Breast Cancer

Overview

Breast cancer forms in breast tissue and is one of the most common cancers found in women. There are several forms of breast cancer, but the most common is ductal carcinoma which forms in the milk ducts of the breast. Lobular carcinoma, Paget’s disease and inflammatory breast cancer are less common types of breast cancer. While women are the overwhelming majority of breast cancer patients, breast cancer can afflict men as well. About 200,000 women per year are diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States, and around 40,000 of those cases are terminal. A healthy lifestyle, early detection and treatment are key to increasing survival rates for breast cancer.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

There are many warning signs that may signal breast cancer. The symptoms will vary from woman to woman and will depend on the type of cancer present. The most common symptoms of breast cancer include a lump in the tissue of the breast or under the arm, thickening or swelling of one or both breasts and a change in the size or shape of a breast. Other common symptoms are dimpling of the breast, unusual discharge from the nipple, inversion of the nipple and redness, pain or flaking skin on the breast. Because symptoms can vary widely, it is important to report any breast changes to a physician.

Early diagnosis is crucial in the treatment of breast cancer. Self breast exams should be performed monthly at home. Any changes in the breast should be reported to a physician. A physician may perform a manual breast exam in order to feel for changes in breast tissue. A mammogram, ultrasound or MRI may also be needed to provide a visual confirmation of changes in the breast tissue. If these tools show a change or suspicious lump in the breast, a biopsy is often performed on the tissue in order to conclusively determine the type and stage of breast cancer present.

Causes

Breast cancer occurs when cells in the breast begin to grow and multiply abnormally. Doctors do not know at this time what triggers this mutation. While genetics is believed to play some part, the vast majority of breast cancer patients are those with no specific genetic predisposition for the disease. Doctors are working to understand the combination of genetics and lifestyle that may lead to the formation of breast cancer. Continue reading for Prevention information . . .

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