ask the patient to go for a diagnostic mammogram. The doctor can prescribe additional tests if required.

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Treatment Options for Breast Cancer 

Breast cancer can be treated using different alternatives. The doctor recommends a treatment method depending on the type of breast cancer the patient has. People suffering from breast cancer might undergo any of the following treatments -

  • Surgery - The doctor cuts out the cancer tissue during an operation.
  • Chemotherapy - Here, the patient is given special medicines to shrink or kill the cancer cells. The prescribed medication could be pills or intravenous medicines, or both.
  • Hormonal Therapy - Here, the cancer cells are blocked from receiving the hormones that facilitate their growth.
  • Biological Therapy - This therapy helps the patient’s immune system to fight the cancer cells. It also helps in controlling the negative effects of other cancer treatments. 
  • Radiation Therapy - In this therapy, high-energy rays are used to kill cancer cells.

Alternative and Complementary Medicine

Complementary and Alternative medicines are medicines and health practices that are different from conventional treatments. The doctor can prescribe complementary medicine along with traditional treatment. Alternative medicine, is a treatment one opts for instead of the conventional treatment. Alternative medicine for breast cancer includes meditation, supplements (like vitamins and herbs), and yoga. 

Most of these treatment options are not scientifically tested and are not known to be safe. Therefore, it is recommended one must visit the doctor before beginning to take any sort of complementary or alternative medication. 

Clinical Trial

Clinical trials employ newer treatment options to check if they would be safe and effective on the masses. Consult the specialist and know about the possible side effects before opting for getting treated via a clinical treatment.

Ways to Reduce the Risk of Breast Cancer

There are several factors that could lead to breast cancer. While some of these risk factors cannot be changed, a few can be managed and controlled. These are -

  • Maintaining a healthy body weight
  • Being physically active
  • Avoiding overconsumption of alcohol
  • If told to undergo hormone replacement therapy, one must first connect with a specialist about its side effects.
  • New mothers should breastfeed their children 
  • If one has a family history of breast cancer or has inherited the mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, one must consult the doctor to know the ways to reduce the risk of breast cancer.

The best way to reduce the risk is to maintain a healthy lifestyle from the beginning.

Health Insurance - Get Treated without Worrying about Expenses 

Health insurance is mandatory in the UAE  for all ex-pats residents. A basic health insurance uae plan must be owned by al expatriates however, the concerned individual can choose to have additional coverage as well. Most health insurance providers in the UAE cover breast cancer under their critical illness health insurance plans. These plans allow the patient to get treated in the network hospitals without worrying about the finances. Some comprehensive plans may have critical illness cover as an add-on benefit. Some providers may offer it as a standalone product. Policyholders can choose either as per their unique requirements. 

One can buy health insurance plans in the UAE from Policybazaar. Partnered with the best health insurance providers in the UAE, we offer a plethora of insurance plans from the leading providers. The following are the benefits of purchasing a health insurance plan from Policybazaar.ae -

  • Insurance plans at exclusive discounted premium rates.
  • 24-by-7 customer support
  • Free consultation from in-house insurance experts to right health insurance plan.
  • Compare insurance plans from the leading insurance providers in the UAE.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Breast cancer is a type of disease where the cells in the breast grow beyond control. The disease may begin in different areas of the breast mainly lobules, ducts, and connective tissues. It often develops in either lobules or the ducts in the breast. 
  • Lobular and ductal breast cancers can be divided into invasive and non-invasive cancers. Non-invasive cancer does not grow from the main tissue and is also called breast cancer in situ. Invasive cancer grows from breast ducts to other areas of the breast. 
  • The common symptoms of breast cancer are a lump in the breast or armpit, swelling in a part of the breast, irritation on the breast’s skin, flaky or red skin on the areola or the breast, and more.
  • To diagnose the disease, the doctor generally recommend biopsy, mammogram, ultrasound, or MRI. 
  • Some of the most common ways to treat the disease are surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormonal therapy, or biological therapy.
  • Breast cancer can be prevented by staying aware and taking a few simple preventive measures. 

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