What Is Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is a kind of malignant growth that begins in the breast tissue. While breast cancer is most common in women, men can also get breast cancer. In 2020, about 2,650 men were diagnosed with breast cancer, which accounted for less than 1% of all cases.
Breast cancer occurs when the cells of the breast tissue start dividing without any control. This leads to the formation of a hard breast lump. But it is important to remember that there are other causes for breast lumps. Also, most breast lumps are of benign origin . But no breast lump should be taken lightly and should be immediately reported to a doctor.
Different types of breast cancer have been defined based on the cells that divide uncontrollably and lead to the formation of breast cancer. Malignant growths in the breast can also be differentiated based on whether they have spread out or not.
Non-invasive breast cancers include:
What Increases Your Risk Of Breast Cancer
Factors that can elevate risk breast cancer risk include:
- A personal or family history of breast cancer, including DCIS and LCIS
- Inherited genetic predispositions, most commonly with BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations
- Elevated lifetime estrogen exposure, including:
- Early onset of menstruation
- Late-onset of menopause
- Older age of first childbirth or never having given birth
- Taking estrogen and progesterone after menopause
Risk Factors You Can Change
- Not being physically active. Women who are not physically active have a higher risk of getting breast cancer.
- Being overweight or obese after menopause. Older women who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of getting breast cancer than those at a normal weight.
- Taking hormones. Some forms of hormone replacement therapy taken during menopause can raise risk for breast cancer when taken for more than five years. Certain oral contraceptives also have been found to raise breast cancer risk.
- Reproductive history. Having the first pregnancy after age 30, not breastfeeding, and never having a full-term pregnancy can raise breast cancer risk.
- Drinking alcohol. Studies show that a womans risk for breast cancer increases with the more alcohol she drinks.
Research suggests that other factors such as smoking, being exposed to chemicals that can cause cancer, and changes in other hormones due to night shift working also may increase breast cancer risk.
What You Need To Know
- The risk of getting invasive ductal breast cancer increases with age: According to the American Cancer Society, about two-thirds of women diagnosed with IDC are age 55 or older.
- IDC can affect men.
- Without prompt treatment, invasive ductal carcinoma can spread to lymph nodes or blood vessels and metastasize throughout the body.
- Identifying characteristics of the tumor, such as whether or not the cells are sensitive to certain hormones, can help your doctor choose the best treatment.
What Are The Common Signs And Symptoms Of Breast Cancer
The following early signs and symptoms of breast cancer can happen with other conditions that are not cancer related.
- New lump in the breast or underarm
- Thickening or swelling of part of the breast
- Irritation or dimpling of breast skin
- Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area of the breast
- Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area
- Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood
- Any change in the size or the shape of the breast
- Pain in any area of the breast
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Ductal Carcinoma In Situ
Ductal carcinoma in situ is a non-invasive breast cancer. In situ means in place. With DCIS, the abnormal cells are contained in the milk ducts of the breast and have not spread to nearby breast tissue.
Although DCIS is non-invasive, without treatment, the abnormal cells could progress to invasive breast cancer over time. So, you may also hear the terms pre-invasive or pre-cancerous to describe DCIS.
Learn about breast anatomy.
Types Of Invasive Breast Cancer
Figure 4.6 lists the types of invasive breast cancer.
- Invasive ductal carcinoma is the most common type of breast cancer . It may also be called infiltrating ductal carcinoma, invasive carcinoma of no special type or invasive carcinoma not otherwise specified.
- Invasive lobular carcinoma is the next most common type .
|Types of invasive breast cancer||Proportion of all invasive breast cancers||Tumor characteristics|
Fact : Men Get Breast Cancer Too A Mans Lifetime Risk Of Breast Cancer Is About 1 In 1000
Many people do not realise that men have breast tissue and that they can develop breast cancer. But breast cancer is less common in men because their breast duct cells are less developed than those of women and because they normally have lower levels of female hormones that affect the growth of breast cells.
Early Signs Of Breast Cancer
Pinpointing breast cancer in its earliest stages isnt easy because breast cancer signs and symptoms are different for everyone. Sometimes there is a palpable lump or tenderness. Very often, there is neither. Generally, breast cancer shows no symptoms in the early stage.
However, there are certain changes in the breast that may indicate breast cancer in both men and women.
Whether you are a man or a woman, its important to become familiar with your breasts so you can recognize when changes occur and seek timely treatment. Know the facts and understand your risk factors for the disease, such as genetics and family history, by reviewing these frequently asked questions.
