Breast Cancer

What is Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer occurs when a group of cancer cells develops in the tissues of the breast. There are various classes of this disease and invasive ductal carcinoma is one of the most widespread forms of breast cancer. This cancer generates in a duct inside the breast and then travels to adjacent tissue. Ductal carcinoma in situ also forms in a duct but it stays in one region and does not move to other areas of the body. Invasive lobular carcinoma is a type of breast cancer that evolves in the milk production glands in the breast and it is likely to spread.

What are the Symptoms of Breast Cancer?

Individuals who have breast cancer often feel a growth or lump in their breast or armpit. The breast may be a different shape than normal or there may be bloody fluid leaking from the nipple. It is also common to have soreness in the breast or nipple. Skin changes on the breast that are an indication of breast cancer include small indentations and red splotches of dry skin.

With a progression of the disease, individuals often feel short of breath, have yellow-tinged skin, enlarged lymph nodes in the armpit or neck area and pain in their bones.

Breast Cancer Causes

The exact cause of breast cancer remains unknown to scientists. However, it is known that breast cancer is always caused by harmful mutations to the DNA of a cell. Exactly why these changes occur is not yet known.

Although scientists are still struggling to pinpoint the precise cause of breast cancer, certain risk factors which render an individual more susceptible to developing the disease are known. A family history of breast cancer greatly increases the risk of an individual developing breast cancer – especially when one has a mother, sister, or daughter who has suffered from the disease. Genetics play a significant role in the development of the disease, although not everyone with a family of history of breast cancer develops breast cancer. Similarly, many people without a family history of breast cancer develop the disease. Additionally, women over the age of 50 are at greater risk for breast cancer.

Another common risk factor is a woman’s exposure to the hormone estrogen (for example, taking birth control). A connection has been found between one’s exposure to estrogen and the development of breast cancer. Because of the way that estrogen causes cells to divide, an abnormality may develop in the divided cells – this abnormality may cause the cells to become cancerous.

How is Breast Cancer Treated?

After a breast cancer diagnosis, the forms of treatment will vary depending on the specific type and the advancement of the cancer.

Treatment includes

Surgical removal of the cancerous tissue is a common treatment option. Some individuals use chemotherapy medicines to reduce or destroy the cancer cells. Radiation therapy eliminates cancer cells through beams of high-energy particles. The use of radiation is frequently used in conjunction with other types of treatment, such as chemotherapy and surgery. Some forms of breast cancer can be controlled by hormonal therapy. These medications keep the cancer cells from growing by blocking hormones.

Breast Cancer Prevention

Because of the ambiguity surrounding the causes, and the inconsistency in who develops breast cancer and who doesn’t, there is no foolproof method of prevention against breast cancer. In many cases, a woman may lead an exceptionally healthy life and still develop the disease. However, there are ways to minimize risk factors in one’s life for developing the disease. Curbing one’s consumption of alcohol and cigarettes is a way that one may guard against breast cancer. Additionally, reducing unnecessary exposure to hormones – namely, estrogen – can help in reducing one’s likelihood of developing breast cancer.

Because the disease can’t be prevented, the best way to guard against it is to detect and treat it as soon as possible.

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Last Reviewed:
September 13, 2016
Last Updated:
November 20, 2017