Breast cancer is the most common invasive cancer in women and the second leading cause of cancer death in women after lung cancer. Advances in screening and treatment for breast cancer have improved survival rates dramatically since 1989. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), there are more than 3.1 million breast cancer survivors in the United States. The chance of any woman dying from breast cancer is around 1 in 38 (2.6%).
The ACS estimate that 268,600 women will receive a diagnosis of invasive breast cancer, and 62,930 people will receive a diagnosis of noninvasive cancer in 2019. In the same year, the ACS report that 41,760 women will die as a result of breast cancer. However, due to advances in treatment, death rates from breast cancer have been decreasing since 1989.
Awareness of the symptoms and the need for screening are important ways of reducing the risk. In rare instances, breast cancer can also affect men, but this article will focus on breast cancer in women. Learn about breast cancer in men here.
The first symptoms of breast cancer usually appear as an area of thickened tissue in the breast or a lump in the breast or an armpit.
Other symptoms include:
- pain in the armpits or breast that does not change with the monthly cycle
- pitting or redness of the skin of the breast, similar to the surface of an orange
- a rash around or on one of the nipples
- discharge from a nipple, possibly containing blood
- a sunken or inverted nipple
- a change in the size or shape of the breast
- peeling, flaking, or scaling of the skin on the breast or nipple
Most breast lumps are not cancerous. However, women should visit a doctor for an examination if they notice a lump on the breast.
A doctor stages cancer according to the size of the tumor and whether it has spread to lymph nodes or other parts of the body. There are different ways of staging breast cancer. One way is from stage 0–4, with subdivided categories at each numbered stage. Descriptions of the four main stages are listed below, though the specific substage of a cancer may also depend on other specific characteristics of the tumor, such as HER2 receptor status.
- Stage 0: Known as ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), the cells are limited to within the ducts and have not invaded surrounding tissues.
- Stage 1: At this stage, the tumor measures up to 2 centimeters (cm) across. It has not affected any lymph nodes, or there are small groups of cancer cells in the lymph nodes.
- Stage 2: The tumor is 2 cm across, and it has started to spread to nearby nodes, or is 2–5 cm across and has not spread to the lymph nodes.
- Stage 3: The tumor is up to 5 cm across, and it has spread to several lymph nodes or the tumor is larger than 5 cm and has spread to a few lymph nodes.
- Stage 4: The cancer has spread to distant organs, most often the bones, liver, brain, or lungs.
After puberty, a woman’s breast consists of fat, connective tissue, and thousands of lobules. These are tiny glands that produce milk for breastfeeding. Tiny tubes, or ducts, carry the milk toward the nipple. Cancer causes the cells to multiply uncontrollably. They do not die at the usual point in their life cycle. This excessive cell growth causes cancer because the tumor uses nutrients and energy and deprives the cells around it.
Breast cancer usually starts in the inner lining of milk ducts or the lobules that supply them with milk. From there, it can spread to other parts of the body.
The exact cause of breast cancer remains unclear, but some risk factors make it more likely. It is possible to prevent some of these risk factors…..Continue Reading….