Do you know every 4 minutes, a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, worldwide? According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, and overall, the second most common cancer. As per the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) data, every year about 1,00,000 new breast cancer cases is diagnosed in India.
Breast cancer is a type of cancer that develops when breast cells begin to grow and divide abnormally, thereby forming a mass of cells known as a tumour. This tumour is usually seen in a mammogram or felt as a lump. Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in women. It can also occur in men, although rare.
Knowing the anatomy of the breast and learning about its different parts and functions will help in a better understanding of the disease.
The breast also known as mammary glands is a highly evolved specialized part of the human body. It plays an important role in the sexual anatomy of males and females.
Throughout life, the breast undergoes a lot of changes starting from the time of puberty to reaching menopause. Before puberty, men and women have ducts and lobes within the connective tissue stroma. But, as the girl enters the stage of puberty, true breast development begins. Ovaries start producing and releasing oestrogen, which stimulates the growth of the different parts of the breast, causing breast enlargement. When a boy enters puberty, they start producing the male hormone testosterone, which stops the development of the breast.
Nipples and areola are the visible parts of both women’s and men’s breasts. Internally, men have undeveloped milk ducts. Because of this reason, the chance of men developing breast cancer is lower than women. However, in certain conditions, when the oestrogen dominates testosterone production in a man, his breasts will begin to develop.
In normal conditions, cells are programmed to grow, divide, and die at a specific time in the correct order. However, in some cases, when cells are damaged either due to mutations or inheritance of mutated genes, they develop abnormalities in the genes that instruct the cells how to behave. Over time, the accumulation of these abnormalities causes abnormal cell growth and division.
Breast cancer can develop in any part of the breast. If cancer begins in the ducts then it is referred to as ductal carcinoma, or if it develops within the lobules then it is referred to as lobular carcinoma.
The primary tumour breaks and travel through the bloodstream or lymphatic system and spread to nearby organs or distant parts of the body, such as the liver, lungs, bone, or brain. Breast cancer when spreads to other parts of the body is known as metastatic or stage-4 breast cancer. Although metastatic breast cancer can be treated, it cannot be cured.