- May 17, 2020
The Anatomical Study of Breast Cancer
TheAnatomical Study of Breast Cancer
The pathoanatomyof the diseases
The humanbreast is a gland that is composed of fat cells, thousands oflobules, which are responsible for producing milk. Just like anyother body part, the breast consists of billions of tiny cells. In anormal breast, the tiny cells multiply in a systematic manner toreplace the damaged and the worn out. However, in most breastcancers, the tiny cells multiply irrepressibly forming a tumor thatcan either be felt or seen under imaging (American Cancer Society 3).The tumor becomes malignant or cancerous if the cells grow and invadeor spread to the surrounding and other distant areas of the body.
Figure 1: pictures of a normal breast vs. a cancerous breast
Source: American Cancer Society, 4
Cancer can begin inthe ducts of the breast hence referred to as (ductal carcinoma),which affects many women. Cancer can also affect the lobules (lobularcancer) but this type is not widespread.
Pathophysiologyof breast cancer
Breastcancer starts with the development of a malignant tumor in the breastcells. Just like any other cancer, various factors can increase therisk of developing breast cancer. Exposure to high levels of estrogencan cause DNA damage and genetic mutations leading to breast cancer(Fisher et al. 168). In some other instance, people inherit DNA andgenes with defects, which can increase chances of developing thecondition. Normally, the immune system should detect the cancerouscells, cells with damaged DNA and destroy them effectively. However,if the immune system of the body is ineffective, it can fail toperform this function leading to the development of cancer (Fisher,171). Apart from the development of stress, breast cancer has variousphysical impacts on other parts of the body. These include weightgain, hair loss, and menstrual changes such as lack of sex drive,skin changes and swelling especially of the arms and hands (Siegel,Kimberly and Ahmedin 6). Thus, these changes highlight thepathophysiology of the disease.
Involvement ofthe systems
Cancercells can spread from the breast to the bone creating tumors in themusculoskeletal system. The cells spread mainly through the bloodresulting in the metastatic disease. Bone is one of the common partsof the body for the metastasis form of breast cancer to occur(American Cancer Society 8). Cancerous cells that invade other partsof the body can remain asymptomatic in the body for a long timemaking their detection problematic. Tumors in the musculoskeletalsystem increase the risk of fissure leading to significant pain. Itis critical to point out that the cancerous cells cause lesions,which cause the bone to fail and eventually rupture.
Theendocrine system is made up of a network of glands and organs thatgenerate hormones. Many hormones work closely together to influencethe initial development of the breast since they are secretedstraight into the blood system (Sherwood 6). However, they onlyaffect specific target tissues with particular protein receptors,which bind to the hormone. Hormonal imbalances lead to an increaseddanger of breast cancer as it skews the normal functioning of theendocrine system. Moreover, endocrine disrupting compounds can affecthow the hormonal system works contributing to breast cancer.
The lymphatic system/endocrine system
The breastconsists of a rich network of lymph channels (lymphatic system) thatcarry fluids back and forth from the breast to the rest of the body.Breast cancer spreads through either the lymphatic system or bloodvessels to other distant areas of the body. Lymphatic system invasionoccurs when breast cancer gets into the blood vessels or lymphchannels. Such a phenomenon increases the chances of cancer invadingother parts of the body or reappearing in the future (Van Pham 3).Research shows that when metastatic breast cancer is detected in theaxillary lymph nodes it is in its early stages of metastasis andpotentially curable. However, when breast cancer spreads past thelymph nodes into other areas of the body, it is referred to asdistant metastasis and there are very low chances of being cured.
Li ,Yanlai and Dongwei contend that nerve fibers can be found in sometumor tissues such as those formed in the breast (1104). The terminalinterface between nerve fibers and cancer cells in the breast plays asignificant role in the growth and advancement of the tumor.Moreover, other factors that significantly contribute to theenhancement and running of the system are present in the tumor cells.Such factors act as a straight association between the tumor cellsand the nervous system thus, they aid in the spread of cancerouscells especially to the brain. The nerve invasion becomes a possiblepassageway for the spread of the tumor when the lymphatic growths andbody fluid are not present (Li et al. 1107). Such a pathway ispossible due to the interface between the nerve fibers and breastcancer cells.
