Malignant breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, although rarely, it affects men too. Although numbers of patients have increased, the treatment success and chances for survival are significantly higher than before thanks to a wider awareness that a timely detection of symptoms is important, and due to self-examinations and preventative screenings with mammograms. However, according to statistics, there are over 1.7 million cases detected each year, and mortality rates in the less developed countries are high.
Risk factors are genetic, hormonal, environmental and dietary. Age is pivotal; 85% of patients are aged over 45; however, this age limit is continuously decreasing, so breast cancer can be currently diagnosed in much younger women. A higher risk, even twice as much, is in women with a family history of breast cancer. Its onset is associated with hormonal factors; a higher risk is in women who started menstruating before their 12 years of age, who had their first child after 30, or who started menopause after 50 years of age. Effects of female sex hormones – oestrogens also play some part. A higher risk is an issue in hormone replacement therapy, e.g. given during menopause to alleviate adverse symptoms, or after operation of the uterus or ovaries. Effects of a long-term use of contraceptives on breast cancer remain under investigations; however, some studies suggest the risk increases. Even diet is not a minor risk factor, and the risk rises with obesity, a weak immune system, a higher consumption of fatty foods, smoking or alcohol consumption.
Signs and symptoms
The most common sign that makes us to seek medical help is a lump, swelling or hardening of a breast. The lump is the first sign in most patients. Sometimes, there may be discharge from a nipple, its inversion, or the skin may become red, swollen and resembling the skin of an orange. The lump may form at different sites such as armpits, or below the collarbone where lymph nodes are located. Breast tissue has a rich lymph vessel network enabling cancer cells to spread and produce distension in other body parts.
Preventing breast cancer
The evidence shows that a regular exercise 5 hours per week decreases the risk of breast cancer up to 38%. Also a strong immune system prevents spreading of cancer cells. Apart from eliminating the risk factors, it is important to remember the regular breast self-exam performed after menstruation, which may reveal changes to the breast tissue in time. After the age of 45, preventative screenings with mammograms are available on a two-year basis. But in line with the ever-increasing number of breast cancer cases a lower age limit is being reconsidered.
Impact of the immune system on breast cancer
If many risk factors accumulate while the immune system is weak, the body has no chance to defend. Women with a family history of breast cancer should definitely strengthen their immune system regularly. But the risk of breast cancer exists even without any genetic predispositions, so immunity is a key element of prevention. Immunity encounters unwanted cells almost all the time, but even minor weakness may cause cancer cells to escape the body’s attention and the tumour develops.
Studies - oncological diseases
Types of cancer
Liver cancer, Brain cancer, Hodgkin´s lymphoma, Cervical cancer, Kidney cancer, Leukemia, Lung cancer, Skin cancer, Uterine cancer, Prostate cancer, Breast cancer, Pancreatic cancer, Colon cancer, Bladder cancer, Ovarian cancer, Testicular cancer, Stomach cancer