What to know about breast cancer
What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the tissues of the breast. It is called “breast cancer” because it usually starts in the milk glands that are located inside each breast. Most cases of breast cancer occur in older women. However, many people develop breast cancer during adolescence and early adulthood.
Breast cancer is different from other types of cancers such as skin cancer and lung cancer. Other types of cancer generally affect specific organs or areas of the body. For example, skin cancer affects the skin; lung cancer affects the lungs; stomach cancer affects the stomach; colon cancer affects the colon; and prostate cancer affects the prostate gland. But breast cancer occurs in the tissue of the breast.
Are there different kinds of breast cancer?
Breast Cancer 101 – Types of Breast Cancer
There are many types of breast cancers. They come in three main categories:
1. Ductal Carcinomas In Situ – These are small tumors that start in the milk ducts inside the breasts. They usually do not spread beyond the breast tissue. This is the most common type of breast cancer.
2. Lobular Carcinomas In Situs – These are small tumors found in the lobules of the breast. They tend to grow slowly and rarely spread outside the breast tissue.
3. Medullary Carcinomas In Situm – These are small tumors located deep within the breast tissue. They often spread into nearby lymph nodes and bones.
4. Tubulo-Lymphatic Carcinomas In Situd – These are very rare forms of breast cancer. They start in the connective tissues around the breast. They tend grow quickly and can spread throughout the body.
5. Paget Disease – This is a form of skin cancer that starts in the nipple area. It tends to be slow growing and does not spread to distant parts of the body.
Are there different kinds of breast cancer?
There are many types of breast cancers. Most people know one form called ductal carcinoma. But some forms aren’t as well known. Here are the most common types of cancer found in women’s breasts.
The most common type of breast cancer is invasive ductal carcinoma, or IDC. This is what doctors call “ductal.” It starts in the milk glands in the breast tissue. It spreads into nearby tissues. And it usually grows slowly.
Invasive lobular carcinoma, or ILC, begins in cells that make up the lobes of the breast. These lobules produce milk. They’re also where blood vessels grow. So once again, it spreads quickly.
Medullary carcinomas start in the lining of the milk ducts. They spread like IDCs do, but they don’t go deep enough to connect with lymph nodes.
Mucinous carcinomas begin in the mucous membranes that cover the inside of the breast. They look similar to each other. All three types of breast cancer tend to grow slowly.
And Paget’s disease is a rare form of breast cancer that affects older women. Doctors think Paget’s develops because of changes in estrogen levels during menopause.
What Do Lumps in My Breast Mean?
Lumps in your breasts could mean anything from nothing to something serious. Most breast lumps aren’t cancerous, but it’s important to know what you’re dealing with. Here’s how to tell the difference between benign and malignant tumors.
Breast cancer affects about one out of every eight women during her lifetime. Most cases are detected early because of a routine mammogram. However, some types of breast cancers can cause no signs or symptoms at all. Early detection is important because it increases the chances of successful treatment and recovery. If you experience any of the following warning signs, make an appointment with your healthcare provider immediately.
1. Lump in Your Breasts
A breast lump is usually painless and soft to the touch. Lumps may feel like a hard ball, a cyst, or a knot. They may change in size, shape, color, tenderness, or discharge. Some lumps do not hurt or itch; others may be painful or extremely uncomfortable. You might notice a lump while changing clothes, washing dishes, doing laundry, taking a shower, getting dressed, or exercising.
2. Painful Nipples
Painful nipples are often caused by hormonal changes around menopause or pregnancy. Other causes include breastfeeding, nursing too frequently, wearing tight clothing, or having a baby. In most cases, painful nipples go away within three months.
3. Dimpled Skin
Dimples on your breasts may indicate benign conditions such as fibrocystic disease, fatty liver, or cellulite. However, dimples may also be associated with a number of serious health problems including breast cancer.
Breast cancer is caused by changes in DNA. In normal cells, genes are carefully regulated and controlled. If there is damage to the DNA, it cannot be repaired properly. This leads to abnormal cell growth. There are many different types of breast cancers. Some develop because of genetic mutations; others develop due to exposure to chemicals or radiation. Other causes include hormone levels, obesity and lack of exercise.
Stage 0: This is also known as ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). The cancerous cells are found inside the milk ducts and have not grown into surrounding tissue.
Stage I: At this stage, the tumor is less than 2 cm in diameter. Cancer cells have spread to nearby lymph nodes, but no distant areas.
Stage IIA: This is also known as T1a. The tumor is larger than 2 cm and has spread to one or more lymph nodes.
Stage IIB: This is also known aT2. The tumor is larger than 2 cm and has spread beyond the breast capsule to the chest wall or skin.
Stage III: This is also known as the T3 stage. The tumor is greater than 5 cm in diameter and/or has spread to lymph nodes near the collarbone.
Stage IV: This is also known as the T4 stage. The tumor has spread to distant organs such as the lung, liver, bones, brain, or adrenals.
Is breast cancer painful?
A lump or mass in the breast is usually nothing to worry about. But if you feel something unusual in your breast, see your doctor immediately. Breast cancer causes pain in most cases, but it can be sudden and intense. In fact, one in eight women experience breast pain during her lifetime. If you are experiencing breast pain, see a physician. He or she can help determine whether there is anything serious going on.
There are several risk factors associated with developing breast cancer. These include age, family history, genetics, hormone use, lifestyle choices, and obesity. Some women develop breast cancer because of inherited genetic mutations. Other women develop it due to environmental exposures such as radiation exposure, chemical exposure, and certain drugs. Still others develop it because of hormonal imbalances. And still others develop it because of lifestyle choices such as alcohol consumption, smoking, lack of exercise, and poor nutrition.
The risk of breast cancer increases dramatically with age. At 20 years old, there is about a one in 10 million chance you will develop breast cancer in the next ten years. But by the time you are 70, the chances increase to three times what it was at 20. This is because breast tissue changes over time, becoming less elastic and more dense. As a woman ages, her breasts become larger and heavier, making them more likely to rupture.
The American Cancer Society recommends that women aged 40 and older undergo genetic counseling prior to undergoing screening tests for ovarian cancer. Women who are identified as having inherited a mutation in either the BRCA1 or BCR2 genes should discuss their options for prevention with their health care provider.
PDQ® stands for Patient Education and Counseling™, a comprehensive health information source developed by the National Cancer Institute. This cancer treatment summary includes general information about breast cancer treatments, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy, and clinical trials.
Breast cancer treatment options depend upon several factors, such as the stage of the disease, whether it affects lymph nodes, and the patient’s overall health. For some patients, surgery to remove tumors alone is enough treatment; others might choose to include additional therapies. Clinical trials are research studies meant to test new ways to prevent, detect, or treat cancer. Participation in a clinical trial could help you receive the best possible care along with answering questions about the safety and effectiveness of new treatments.
For many people, breast cancer is no longer considered a death sentence. Many women now live long and productive lives thanks to advances in early detection, better surgical techniques, and improved systemic therapies. In fact, one in eight women alive today has had breast cancer. However, because breast cancer often does not cause symptoms during early stages, most cases are diagnosed at later stages.
The good news is that there are effective treatments for breast cancer. Most women with localized breast cancers can be cured with standard surgery followed by radiation therapy. Women with regional spread of the tumor may benefit from combination chemo/hormone therapy. And women with distant metastases may be treated with hormonal therapy, chemotherapy, or both.
If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, learn what to expect during each phase of your treatment plan. You can find resources here to guide you through the process.