Theintegumentary is composed of the skin, hair, nails, glands, andnerves. The mammary glands are part of the integumentary system.Hormones mainly released during puberty significantly influence thegrowth of the mammary glands. During the development of these glands,hormonal disruptions or imbalance may occur resulting in abnormalmultiplication and growth of cells. If the growth of the mammaryglands runs out of control, it results in breast cancer (AmericanCancer Society 14). Almost all instances of breast cancer start inthe lobules or ducts of the mammary glands.
Apartfrom the lymph vessels, the breast also contains arteries, nerves,and rich network of capillaries. Therefore, breast cancer can spreadthrough the veins to other parts of the body (Van Pham 2). Smallerveins drain into the mammary vein, the main breast vein. Some fewveins supply blood to the armpit or the ribs. The system plays a bigrole in helping cancerous cells from the infected breast invade otherparts of the body.
The reproductive system
The reproductivesystem plays a major role in the development of breast cancer. Awoman’s risk of developing malignant cells increases with exposureto some ovarian hormones (Fisher et al. 188). Reproductive hormonessuch as endogenous, estrogen and progesterone increase the risks of awoman developing breast cancer. Other reproductive factors, such as,early beginning of monthly periods, delayed menopause, delayed firstpregnancy, and failure to giving birth also increases the chances ofdeveloping breast cancer.
Other body systems
Bodysystems such as the urinary, digestive, and respiratory are rarelyinvolved in the development of breast cancer (Sherwood 12). Forinstance, metastasis of breast cancer is common but very rare toaffect any part of the urinary system (Li et al. 1102). In some fewcases, breast cancer metastasis to the bladder has been associatedwith other pelvic organ metastasis. Breast cancer can also spread tosome other parts of the digestive system, such as, the liver and thestomach but shows several years later after the initialidentification and management of the primary breast tumor. Therespiratory system plays no role at all in the development of breastcancer. Numerous treatments and medications for breast cancer affectthe respiratory system and might lead to the development of seriouslung problems such as the pulmonary embolism.
Homeostasisis the ability of a system to regulate and maintain its internalenvironment within the normal range. Treatment of breast cancersignificantly takes away a person from homeostasis due to imbalancesin the hormones. For instance, breast cancer patients often havetrouble in maintaining body temperatures in range. Studies have shownthat breast cancer patients sometimes feel excessively hot or cold acondition referred to as hot flashes (Fisher et al. 168). Hot flashesrefer to the frequent temporary incidences of reddening, feeling ofhotness, and sweating usually accompanied by unease and occasionallyfollowed by extreme cold. In a study of the prevalence of menopausalsigns among breast patients, Harris et al. (2000) established thatbreast patients were 5.3 times more probable to experience thesesymptoms (Kligman and Younus 82). This shows that cancer affects theability of the body to maintain the normal temperature.
The bodyapplies its own mechanisms to maintain body temperatures within thenormal range through a process referred to as thermoregulation(Fisher et al. 170). Commonly, through the thermoregulatory nucleus,the body is able to maintain homeostasis. However, in breast cancerpatients, the body may fail to restore homeostasis. In somecircumstances, non-estrogen drugs are used to restore normal bodytemperatures in breast cancer patients. Drugs such as progesterone,certain antidepressants, and clonidine, a drug for treating highblood pressure are used in managing hot flashes (Fisher et al. 185).Moreover, non-drug treatments exist for hot flashes such as hypnosis,comfort measures, and ways to cope with stress and anxiety.
American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts and Figures 2016. Atlanta, Ga:American Cancer Society 2016.
Fisher,William I., et al. "Risk factors, pathophysiology, and treatmentof hot flashes in cancer." CA:a cancer journal for clinicians 63.3 (2013): 167-192.
Kligman, L., and J. Younus. "Management of hot flashes in womenwith breast cancer." Current Oncology 17.1(2010): 81-86.
Li, Sha,Yanlai Sun, and Dongwei Gao. "Role of the nervous system incancer metastasis (Review)." Oncologyletters 5.4 (2013): 1101-1111.
Sherwood,Lauralee. Humanphysiology: from cells to systems.Cengage learning, 2015.
Siegel,Rebecca L., Kimberly D. Miller, and Ahmedin Jemal. "Cancerstatistics, 2015." CA:a cancer journal for clinicians 65.1 (2015): 5-29.
Van Pham,Phuc. "Introduction to Breast Cancer." BreastCancer Stem Cells & Therapy Resistance. SpringerInternational Publishing, 2015. 1-4.