Nowadays, breast cancer is on the rise. Many perceive it as an ailment which affects women only; however, men are also at risk of the condition as they have breast tissue. It is a malignant tumor which starts from your breast cells. A malignant tumor is a cluster of cancer cells that can invade the surrounding tissues or metastasize (spread) to other parts of the body. Every single cell in the body is at risk of becoming cancerous.
Normal Breast Structure
The breast is made up of:
- Lobules – they are glands which produce milk in the presence of the right hormones.
- Ducts – small tubes that transport milk from the lobules and into the nipple.
- Stroma – it is the fatty tissue as well as the connective tissue that surrounds the ducts, lobules, blood vessels, and lymphatic tissue.
Young boys and girls have a minimal amount of breast tissue comprising a number ducts situated under the nipple and areola. When a girl gets to puberty, the ovaries produce hormones making the breast ducts to grow, lobules to form at the end of the ducts, and stroma increases. As for the boy, at puberty, the female hormones are low and breast tissue doesn’t grow as compared to the girl. A man’s breast has ducts only if there are a few lobules. Like any other cells in the body, the breast cells may be prone to cancerous changes. Nevertheless, breast cancer is uncommon in a man since his breast duct cells aren’t fully developed like that of a woman. Furthermore, men have low levels of the hormones which fuel cancer.
It’s crucial to understand how the lymph system works since it’s one of the ways that breast cancer spreads. The lymph system has the following parts:
- Lymph nodes – they are small bean-shaped cells which are crucial in fighting infections and the lymphatic vessels connect them.
- Lymphatic vessels – they are similar to small blood veins, the only difference is that they carry lymph (clear fluid) from the breast instead of blood. Most of these vessels in the breast connect to the lymph node under the arm; others connect under the breast and above or below the collarbone.
- Lymph – it contains tissue fluid, waste products, and immune system cells. If breast cancer cells get into lymphatic vessels, they start to grow in the lymph nodes.
If the cancerous cells have affected the lymph nodes, higher chances are the cells have gotten into the bloodstream and metastasized (spread) to other body parts. If many lymph nodes have been affected by the ailment, higher chances are that cancer may be found in other organs as well. Because you have the basic knowledge of the breast structure and how cancer spreads, if you have the disease, does it mean there isn’t any solution? There is a solution definitely, the first step is to visit a doctor if you detect a lump, discharge from the breast or any other symptom which is causing anxiety and you think it’s related to cancer of the breast. The physician will run a series of test, if you are diagnosed with the condition, it is not the end. With medication, for example, Tamoxifen for breast cancer, diet, exercise and drinking a lot of water, you can be able to battle cancer. Remember, you have to stay positive and avoid stressful situations.
Tamoxifen and Breast Cancer
Tamoxifen has been in use for over forty years to manage breast cancer hormone receptor in its early stages or if it has affected other parts of the body and it’s available in the form of tablets. Many types of breast cancer need estrogen hormone to grow as well as spread. Estrogen attaches to the hormone receptor in the cancerous cells, hence the tumors spread as their growth is fueled; When the drug is taken, it blocks or prevents this from happening. It attaches to the hormone receptor site in the cancer cells, thus estrogen is blocked from attaching to the receptor. What happens after this? The growth of the tumor is slowed or stopped by depriving the cancerous cells of the hormones they require to grow; the tumors also shrink.
Tamoxifen for breast cancer is taken for five to ten years. It’s approved for use in postmenopausal women; however, if the physician finds it necessary for a premenopausal woman to take the medication, it must be used together with drugs to suppress the ovaries. Bear in mind, if this medication is taken by a reproductive woman, her ovaries will continue with estrogen production; the medicine can’t hinder the ovaries from producing estrogen. That’s why the doctor prescribes Tamoxifen in combination with drugs to stop the ovaries from secreting estrogen in a female who has not reached menopause. The therapy is helpful in preventing breast cancer from:
- Spreading to the opposite breast
- Causing early death
Discuss with the medical care provider the benefits of taking the drug for over five a years against its risks or the side effects. The tablets are taken once daily, preferably at the same time each day. The drug is also available in liquid form but under the brand name Soltamox.
A patient may also enjoy other benefits while on the drug; an aromatase inhibitor may be the first choice of medication for postmenopausal woman whereas, Tamoxifen is the first choice for a female who has not reached menopause. Since it is a SERM, it can block or activate actions of estrogen selectively in certain cells. If it prevents estrogen’s actions on your breast cells, it activates actions of this hormone in the bones and liver cells. Thus, the medication:
- Reduce cholesterol levels
- Stops bone loss after menopause
Risk Factors for Breast Cancer
Being aware that you are at risk of getting the condition is good as at will motivate to live a healthy lifestyle. The risk factor applies to both men and women and they include:
- Getting older
- Early menstrual period
- Late or no pregnancy
- Starting menopause at the age of 55
- Being physically inactive
- Obesity or being overweight
- Having dense breast
- Taking oral birth control pills
- Family history
- Alcohol consumption
- Exposure to estrogen
- Liver disease
- Surgery or disease affecting the testicles
Some risk factors are beyond your control, but others are not. Contact the health practitioner for more information on this. If taking Tamoxifen for breast cancer, take it as prescribed.