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Metastatic Breast Cancer

Who is at risk of getting breast cancer?

Changing reproductive patterns, physical inactivity and obesity are the prime fuelling risk factors of breast cancer.

Do Not Panic

  • Finding a lump in the breast does not mean that you HAVE cancer. Only a doctor can confirm this.
  • Not all breast cancers are hereditary.
  • Breast cancer DOES NOT SPREAD through air or through machines. So, removing tissue using needle or cut for biopsies, or doing a mammogram will not cause the cancer to spread.
  • Mammography screening does not prevent cancer. It only helps detect it early.
  • There is no known link between abortion, miscarriage and breast cancer.
  • Drinking coffee or tea does not increase the risk of breast cancer.

A set of risk factors may lead to cancer in one person, but not in the other – and we still do not know, why. Some reported risk factors are:

I. Age & Family history

The older a person is, greater are the chances of developing breast cancer. Generally, the risk is found to increase after age 40. A family history (genetic pre-disposition) of breast cancer further increases the risk. Family history however, accounts for only a small portion of the total breast cancer burden.

II. Reproductive factors

  • Early pregnancy confers a protective benefit.
  • Increase in the number of childbirths, lowers the risk of incidence of breast cancer.
  • Women with their first period before age 12 have higher breast cancer risk than those after age 14.
  • A late menopause increases the risk of breast cancer.
  • Use of birth control pills (oral contraceptives) slightly increases the risk of breast cancer in and around the time of use of the pills.
  • No breastfeeding increases the risk of breast cancer.

III. Body weight

Gaining weight in adulthood (especially after menopause) increases the breast cancer risk.

IV. Lack of exercise

Women who exercise regularly or are more physically active, have a lower risk of breast cancer than women who do not.

What are the known symptoms?

Some commonly reported symptoms are:

  • One or more lumps or thickening in and around the breast (like the armpits)
  • Feeling of heaviness, tenderness or burning of the breast
  • Pulling in of the nipple
  • Rash on the nipple that turns itchy, scaly or sore
  • Nipple discharge that appears unusual
  • A rapid onset of swelling, redness, darkening or inflammation in the breast (Redness covers at least a third of the skin)
  • Peau d’orange skin: Peau d’orange is a French word that means ‘orange peel’. During inflammatory breast cancer, the breast skin may appear bruised with dimpled skin texture like that of an orange peel
  • A rapid increase in breast size

These changes need not always be indicative of breast cancer. For example, breast pain or nipple discharge could be the result of infections in the breast tissue. If you experience an unusual change in the breasts, it is best to talk to your doctor and take advice


ACS: American Cancer Society BSE: Breast self-examination CBE: Clinical Breast examination IV: Intravenous mBC: Metastatic breast cancer MRI scan: Magnetic resonance imaging scan NCCN: National Comprehensive Cancer Network VEGF: Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor


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