What breast cancer looks like at a physiological level

What breast cancer looks like at a physiological level

Note: This post comes from the Biostrap Editorial team, a partner of The Keep A Breast Foundation, whose goal it is to give consumers to better quantify and understand their health on a physiological level. Keep A Breast and Biostrap’s partnership aims to further their respective goals to increase the early detection and prevention of breast cancer. Breast cancer cannot be detected through the Biostrap platform, but through routine self-examinations and doctors visits. You can read more here.

Cells in the body

Every person is composed of trillions of cells that make up every single part of the body from the brain to skin, to bone, tissues and blood. These cells continually grow and divide, forming new cells when needed. And as the cells grow old or get damaged, they die, and new cells replace them as the body’s way of staying healthy.

There are times when this doesn’t happen, though. Sometimes cells don’t divide or die, but instead multiply and latch onto other cells and spread into parts of the body where they have no business being.

This is cancer, and it can happen in any part of the body because cells are everywhere.

There is a certain form of cancer that is affecting more Americans than any other—and, in particular, this community: breast cancer. In fact, according to The National Cancer Institute, there will be an estimated 268,670 new cases of breast cancer in 2018 including both men and women. This is nearly 35,000 cases higher than lung cancer, the type affecting the second most Americans every year.

We're partnering with The Keep A Breast Foundation's Fit 4 Prevention 2018 Campaign. You can read more about the details here.

What is breast cancer?

For women, it most often develops in the milk ducts that carry milk to the nipple, which is also called ductal cancer. Sometimes it starts within the glands that make the milk, also referred to as lobular cancer. Then there is a smaller number of cases that start in the tissues of the breast, that are known as sarcomas and lymphomas, and this is the type that men are diagnosed with.

Whether developed in the milk ducts or tissue, there are times when the collection of cells form a lump or tumor. In the cases that are not caught early, the cells can move into the blood and spread (metastasize) throughout the body.

And just like any cancer, breast cancer is caused either by inherited genes or environmental factors.

Inherited factors

Although breast cancer looks similar when it forms inside of a person whether caused by inherited or environmental factors, the two are very different.

A person who is genetically predisposed to breast cancer has been found to have a genetic mutation on the BRCA (BRCA1 and BRCA2) genes that regulate cell division, growth and sloughing off of damaged cells. These genes are also known as the tumor suppressor genes that prohibit tumors (clumps of cells) from forming. When there is a mutation of one of these genes, then it can’t stop excessive cell growth, thus the predisposition to cancer.

However, statistics published by the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation show that 5-10 percent of breast cancers in women are thought to be due to gene mutations, whereas 40 percent of breast cancers in men may be related to BRCA2 mutations. This means men who get breast cancer are more likely to have an inherited gene mutation than women who get breast cancer.

Environmental breast cancer

With only 5-10 percent of breast cancer cases being caused by inherited genes, that means that 90-95 percent are environmental causes. Even so, the environmental factors cause changes (mutations) in a person’s DNA. These are known as acquired gene changes.

While the causes of most acquired mutations are still unknown, the Centers for Disease Control has named several risk factors including, drinking alcohol, previous treatment using radiation therapy (perhaps with lymphoma cancer treatment), using combination hormone therapy, not being physically active, being overweight or obese after menopause, among others.

What can you do to decrease your risk of breast cancer?

Due to continuing medical knowledge of breast cancer, early detection is crucial. The growing movement around educating and encouraging the self-examinations that so often catch breast cancer at its early stages has greatly reduced the effects of the disease.

Biostrap uses clinical-quality PPG sensors to shed light on the biometric signals that the body gives off to indicate its general well-being. Monitoring heart rate variability, resting heart rate, and SpO2 can help users quantify their health and provide context for any negative, bodily changes.

Finally, if you detect it early, you will have a greater chance of being able to remove it before it has a chance to spread. Self breast exams to find any abnormalities is important, and women are recommended to get regular mammograms starting at the age of 40, and yearly after the ate of 45.

As always, eat healthy, exercise regularly, sleep and live well.

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