Learn How to Detect Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in the female population. However, its prognosis is usually good.
Learn How to Detect Breast Cancer

Last update: 05 November, 2021

Is it possible to detect breast cancer in its early stages? If so, is there anything other than mammography? These and other questions will be answered below. Keep reading!

Currently, it’s estimated that women who live to over 85 years of age will have a 1 in 9 chance of developing breast cancer. In fact, this type of cancer is the most common in women.

First symptoms of breast cancer

The body’s cells divide in a regular and controlled manner in order to replace old cells with younger and more functional ones.

However, these processes of cell division, which, in principle, should be regulated, can be altered and produce an uncontrolled division of cells, thus creating a tumor.

When this mass of dividing cells acquires the capacity to invade other tissues and continue to proliferate in them, in a process known as metastasis, we’re talking about a malignant tumor or cancer.

Specifically, breast cancer is the appearance of a malignant tumor in the cells of the mammary gland. These cells, which originate in the glandular tissue of the breasts, are capable of invading the surrounding healthy tissues and proliferating in them (metastasis).

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women and the second most common cause of death in this population group worldwide.

However, breast cancer is one of the cancers with the best prognosis. Early diagnosis plays a key role in the success of treatment.

The causes of breast cancer range from genetic factors to environmental causes. In a low percentage of cases, its appearance is due to a hereditary mutation in a gene that causes a high predisposition to suffer from this cancer.

However, in 90% of cases of breast cancer, its appearance is sporadic and isn’t related to hereditary mutations of certain genes.

Next, we’ll talk about the first symptoms that can occur in breast cancer, as well as the aspects that should be taken into account to detect this pathology in time.

Risk factors

Before discussing the symptoms of breast cancer, it is useful to know which are the risk factors related to this disease:

  • Certain reproductive aspects such as the use of high doses of hormonal contraceptives, hormone replacement therapies, or late menopause may be related to the onset of the disease.
  • Other factors that may influence its appearance are nutritional aspects, physical activity, duration of breastfeeding, smoking, or alcoholism.
  • Risk factors that one cannot influence may be a family history of breast cancer or inherited genetic mutations, such as changes in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.
  • Breast cancer risk increases with age. Most breast cancers are diagnosed after age 50.

Possible symptoms

One of the complications when it comes to early detection of the disease is that sometimes there are no symptoms during the early stages. In fact, it’s common for women with the disease to experience no pain during the early stages.

A woman with breast cancer.

Even so, certain aspects have been identified that could reveal the presence of breast cancer. Some of them are:

  • Nipple engorgement
  • Nipple discharge
  • Breast or nipple pain
  • A change in the shape of the breast or nipple
  • Irritation, redness, or scaling of the breasts
  • The appearance of lumps around the breasts, towards the area of the armpit.

It’s very important to pay attention to any kind of lump or abnormality originating in this area, although its appearance isn’t always due to the presence of cancer.

Generally, hard, irregular, and painless lumps are more likely to be related to cancer. However, in these situations, it’s best to consult a specialist.

Early diagnostic tests to detect breast cancer

Due to its high efficacy, the most widely used technique is the mammogram, as it’s able to detect breast cancer years before the development of possible lumps or symptoms.

Radiography for breast cancer.

It’s very important to have all the screening mammograms recommended by your doctor. It’s usually recommended to have a mammogram every year from the age of 40 or 50. However, this age can be reduced in the case of people with a family history.

Another possibility is breast self-examination, which consists of a regular self-examination of the breasts, in order to detect the presence of lumps or changes in the breasts.

However, the usefulness of this technique is somewhat controversial, as not all cases of breast cancer can be detected in this way and it should never replace a mammogram.

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