The human body is endowed with a special trait: a uniqueness and distinction from one person to another. Unfortunately, this condition does not give it any upper hand to diseases and disorders it experiences in a lifetime. In this case, all persons possess a general outline of disease process. This is regardless of the magnitude of the disease, disorder or dysfunction. Generally diseases are caused by toxins from either outside the body or inside because of its own reactions and those of the bacteria in it.
Apart from these causes, there exists other more case specific disease pre-disposing factors. These are genetic and environmental conditions. This research paper explores the link between genetic predisposition and environmental conditions that trigger the onset of breast cancer. Breast cancer is the second killer of all forms of cancer after lung cancer (Walker, 2001). For a long time, this disease has been viewed as an all female affair but this misconception has long been challenged by growing cases of male infections.
What exactly is breast cancer and what causes it? Cancer, the deadly killer is a genetic disease caused by mutations within a genome leading to development of tumor suppressor genes (TSGs) that in return cause proliferation of cells in opposite ways. Body organs grow by the multiplications of cells at different rates depending on the body organ (Servan, 2008). This process is controlled by genes that are entrusted with the role of coding for proteins that accelerate or decelerate the rate of replication. Mutated genes contain abnormal genetic material that translates into non-functional products causing the cells to multiply uncontrollably. In breast cancer, a mutant inactivation of TSGs leads to a proliferation of cells that form a hard mass of tissue on the breast. The tumor can be felt on self-examination.
Through metastasis, the proliferated may detach from the tumor and infect other organs of the body. As result, the condition moves from benignancy to malignancy and may invade crucial organs of the body such as the brain affecting their function leading to death. A benign tumor may damage local tissue but likely will not spread to other parts of the body. Contrary to this, a malignant tumor spreads to other parts of the body damaging and destroying healthy tissues.
The main types of breast cancer are ductal carcinoma in situ, invasive ductal carcinoma, lobular carcinoma in situ invasive lobular carcinoma, medullar carcinoma and Paget’s disease of the nipple. About 1 out 8 women will get one of these in their lifetime (Yao, 2004). All these forms are caused by varied risk factors (environmental & genetic) that differ from one person to another albeit gene mutation is the underlying cause across the board.
A risk factor is any thing that predisposes one to chances of contracting a particular disease such as breast cancer. However, the fact that one has or is exposed to a particular risk factor is not a blue print of having contracted the disease. It is possible for one to have one or more risk factors of breast cancer yet never get the disease while another to have no risk factor yet end up getting the disease. This is true with most women who get breast cancer and this partly explains their bewilderment when they find themselves in such conditions (Servan, 2008).
The most obvious risk factor of one getting breast cancer is gender. Being a woman increases chances of one contracting breast cancer with researches showing a 100 times more occurrence in women than in men. Other predisposing factors include age and race. Chances of a woman getting cancer increase with age. About 2 out 3 women with invasive breast cancer are 55 or older when it is detected.
Race is also a breast cancer risk factor. White women are at a higher risk of getting breast cancer than other races like African or African-American though the mortality rate as a result in the latter is higher. This is credited with faster growing tumors in black Americans. Others are dense breast tissue and menstrual periods. Women with more gland tissue and less fatty tissue pose difficulties to doctors during diagnosis on mammograms. On the other hand women who begin to menstruate early in life (before adolescence) or those who undergo change in life after the age of 55(menopause) are at a higher risk since these conditions result in exposure to prolonged hormonal (estrogen & progesterone) production (Yao, 2004).
Apart from the above predisposing factors, some life style choices also affect one’s contraction of breast cancer. These are factors like failure to have children or having them later in life. Many pregnancies and having them at an early stage reduce the number of menstrual cycles in a lifetime hence consequently reducing hormone levels. Studies also reveal that recent use of contraceptives are at higher risk than those who stopped using them say ten years ago. Women under hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and menopausal hormone therapy (MRT) may also pose some considerable risk (Link, 2007).
Finally on lifestyles is alcoholism, lack of exercise and obesity. Women who have 2 to 5 drinks a day are 1.5 times at risk than those who take one drink. The American Cancer Society recommends one to stay healthy and fit throughout their lifetime to avoid gaining too much weight particularly in adulthood. It further encourages exercise that ranges from 40 to 45 minutes five or more times a week.
In this paper’s area of specification on the causes of breast cancer are; genetic predisposition, more questions than answers crop up when this issue arises. It is not debatable whether cancer of any kind is hereditary or not. The question is rather why it happens. Approximately 5% to 10% of breast cancer cases are believed to be related to inherited changes in some genes. The commonest of these being BRCA1 and BRCA2. A BRCA is a gene commonly found in breast cancer patients having a high incident of familial origin (Walker, 2001).
The BRCA is a tumor suppressor gene. It is under normal circumstances programmed to decelerate cell proliferation or even cause them to die in the appropriate time. However, in the case of breast cancer DNA mutations cause this gene to stop its crucial function hence enabling cancer cell to multiply. Inherited breast cancer accounts for only 10% of the approximate cases reported every year. Women who have these genes have close to an 80% chance of contracting breast cancer in their lifetimes (Derry, 2001).
Closely tied to this is a woman’s family history. This predisposition amplifies the risk in women whose close blood relatives had or have the disease. Being related to a sister, mother, or daughter with breast cancer almost doubles a woman’s vulnerability to the disease. However how predisposing this may seem, research indicates that over 85% of the women with breast cancer have no relatives with the disease.
Having discussed the causes of breast cancer, it is almost important to note its different signs and symptoms. The most common symptom is masses of accumulated cancerous cells. This is the most frequent complain which results to women seeking medical attention. Out of all masses reported, 9 out of 10 are because of benign lesions. Others include an abnormal redness of the breast skin (erythema), pain in breasts that might be cyclic or not, discharge of blood or any visible liquid and finally swelling of breasts or lymph node enlargement he cyclic pain is associated with the woman’s menstrual cycle while the non-cyclic one is experienced in particular areas of the breast (Derry, 2001). The latter may have its origin from injury to the breast or trauma to it. It is commonly evident in pre and postmenopausal women. These pains likely enough recede with time.
Breast cancer can be treated in various was though as the old adage goes prevention is better than cure. These are radiation and surgery therapy, chemotherapy and hormone therapy. All these local and systematic treatments aid in destroying the cancerous cells or inhibiting their growth. This list would sound rather incomplete without the mention of preventive measures, some that have been mentioned earlier. They include regular exercise, avoiding alcohol or smoking, taking diet with low fat content, regular medical up and awareness.
As evident from the above etiological information potential complications of this disease, its symptoms and signs, breast cancer is a terminal disease if not detected and treated early in its development. Death cases are due to rapid mestastizing that is unavoidable in early stages of the development process. This calls for the society to marshal support for the infected and affected through various way. First is the straightforward approach by having healthy lifestyles. The benefits of this are immeasurable. Secondly, awareness campaigns should be staged in every available avenue to enlighten citizens on the environmental conditions and genetic factors that predispose people to breast cancer. Women and men should perform regular check ups, self-examinations and mammograms. Lastly, social stigma must be unheard of in all the spheres of co-existence.