Posts Tagged ‘nipple’

Breast Cancer: Symptoms, Causes, Genetics and Genetic Testing

May 11, 2010

Breast cancer is defined as cancer that originates in the breast cells. Women are 100 times more likely to develop it than men. It is the second most common form of cancer after lung cancer. Every year about 200,000 American women are diagnosed with breast cancer. It killed half a million people in 2005.

Breast cancer can spread through the lymphatic system or blood vessels to other parts of the body. This spread is referred to as metastasizing. It can metastasize to the lungs, brain, liver or bones.

There are non-specific and specific symptoms. Non-specific means that they could be symptoms for some other condition. Some non-specific symptoms include:

  • bone and joint pain
  • chills
  • discharge from one nipple
  • fever
  • jaundice.

Some specific symptoms include change in the size or shape of the breast or nipple and a lump in the breast or the lymph nodes in the armpit and/or collarbone

Inflammatory breast cancer occurs when breast cancer cells enter the small lymph vessels next to the skin. Symptoms include:

  • orange peel texture of the skin
  • pain
  • redness
  • swelling
  • warmth.

Paget’s disease of the breast also manifests itself in the skin and resembles eczema. Symptoms may include:

  • discharge
  • itching
  • lump
  • mild flaking of the skin around the nipple
  • redness
  • sensitivity
  • tingling.

Causes of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer stems from a combination of hereditary and environmental influences. People who have a family history with multiple cases of breast or ovarian cancer are at higher risk of getting breast cancer. Breast cancer is more common if one has an Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish background. It usually occurs sporadically and is not inherited. Some risk factors include:

  • age
  • alcohol intake
  • childbearing
  • environmental factors like radiation and tobacco use
  • high fat intake
  • hormones
  • obesity
  • sex.

Genetics of Breast Cancer

About 5-10% of those diagnosed have a hereditary form of breast cancer. If a person inherits a mutation in the breast cancer 1 (BRCA1) or breast cancer 2 (BRCA2) genes, she is at higher risk of developing breast cancer. It is rare to inherit a mutation. Only one in 1000 has a mutation in one of these genes.

People who have the mutation may get cancer or may lead a long healthy life. Having a mutation does not guarantee the individual will develop cancer. About 13% of the population develops breast cancer. Those with a mutation in either of these genes are three to seven times more likely to get it.

How Genetic Testing Is Done for Breast Cancer Patients

Genetic testing looks at sequences of DNA to identify changes. The sequence of DNA has been determined for healthy people. If there is a mutation in a gene, it can make a person more susceptible to certain diseases. Certain inherited conditions have been linked to mutations in certain genes. Genetic testing is the comparison of the sequence of sample DNA to the agreed upon sequence for a normal gene to identify these risks.

Genetic testing for breast cancer is only performed on people who are at high risk of getting cancer. This blood test identifies the presence of mutations in the BRCA genes. A breast cancer genetic testing lab determines the patient’s risk of getting cancer. Genetic counseling is included in this test to make sure people are informed of their risk and options for the future.

Progress toward a Cure

Treatment for breast cancer today relies heavily on surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Gene therapy is one option of curing breast cancer. It is not yet possible, but eventually doctors will be able to fix the mutations in the genes. Research continues to search for more genes that influence a person’s risk of developing breast cancer.

Some ways to prevent breast cancer include:

  • Chemoprevention – Some medications, such as tamoxifen, decrease one’s chance of developing cancer.
  • Mastectomy – Preventative removal of breast tissue reduces the risk of cancer by 90%.
  • Surveillance – More frequent self-exams, clinical exams, MRI’s and mammograms discover cancer earlier.

Breastfeeding is Good for Mother and Baby

January 4, 2009

breastfeeding1Mothers find many reasons to excuse themselves from nursing their baby. Although some are valid, quite a few are not completely fair to the baby. The benefits of feeding a baby breast milk are far too important to give a half hearted effort and decide to give up. Especially after a difficult birth, it is not easy to try to “force” the little one to latch on and suck. This is even truer when the breast does not give forth much milk until several days after birth. Even if mother has to supplement with formula, a small amount of breast milk does wonders for the newborn.

Nursing also brings about benefits for mother. The hormone oxytocin is released into the mother’s body giving her a motherly feeling. It helps the bonding occur between mom and baby. You may not be your same rational self, but give in to the happy feeling. Also, your memory will not be what it was before, but that is why you take pictures and videos. The loss of memory is probably so you will agree to do all this again without thinking about all the sleepless nights!

Be aware that the breast may become infected. When a milk duct within the breast or under the armpit becomes blocked, an infection may occur. The area becomes swollen and red. It is warm to the touch and mom gets a fever. Call or see your doctor and ask for antibiotics as soon as possible. This can be very dangerous if not treated. Continue feeding from this breast and attempt to drain it first before starting on the second breast. A warm compress can be placed on the breast.

Pumping milk from the breast has made it easier to feed the baby even if breast feeding is too uncomfortable. It makes mom feel a bit like a cow when she looks down and sees milk squirting out of multiple holes in the nipple, but remember this is for baby. This allows dad to bond with baby as well. It can give mom a rest during the middle of the night. There are little tubes attached to a syringe so parents can trick baby into thinking it is sucking on the breast when it is actually sucking on a finger. This is important since baby must not bottle feed in the first month or else it will prefer the bottle over the breast since the bottle is easier to get milk out of.

Please try to nurse baby for a week before you quit. If it is not working at this point, please pump what you can and feed it with formula. But don’t stop just because it feels funny, is inconvenient, you are too shy or you want to indulge in alcohol or drugs. Wait at least two hours after each drink before nursing or pumping. If you still feel drunk, there is a good chance the milk will come back up if you try feeding it to baby. In any case, drink a lot of nonalcoholic fluids to increase milk production and pump and store some when you can. You never know when you might need it.

Good luck!

25 Reasons to Breastfeed

1.               Breast milk is free

2.               The American Academy of Pediatrics, the World Health Organization and UNICEF recommend it

3.               It is easier than formula

4.               It is always at the right temperature

5.               It stimulates the release of the hormone oxytocin and promotes bonding

6.               It provides perfect infant nutrition

7.               It is associated with higher IQ

8.               There is less waste in packaging products

9.               Being held and cuddled satisfies baby’s emotional needs

10.           It aids in the development of baby’s immune system

11.           It acts as a natural tranquilizer for baby

12.           It is more digestible than formula

13.           It contains endorphins and is a natural pain relief for baby

14.           It decreases mother’s risk of breast and ovarian cancer

15.           It has antibacterial properties

16.           It is a good natural antibiotic

17.           Spit up stains are easier to clean

18.           It facilitates in the passing of meconium

19.           Diapers smell better with breastfed babies

20.           It burns 500 calories per day

21.           It is a good source of vitamin A for baby’s vision

22.           It decreases the occurrence of sudden infant death syndrome, ear infections, asthma, eczema, and allergies in baby

23.           It decreases the occurrence of obesity in baby in later life

24.           It decreases the occurrence of cavities and promotes proper dental and jaw development

25.           It helps mother’s uterus shrink back to normal size