Causes and risk factors
Unfortunately, scientists do not yet have complete information about the causes of breast cancer. There is a list of risk factors that affect the likelihood of a tumor, but some are diagnosed with the disease in the absence of these factors, while others remain healthy if many of them are present at once. Nevertheless, scientists still associate the development of breast cancer with certain circumstances that most often precede its appearance. These include:
- Age. Most cases of breast cancer occur in women aged 55 and over.
- Heredity. If breast cancer is diagnosed in a close relative, the risk doubles.
- History of breast cancer.
- Increased breast tissue density based on mammography.
- Some benign neoplasms in the mammary gland.
- Early onset of menstruation – up to 12 years.
- Late menopause – after 55 years.
- Absence of children or late (after 35 years) first birth.
- Exposure to radiation, for example, during radiation therapy given to treat another type of cancer.
- Smoking and alcohol abuse. If a woman consumes 28–42 g of ethyl alcohol daily, her risks increase by 20%.
- Excess weight and low physical activity.
- Use of hormonal drugs: oral contraceptives, postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy.
- Breast injury.
- Working on a schedule with night shifts.
Breast cancer symptoms
In the early stages, breast cancer is usually not clinically apparent. Most often, the tumor is detected by the patients themselves or is detected by accident during preventive studies.
Patients usually complain of a palpable mass, discharge from the nipple. Pain is a rare symptom of breast cancer, but pain can come to the fore at the stage of generalization of the process, especially with the spread of bone metastases.
Quite often, such signs of breast cancer as the appearance of asymmetry due to a change in the size of the affected gland are detected. Reduction, upward displacement, deformation and wrinkling of the mammary gland can be observed with a scirrhotic (fibrous) form of the tumor. On the contrary, the breast enlarges on the side of the lesion with a rapid growth of education or due to edema, which is formed due to impaired outflow of lymph.
When the neoplasm spreads into the subcutaneous tissue, skin changes can be observed. In this case, the following symptoms of breast cancer are detected:
- “Platform” – there is a flattening of the skin over the tumor, it is impossible to form a skin fold in this place.
- “Umbilization” – the skin over the lesion site is wrinkled and retracted.
- “Lemon peel” is a characteristic appearance of the breast due to lymphostasis.
Sometimes, when the tumor spreads to the surface of the skin, signs of breast cancer such as redness and ulceration can be observed. The presence of these symptoms indicates the neglect of the process.
Changes in the nipple can also be detected, but only in the later stages. In this case, there are symptoms of breast cancer such as:
- Forgh’s symptom – on the affected side, the nipple is higher than on the healthy side.
- Krause’s symptom – the nipple is thickened, the folds of the areola are noticeably pronounced.
Such a sign of breast cancer, as pathological discharge, is quite rare, but in some cases it may be the only symptom that is detected during examination. Often the discharge is bloody, less often serous and purulent.
Depending on the manifestations of the disease, different clinical forms of breast cancer are distinguished. In 75–80% of cases, the nodular form occurs. In the early stages, the only symptom is usually a painless lump in the breast. If the breast is divided into four parts by horizontal and vertical lines, then in half of the cases, the tumor will be in the upper outer part.
Also, special forms of breast cancer were identified, which are manifested by typical symptoms. These include:
- An edematous-infiltrative form, which is characterized by an increase and swelling of the gland, a marbled skin color, pronounced hyperemia.
- Mastitis-like. This type of breast cancer is manifested by a thickening of the affected breast, an increase in body temperature.
- Erysipelas-like form, in which the skin reveals foci (sometimes ulceration), which outwardly resemble erysipelas.
- The carapace form is characterized by the presence of multiple nodes, due to which the gland shrinks and deforms.
- Paget’s cancer – affects the nipple and areola. With this variety, a thickening of the nipple is observed, a change in the skin in the form of redness and induration, the formation of crusts and scales.
Sometimes people, wondering how to recognize the presence of a breast tumor, mistakenly look for symptoms of breast cancer. This name is incorrect, since the sternum is the central flat bone of the chest and even with metastasis of a malignant formation of the breast is almost never affected.