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Breast Cancer

What is Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer is a malignant (cancerous) growth that begins in the tissues of the breast. Cancer is a disease in which abnormal cells grow in an uncontrolled way. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, but it can also appear in men.

The most common types of breast cancer are:

ductal carcinoma (85 - 90% of all cases)
lobular carcinoma (8% of all cases)

In rare cases, breast cancer can start in other areas of the breast.

Alternative names

Cancer - breast; Carcinoma - ductal; Carcinoma - lobular; DCIS; LCIS; HER2-positive breast cancer; ER-positive breast cancer; Ductal carcinoma in situ; Lobular carcinoma in situ

Symptoms of Breast Cancer

Following abnormalities in the breast anatomy are suggestive breast cancer symptoms:

  • Unusual swelling of all or one specific part of the breast
  • Continuous skin irritation or dimpling
  • Persisting pain in breast
  • Persisting nipple pain or inversion of nipple
  • Inflammation or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
  • An unusual discharge from the nipple other than breast milk
  • Lump in the underarm area

Causes, and risk factors of Breast Cancer

There are many factors considered to determine who may be at higher risk for breast cancer, including as listed below.

Breast Cancer
  • Among men, enlarged breasts are more often associated with breast cancer.
  • In both genders, alcohol consumption may be a risk factor.
  • Men with a family history with of a chromosome defect may be at increased risk.
  • Both men and women may be at increased risk with the administration of estrogen hormones, including as medically administered to many women during menopause.
  • Women whose onset of menstrual periods occurred at an early age may be at increased risk for breast cancer. The same holds true for women who have never had children or who were older at the time of their first live born child.
  • A medical history of colon, ovary or endometrial cancer also may increase an individual's risk.
  • A family history of breast cancer, whether mother, sister, or daughter, is a potential risk factor. Regardless of gender, always disclose any family history of an elder's cancers to the treating physician. If breast cancer is part of your elder's family history, try to get a handle on the relative's age at onset, if possible. If your elder's relative happens to be female, it is important to disclose whether the relative was diagnosed with breast cancer before or after menopause.

Tests & Diagnostics of Breast Cancer

The doctor will ask you about your symptoms and risk factors, and then perform a physical exam, which includes both breasts, armpits, and the neck and chest area. Additional tests may include:

  • Mammography to help identify the breast lump
  • Breast MRI to help better identify the breast lump
  • ultrasound to show whether the lump is solid or fluid-filled
  • Breast biopsy, needle aspiration, or breast lump removal to remove all or part of the breast lump for closer examination by a laboratory specialist
  • CT scan
  • Sentinal lymph node biopsy
  • PET scan

Treatment for Breast Cancer

Current treatments for women with breast cancer include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and hormonal therapy. Treatment methods are classified as local or systemic. Local treatments such as surgery and radiation therapy remove, destroy or control cancer cells in a specific area. Systemic treatments, such as chemotherapy and hormonal therapy, destroy or control cancer cells throughout the body. Depending on your condition, you may receive a single treatment or a combination of therapies given at the same time or in succession.

Complications of Breast Cancer

Complications of breast cancer include:

  • Destruction of the breast
  • Destruction of the chest wall surrounding the breast
  • Mastitis
  • Nipple discharge
  • Chest pain
  • Radiation therapy side effects
  • Chemotherapy side effects

Prevention of Breast Cancer

Research shows that eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables doesn't offer direct protection from breast cancer. In addition, a recent study of dietary fat and breast cancer showed only a slight decrease in the risk of invasive breast cancer for women who ate a low-fat diet. However, eating a healthy diet may decrease your risk of other diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke. A healthy diet can also help you maintain a healthy weight a key factor in breast cancer prevention.

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