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Warning Signs of Breast Cancer – Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2022

Dr. Sadaf Ishaque

3 min read

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Breast tissue is made of glands that make the milk, and these glands are drained by ducts that converge on the nipple to excrete the milk. Breast cancer can involve any part of the breast tissue—the ducts, the glands or the surrounding stromal tissue. Like any type of cancer, breast cancer is made up of cells that show unregulated growth and mass of cells. When these cells travel to other parts of the body, type of cancer is called metastatic cancer. There are many types and signs of breast cancer.

What are the types of breast cancer?

The type of the breast cancer is dependent on the area of the breast tissue involved—either the ducts, the glands or the stromal tissue.
Carcinomas are the tumors that start in the epithelial lining—which are cells that line the tissues and organs in the body. Carcinomas of the breast are called adenocarcinomas, and they usually involve the milk ducts or the glands or lobules which produce the milk.

Another way to define breast cancer is through its level of invasions. For instance, if the cancer stays in its place, its known as in situ tumor, and if it spreads to other parts of the body, then that type of cancer is known as invasive.

Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is a type of tumor that involves the milk ducts. DCIS means that the cells lining the milk ducts have changed to cancer cells, but they are still localized to the same region and have not spread through the walls of the ducts to nearby breast tissue. Initially, this is a stage 0 cancer, however, it can become invasive any time, and can spread out from the ducts to the breast tissue nearby or other parts of the body. In this situation, DCIS is known as invasive ductal carcinoma.

Invasive Lobular carcinoma is the cancer of the cells lining the milk producing glands or the lobules. If it spreads to the other parts of the tissue it become invasive lobular carcinoma. In comparison to invasive ductal carcinoma, ILS is harder to detect on both physical examination and imaging techniques like mammograms. This type of cancer also has increased chances of involving both breasts, rather than being unilateral.

Inflammatory breast cancer is a less common form of invasive breast cancer, which often presents differently as well. Only 1 to 5% of all breast cancers are inflammatory breast cancers, and have a different symptomatology, treatment and outlook. As its name suggests, this type of cancer has more symptoms of swelling and redness, and can be mistaken for infection, however, no injury or infection can have a similar presentation.

Inflammatory breast cancer presents its symptoms through the blockage of lymph vessels, which explains its appearance of ‘redness’. Inflammatory breast cancer is vastly different from other types of cancer, and is rapid to develop.

Why are the rates of breast cancer high in Pakistan?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), breast cancer is the second most common cancer among the women in the US alone.
In Pakistan, the load of breast cancer is consistently rising annually. Current statistics put us ahead of all the countries in the South Asian region, with 83,000 new cases annually, and 40,000 deaths yearly.

Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital states that one of the main reasons why Pakistan has a high rate of breast cancer is that the society is very traditional. Every year, so many women lose their lives to cancer just because of a lack of system of mass diagnosis. Early diagnosis and treatment can help many women save themselves from cancer. Additionally, many women are shy and do not share their ‘womanly’ problems with their family or healthcare providers.

What are the warning signs of breast cancer?

All women should start performing self-examination of breasts as soon as they hit puberty, and get annual mammograms after the age of 40. Self-examinations are one way to find any abnormality in the breasts.

Symptoms that are concerning include:

  • A lump in the breast tissue or the armpit. For people who perform self-examination regularly, a lump can be easy to pick, however, it can be missed by other women if its small in size. Apart from a lump in the breast tissue, lumps in the armpit, or around the collar bone are equally important signs of breast cancer as they could hint at involvement of the lymphatics.
  • Inverted nipple, with dimpling or puckering within the breast or the appearance of an eczematous patch around the nipple is suspicious. Any changes in the shape, and color of nipple with its inversion, or discharge from it warrants a check-up from an expert. Clear or bloody discharge from the nipple is also a warning sign.
  • Skin thickening, and appearance like that of an orange peel (peau de orange) is an alarming sign that often appears with underlying cancerous changes. Often, the skin takes this appearance because the lymphatics are involved.

If you have discovered a lump in your breast, or you would like to know more about your risk of getting breast cancer, then you can consult a top breast surgeon to aid you. Book an appointment with top breast surgeon in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad through oladoc.com, or call our helpline at 042-3890-0939 for assistance to find the RIGHT professional for your concerns.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Dr. Sadaf Ishaque
Dr. Sadaf Ishaque - Author Dr. Sadaf Ishaque is a Breast Surgeon in Lahore with over 12 years of experience in her field. You can book an appointment with her through oladoc.com

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