Breast Cancer is a type of cancer originating from the breast tissue, most commonly from the inner lining of the milk ducts. Most commonly it is found in the inner lining of the milk ducts or the lobules that supply the ducts with milk. Breast Cancer is a malignant tumor that starts in the cells of the breasts. A malignant tumor is a group of cancer cells that can grow into surrounding tissues or spread to distant areas of the body. The disease occurs almost entirely in women, but men can get it too. Breast cancer cells can enter lymphatic vessels and begin to grow in lymph nodes.
Most lymphatic vessels in the breast connect to lymph nodes under the arm. If the cancer cells have spread to the lymph nodes, there is a higher chance that the cells could have also got into the blood stream and spread. The more lymph nodes that have breast cancer, the more likely it is the cancer may be found in other organs as well. Carcinoma is cancer that begins in the lining layers of organs, like the breast. Nearly all cancers are carcinomas. An adenocarcinoma is a type of carcinoma that starts in the glandular tissue. Carcinoma in situ is when it is confined to the layers of cells that it began.
I breast cancer, in situ, means the cancer cells remain confined to the ducts. An invasive cancer is one that has already grown beyond the layers of the cells where it started. Most breast cancers are invasive carcinomas. There are many risk factors, one is family history. 90-95% of breast cancers are not due to genetic factors. Having a 1st degree relative does increase your risk, especially if your relative developed breast cancer before menopause. Another is long menstrual history, like women who started periods before age of 12.
The more menstrual cycles a women has, the longer exposure to estrogen, a hormone known to increase breast cancer. A woman who has her 1st child in her teen’s or twenties, changes the actual maturation of breast cells and decreases their risk. But having your 1st child over forty may be more risky because precancerous cells may actually with the high hormone levels of the pregnancy. Women who require more breast biopsies are also more likely to develop breast cancer. Alcohol is another big risk factor. People who drink more are 40% more likely to develop breast cancer, than those who don’t drink at all.
For a nondrinking woman, the lifetime risk of breast cancer by age 80 is 1 in 11. For heavy drinkers it’s about 1 in 7. Hormone therapy is something that increases your risk as well. Especially women who use combination hormone therapy for five years or longer. Obesity increases your risk of getting breast cancer, especially having excess weight after menopause. Sedentary lifestyle is another risk factor. Regular physical activity may cut the risk of developing breast cancer by 20-40%. Race and ethnicity also play a part.
Hispanics and Asian Americans have lower rates than whites and African Americans. Caucasian women over 40 have the highest incident rate for breast cancer in the country. Breast cancer is the 2nd leading cause of cancer death in women. The first noticeable symptom of breast cancer is typically a lump that feels different from the rest of the breast tissue. More than 80% of breast cancer cases are found when a woman feels a lump. Indications other than a lump may be, one breast becoming larger or lower, a nipple changing position, a rash around the nipple or discharge from the nipple.
Breast cancer can be found by breast exam, clinical breast exam or by MRI or mammogram (an x-ray of the breast). Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam every 3 years. Women in their 30s should get a mammogram every 3 years and every year after 40. If at high risk, an MRI and mammogram are suggested every year. When a mammogram is done, if anything is abnormal then a biopsy is done of the breast tissue to see if it is cancerous. Once breast cancer is found it can be treated many different ways, by surgery, radiation and drugs, such as chemotherapy and hormonal therapy.
There is breast conserving surgery, or partial mastectomy. It removes part of the affected breast. Lumpectomy removes only the breast lump and a surrounding margin of normal tissue. Mastectomy is surgery to remove the entire breast and sometimes other nearby tissues. There are different kinds like, simple mastectomy, which removes the entire breast and nipple but not lymph nodes. A radical mastectomy is removing the entire breast, lymph nodes and pectoral muscles. There is also skin sparing mastectomy and modified radical mastectomy. After having a mastectomy the woman usually has breast reconstruction.
Radiation therapy is a treatment with high energy rays that destroy cancer cells. It is usually given after surgery. It can be given in 2 ways, external beam radiation, which is radiation focused from a machine outside of the body, and brachytherapy. Is where radioactive pellets are placed into the breast tissue, next to the cancer. Chemotherapy is treatment with cancer killing drugs that may be given intravenously or by mouth. The blood travels through the blood stream to reach cancer cells. It is usually done in cycles, with each period followed by a recovery period.
Treatment usually lasts several months. Hormone therapy is another form of systemic therapy. It is most often used as an adjuvant therapy to help reduce the risk of cancer coming back after surgery. It can also be used to treat cancer that has come back after treatment or has spread. By age 25 a womans risk of developing breast cancer is 1 in 19,608, by age 40 it is 1 in 217, by age 60 it is 1 in 24 and by age 80 it is 1 in 10. To help prevent cancer it is important to get exercise, maintain a healthy weight, eat healthy and not drink in excess.