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What Are Dense Breasts
Breasts contain glandular, connective, and fat tissue. Breast density is a term that describes the relative amount of these different types of breast tissue as seen on a mammogram. Dense breasts have relatively high amounts of glandular tissue and fibrous connective tissue and relatively low amounts of fatty breast tissue.
How Does Breast Size Affect Your Risk Of Breast Cancer
That being said, we know that obesity plays a significant role in the development of breast cancer and obese women generally have larger breasts than the average woman. So while this may suggest that women with large breasts are at risk, it seems that weight is more of a factor than actual breast size.
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How Is Breast Cancer Treated
There are several breast cancer treatment options, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, immunotherapy and targeted drug therapy. Whats right for you depends on many factors, including the location and size of the tumor, the results of your lab tests and whether the cancer has spread to other parts of your body. Your healthcare provider will tailor your treatment plan according to your unique needs. Its not uncommon to receive a combination of different treatments, too.
Breast cancer surgery
Breast cancer surgery involves removing the cancerous portion of your breast and an area of normal tissue surrounding the tumor. There are different types of surgery depending on your situation, including:
Chemotherapy for breast cancer
Your healthcare provider may recommend chemotherapy for breast cancer before a lumpectomy in an effort to shrink the tumor. Sometimes, its given after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells and reduce the risk of recurrence . If the cancer has spread beyond your breast to other parts of your body, then your healthcare provider may recommend chemotherapy as a primary treatment.
Radiation therapy for breast cancer
Radiation therapy for breast cancer is typically given after a lumpectomy or mastectomy to kill remaining cancer cells. It can also be used to treat individual metastatic tumors that are causing pain or other problems.
Hormone therapy for breast cancer
Immunotherapy for breast cancer
About Metastatic Breast Cancer
Cancer begins when healthy cells change and grow out of control, forming a mass or sheet of cells called a tumor. A tumor can be cancerous or benign. A cancerous tumor is malignant, meaning it can grow and spread to other parts of the body. A benign tumor means the tumor can grow but will not spread.When breast cancer is limited to the breast and/or nearby lymph node regions, it is called early stage or locally advanced. Read about these stages in a different guide on Cancer.Net. When breast cancer spreads to an area farther from where it started to another part of the body, doctors say that the cancer has metastasized. They call the area of spread a metastasis, or use the plural of metastases if the cancer has spread to more than 1 area. The disease is called metastatic breast cancer. Another name for metastatic breast cancer is âstage IV breast cancer if it has already spread beyond the breast and nearby lymph nodes at the time of diagnosis of the original cancer.
Doctors may also call metastatic breast cancer advanced breast cancer. However, this term should not be confused with locally advanced breast cancer, which is breast cancer that has spread to nearby tissues or lymph nodes but not to other parts of the body.
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What Is Male Breast Cancer
Breast cancer in men is very rare, with less than 1 percent of all breast cancers found in men. The risk increases for older men and those with high estrogen levels, low male-hormone levels or a family history of breast cancer. Increased risk is also associated with those who have been exposed to radiation, heavy drinkers, and those with liver disease or who are obese. Treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy and drugs that target genetic changes in cells that cause cancer.
What Is A Normal Breast
No breast is typical. What is normal for you may not be normal for another woman. Most women say their breasts feel lumpy or uneven. The way your breasts look and feel can be affected by getting your period, having children, losing or gaining weight, and taking certain medications. Breasts also tend to change as you age. For more information, see the National Cancer Institutes Breast Changes and Conditions.external icon
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Myth: If I Dont Have A Family History Of Breast Cancer I Wont Get Itfact: Most People Diagnosed With Breast Cancer Have No Known Family History
Many people think of breast cancer as an inherited disease. But only about 510% of breast cancers are believed to be hereditary, meaning theyre caused by abnormal changes in certain genes passed from parent to child.1 The vast majority of people who get breast cancer have no family history, suggesting that other factors must be at work, such as environment and lifestyle.
But doctors often cant explain why one person gets breast cancer and another doesnt. The biggest risk factors are simply being a woman and growing older. Over time, healthy breast cells can develop mutations on their own, eventually turning into cancer cells.
Still, if you have a strong family history of breast cancer on either your mothers or your fathers side, this is an important risk factor that should be taken seriously. If there are one or more cases of breast cancer in close blood relatives, especially before age 50, and/or other cancers such as ovarian and prostate cancer in your family, share this information with your doctor.
What To Do If You Find A Lump In Your Left Breast
The majority of breast lumps are not cancerous.
If someone finds a lump in their left breast, they should remain calm. The first step is to work out the characteristics of the lump and look for any other breast changes.
