Breast cancer month is coming to an end but that doesn’t mean that you can now take a break from caring for your boobs. This is something you should something you pay attention to everyday. Keep doing those breast exams … make them part of your daily morning or nightly routine. It’s also a good way to familiarize yourself with your breasts; getting to know they’re regular shape and feel.
Here’s what to look for:
Just so you know (if you didn’t already), men do have breast tissue, and though it is rare, they aren’t exempt. So don’t disregard warnings about breast cancer and view it as a woman’s problem.
Terms to remember:
- Lobular means that the abnormal cells start growing in the lobules, the milk-producing glands at the end of breast ducts.
- Carcinoma refers to any cancer that begins in the skin or other tissues that cover internal organs — such as breast tissue.
- In situ or “in its original place” means that the abnormal growth remains inside the lobule and does not spread to surrounding tissues
There are different types of breast cancer, so I’ve listed them down. I’m not pretending to be an expert with this, so I encourage you to do your own research and perhaps quiz your doctor during your next checkup.
1. Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS): this is the most common type of non-invasive breast cancer. It starts inside the milk ducts, and can affect the skin or other tissues (including breast tissue) that cover or line the internal organs. It is referred to as “non-invasive” because it hasn’t spread beyond the milk duct. It can however lead to a more invasive type of breast cancer.
2. Invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC): this is the most common type of breast cancer. It’s starts as DCIS then cancer breaks through the wall of the milk duct and has begun to invade the tissues of the breast. It can spread to other parts of the body over time if unchecked. It is quite common in women 50+ but younger women and men (in general) can also have IDC.
There are 5 sub-types of IDC:
- Tubular carcinoma of the breast: small, tube shaped structures called “tubules.” Their cells look somewhat similar to normal, healthy cells and tend to grow slowly. It is one of the less aggressive types.
- Medullary carcinoma of the breast: it’s a rare type where the tumor is a soft, fleshy mass that resembles a part of the brain called the medulla.
- Mucinous carcinoma of the breast: the tumor is made up of abnormal cells that “float” in pools of mucin, a key ingredient in the slimy, slippery substance known as mucus. (mucin becomes part of the tumor and surrounds the breast cancer cells)
- Cribriform carcinoma of the breast: Like Tubular it is low grade (behaves like normal cells). Cancer cells invade the stroma (connective tissues of the breast) in nest-like formations between the ducts and lobules. Within the tumor, there are distinctive holes in between the cancer cells, making it look something like Swiss cheese.
- Papillary carcinomas of the breast: this type has a well-defined border and is made up of small, finger-like projections. It has 3 grades from low grade to abnormal, fast growing cancer cells. They are more common in older women who’ve gone through menopause.
3. Invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC): this is the second most common type of breast cancer. It’s a cancer that starts in the milk-producing lobules, which empty out into the ducts that carry milk to the nipple. It then breaks through the wall of the lobule and begins to invade the tissues of the breast.
4. Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC): this type is rare and aggressive. It usually starts with the reddening and swelling of the breast instead of a distinct lump, and grows and spreads rapidly. Being overweight increases a [wo]man’s chances of having IBC.
5. Lobular carcinoma in situ: this is an area of abnormal cell growth that increases a person’s risk of developing invasive breast cancer later on in life. There tends to be more than one lobule affected.
6. Paget’s disease of the nipple: this cancer cancer affects the area in or around the nipple. It usually affects the ducts of the nipple first, then spreads to the nipple surface and the areola. The nipple and areola often become scaly, red, itchy, and irritated. Some people with Pagent’s also have another cancer affecting there breast like DCIS. It is one of the rarer-er types.
7. Phyllodes tumors of the breast: the tumor cells grow in a leaf-like pattern. Most phyllodes tumors are benign (not cancerous), some are malignant (cancerous) and some are borderline, and require surgical removal to avoid recurrence. They are also fast growing.
As with all other cancers, breast cancer can come back or get worse. The proper terms for this are (just so you are aware):
- Recurrent breast cancer is cancer that has come back in the same or opposite breast or chest wall after a period of time when the cancer couldn’t be detected.
- Metastatic breast cancer is breast cancer that has spread to other parts of your body. Both are considered advanced-stage cancer.
Breast cancer is real people and can affect anyone, so arm yourself with knowledge, and take care of yourself.
If you are a cancer survivor or fighter, know you are not alone and don’t be afraid to reach out and share your story with those around you.