Genetic diseases are widespread. Cancer is a genetic disease and is a major cause of death. (need ref) Cancer is caused by mutations within the genome that result in the development of oncogenes or tumour suppressor genes which both cause the uncontrolled proliferation of cells in opposed ways. The oncogenes are mutated genes that in their pre-mutated state,promote cell replication. However, due to the mutation, these oncogenes cause either enhanced expression or altered nature of protein products. Tumour suppressor genes (‘TSG’) are mutant genes that normally restrain cell growth. It is the most common cause of death for women with statistics showing one in 13 Australian women who live to the age of 74 will be diagnosed with it sometime during theirlifetime.
This essay will discuss the nature of breast cancer, the factors causing breast cancer with an emphasis on familial inheritance, methods for testing for breast cancer and available treatments. The prevalence of breast cancer and the high mortality rate especially for women above the age of 70 signifies a need for increased awareness in the community both for prevention and support forthose affected by this destructive disease.
2.0 What is Breast Cancer?
Cells make up many different parts of the body – skin, bones, brain, heart, and breasts. These cells are replaced when they become old or injured by replication at varying rates depending on the part of the body. The replication process is regulated by genes that code for proteins which increases or decreases the rate ofdivision. These genes are proto-oncogenes (when mutated become oncogenes) and TSG’s.
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The abnormal genetic material translates into non-functional products which causes the cells to multiply without restraint. Most breast cancers are caused by a mutant inactivitation of TSG. In breast cancer, the proliferated cells form a hard mass of cancer that cansometimes be felt upon self examination. The proliferated cells can detach from the tumour and invade other tissue in a process called metastasis.1 This process changes the tumour from being classified as benign to malignant increasing the threat to the life of the person. Malignancy is a great threat as such cancerous cells can migrate throughout the body and to vital organs such as the brain orthe lungs thus deleteriously altering their functional capacity.
To understand where these proliferated cells can form within the breast, the anatomy of the breast will be discussed. The breast’s main function is to supply a newborn baby with milk via the mammary glands made up of glandular units. These units are joined by ligaments and fatty adipose tissue. The breast is a sexual organcontrolled mainly by hormones released from the pituitary gland and the ovaries. During the menstrual cycle, the hormones progesterone and oestrogen cause changes to the breast. The underlying muscles consist of the pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, serratus anterior and the latissimus dorsi. A diagram of the breast can be seen in figure 2.1.
(insert diagram from pg 7 breast cancer nursing)
Breastcancer mainly occurs in the epithelial lining of the terminal duct lobular unit. These cancers are termed adenocarcinomas. Depending upon the size and aggressiveness of the tumour, the tissues within and the muscles surrounding the breast can all be affected.
Although breast cancer in men does occur, it is uncommon with only 0.8% of breast cancers affecting males. The rarity of the illness does notdetract from its physical severity or psychological effects. The affected male would need the same care as a woman as well as an understanding of the unique situation as a man with the disease.
3.0 Causes of Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is caused by a combination of factors that cause mutation in the DNA. These mutations can be inherited, due to the environment or both. These factors will be...