Breast tissue is naturally lumpy, and its textures change with hormones and aging processes. Compare the size, appearance, and texture of both breasts. Evenly dispersed lumps in both breasts usually indicate normal, healthy breast tissue.
Lumps that differ from the surrounding breast tissue may suggest a tumor, which could be cancerous or noncancerous, or another breast condition.
The signs of breast cancer are different for different women. The most common signs are changes in the look or feel of the breast or nipple and nipple discharge.
Look out for the following warning signs of breast cancer:
- a lump that has a different appearance or texture compared with the rest of the breast
- a lump that is hard or painful
- dimpling or puckering of the skin
- a change in the size or shape of the breast
- swelling, warmth, redness, or dark patches on the breast
The sections below discuss several types of breast lump and how to identify them.
The majority of breast lumps are not cancerous. A person may develop one of the following benign breast lumps:
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What Are The Symptoms And Signs Of Breast Cancer
The most common symptoms of breast cancer include:
- Feeling a lump in the breast area, with or without pain
- Change in breast shape or size
- Dimple or puckering in breast
- A nipple turning inward into the breast
- Nipple discharge other than breast milk, especially if it is bloody
- Scaly, red, darkened or swollen skin in the breast area
- Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
- Dimple, pitted appearance or feel in the breast area
- Swollen or enlarged lymph nodes around the breast area, including the collarbone and armpits
Although these symptoms can be caused by other conditions, you should check with a doctor preferably a breast health specialist so they can make a definitive diagnosis.
The Reports Of Your Radiology Exams Usually Contain Three Sections:
- Exam description and history the type of exam, day it was performed, the reason it was performed and any important patient information
- Findings a detailed description of the important findings on the exam including size, shape, location and changes
- Impression a summary of the findings, what they mean and what to do about them Radiologists use standard terms in reports to describe the appearance of important findings.
Some examples of those terms include mass, architectural distortion and calcifications. The radiologist will also describe the size, shape and location of important findings. The size and location can be critical to making decisions about the kind of operation and other treatments you might have.
Radiologists will use a clock face or quadrant to describe the location. There is a separate clock for each breast and they are oriented as if the doctor is looking at you during an examination. In the diagram below, the nipple is in the center of the clock for both breasts. The outer left breast is at 3 oclock and the outer right breast is at 9 oclock. In the left breast the upper outer quadrant is between 12 and 3 oclock.
The radiologist will also describe the size and location of a finding by indicating the distance from the nipple in centimeters. Centimeters are smaller than an inch. There are 2.54 centimeters in an inch.
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Myth: If You Maintain A Healthy Weight Exercise Regularly Eat Healthy And Limit Alcohol You Dont Have To Worry About Breast Cancerfact: Although These Behaviors Can Help Lower Breast Cancer Risk They Cant Eliminate It
Its something we hear again and again from newly diagnosed women: I eat healthy, Im at a healthy weight, Im active, and I barely drink. So how did I end up with breast cancer? Yes, there is evidence that all of these behaviors can help lower your risk. However, they cant guarantee youll never get the disease. There are so many examples of people who do everything right and still get breast cancer.
Its certainly worth managing the risk factors you can control, such as what you eat and drink and how physically active you are. But its still important to get regular screenings, perform breast self-exams, and pay attention to any unusual changes in your breasts. And if you have any health-nut friends or relatives who think theres no way theyd ever get breast cancer, help them understand that no one is 100% safe.
Community member Beesie says: I think the heavy focus on lifestyle and environmental factors can be misleading since most breast cancers are caused by factors outside of our control.
Theres a myth that its your fault, adds Community member Illimae. It is not your fault, there is risk with everything in life, dont beat yourself up.
What Can I Expect If I Have Breast Cancer
If youve been diagnosed with breast cancer, your healthcare provider will talk with you in detail about your treatment options. Treatment and recovery will be different for everyone, so they can tell you what to expect in your situation.
Is breast cancer fatal?
People with early-stage breast cancer often manage their condition successfully with treatment. In fact, many people whove received a breast cancer diagnosis go on to live long, fulfilling lives. Late-stage breast cancer is more difficult to treat, however, and can be fatal.
What is the survival rate for breast cancer?
The overall five-year survival rate for breast cancer is 90%. This means that 90% of people diagnosed with the disease are still alive five years later. The five-year survival rate for breast cancer that has spread to nearby areas is 86%, while the five-year survival rate for metastatic breast cancer is 28%. Fortunately, the survival rates for breast cancer are improving as we learn more about the disease and develop new and better approaches to management.
Keep in mind that survival rates are only estimates. They cant predict the success of treatment or tell you how long youll live. If you have specific questions about breast cancer survival rates, talk to your healthcare provider.
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