Breast Cancer Disease
Breast cancer is a disease in which
malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the breast.
The breast is made up of lobes and ducts. Each breast has
15 to 20 sections called lobes, which have many smaller sections called
lobules. Lobules end in dozens of tiny bulbs that can produce milk. The
lobes, lobules, and bulbs are linked by thin tubes called ducts.
lymph vessels carry an almost colorless fluid called lymph. Lymph vessels
lead to organs called lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are small bean-shaped
structures that are found throughout the body. They filter substances in
lymph and help fight infection and disease. Clusters of lymph nodes are
found near the breast in the axilla (under the arm), above the collarbone,
and in the chest.
The most common type of breast cancer is ductal carcinoma,
which begins in the cells of the ducts. Cancer that begins in the lobes or
lobules is called lobular carcinoma and is more often found in both
breasts than are other types of breast cancer.
Inflammatory breast cancer:
Is an uncommon type of
breast cancer in which the breast is warm, red, and swollen.
Age and health history can affect the
risk of developing breast cancer:
Anything that increases your chance of getting a disease is
called a risk factor. Risk factors for breast cancer include the
Menstruating at an early age.
Older age at first birth or never having
A personal history of breast cancer or
benign (noncancer) breast disease.
A mother or sister with breast cancer.
Treatment with radiation therapy to the
Breast tissue that is dense on a
Hormone use (such as estrogen and
Drinking alcoholic beverages.
Breast cancer is sometimes caused by
inherited gene mutations (changes):
The genes in cells carry the hereditary information that is
received from a person's parents. Hereditary breast cancer makes up
approximately 5% to 10% of all breast cancer. Some altered genes related
to breast cancer are more common in certain ethnic groups.
Women who have an altered gene related to breast cancer and
who have had breast cancer in one breast have an increased risk of
developing breast cancer in the other breast. These women also have an
increased risk of developing ovarian cancer, and may have an increased
risk of developing other cancers. Men who have an altered gene related to
breast cancer also have an increased risk of developing this disease.
Tests have been developed that can detect altered genes.
These genetic tests are sometimes done for members of families with a high
risk of cancer.
Tests that examine the breasts are used
to detect (find) and diagnose breast cancer.
A doctor should be seen if changes in the breast are
noticed. The following tests and procedures may be used:
Mammogram: An x-ray of the breast.
Mammography of the right
Biopsy: The removal of cells or tissues
so they can be viewed under a microscope to check for signs of cancer.
If a lump in the breast is found, the doctor may need to cut out a
small piece of the lump. A pathologist views the tissue under a
microscope to look for cancer cells. Four types of biopsies are as
Excisional biopsy: The removal of an
entire lump or suspicious tissue.
Incisional biopsy: The removal of part
of a lump or suspicious tissue.
Core biopsy: The removal of part of a
lump or suspicious tissue using a wide needle.
Needle biopsy or fine-needle aspiration
biopsy: The removal of part of a lump, suspicious tissue, or
fluid, using a thin needle.
Estrogen and progesterone receptor test:
A test to measure the amount of estrogen and progesterone (hormones)
receptors in cancer tissue. If cancer is found in the breast, tissue
from the tumor is examined in the laboratory to find out whether
estrogen and progesterone could affect the way cancer grows. The test
results show whether hormone therapy may stop the cancer from growing.
Certain factors affect prognosis (chance
of recovery) and treatment options.
The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options
depend on the following:
The stage of the cancer (whether it is in
the breast only or has spread to lymph nodes or other places in the
The type of breast cancer.
progesterone-receptor levels in the tumor tissue.
A woman's age, general health, and
menopausal status (whether a woman is still having menstrual periods).
Whether the cancer has just been
diagnosed or has recurred (always go back to your Doctor).
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Cancer Institute (Public Domain)