Breast Cancer (Female)

What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer is a disease in which cells in the breast grow out of control. Cells in the body normally divide (reproduce) only when new cells are needed. With breast cancer, these cells in a part of the body grow and divide out of control, creating a mass of tissue called a tumor. If the cells that are growing out of control are normal cells, the tumor is called benign (not cancerous). If the cells are abnormal and don't function like the body's normal cells, the tumor is called malignant (cancerous).  Like other cancers, breast cancer can invade and grow into the tissue surrounding the breast. It can also travel to other parts of the body and form new tumors, a process called metastasis.
There are various kinds of breast cancer and the type of breast cancer depends on which cells in the breast turn into cancer. The most common kinds of breast cancer are:
  • Invasive ductal carcinoma. This cancer starts in the milk ducts of the breast. It then breaks through the wall of the duct and invades the surrounding tissue in the breast. This is the most common form of breast cancer, accounting for 80% of cases.
  • Invasive lobular carcinoma. This cancer begins in the lobules of the breast where breast milk is produced, but has spread to surrounding tissues in the breast. It accounts for 10% to 15% of breast cancers.
Four stages of breast cancer:
  • Stage I. The tumor is no more than 2 centimeters in diameter and hasn't spread to the lymph nodes.
  • Stage II. The tumor may be up to 5 cm in diameter and may have spread to nearby lymph nodes. Or the tumor may be larger than 5 cm but no cancer cells are found in the lymph nodes.
  • Stage III. The tumor may be larger than 5 cm in diameter and may involve several nearby lymph nodes. 
  • Stage IV. Cancer at this stage has spread beyond the breast to distant areas, such as the bone, brain, liver or lungs.
Risk factors
  • Being female.
  • Increasing age.
  • A personal history of breast cancer. If you've had breast cancer in one breast, you have an increased risk of developing cancer in the other breast.
  • A family history of breast cancer.  
  • Inherited genes that increase cancer risk. Certain gene mutations that increase the risk of breast cancer can be passed from parents to children. The most common gene mutations are referred to as BRCA1 and BRCA2. 
  • Radiation exposure. If you received radiation treatments to your chest as a child or young adult, your risk of breast cancer is increased.
  • Beginning your period at a younger age.
  • Having your first child at an older age. Women who give birth to their first child after age 30 may have an increased risk of breast cancer.
  • Postmenopausal hormone therapy. Women who take hormone therapy medications that combine estrogen and progesterone to treat the signs and symptoms of menopause have an increased risk of breast cancer. 
  • Drinking alcohol.
  • Breast exam checks both of breasts and lymph nodes in the armpit for any lumps or other abnormalities.
  • Mammogram is an X-ray of the breast used to screen for breast cancer.
  • Breast ultrasound uses sound waves to produce images of structures deep within the body. Ultrasound may be used to determine whether a new breast lump is a solid mass or a fluid-filled cyst.
  • Biopsy. Breast cell samples are sent to a lab for analysis to determine whether the cells are cancerous, the type of cells involved, the aggressiveness (grade) of the cancer, and whether the cancer cells have hormone receptors that may influence treatment options. 
  • Breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine uses a magnet and radio waves to create pictures of the interior of your breast. 
  • Blood chemistry studies. Blood samples are checked to measure the amounts of certain substances released into the blood by organs and tissues in the body.
Mastectomy is the recommended surgery along with, radiation, chemotherapy, and hormones.
  • 220,000 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in women each year in the U.S.
  • 66% of breast cancer patients are diagnosed after the age of 55.
  • Only 5% to 10% of breast cancers occur in women with a clearly defined genetic predisposition for the disease. 
  • Breast cancer is the 2nd leading cause of cancer death in women after lung cancer in the U.S.
  • About 40,000 women in the U.S. die each year from breast cancer.
breast cancer bald woman

  • "Breast Cancer." Breast Cancer Symptoms, Stages & Treatment | Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland Clinic, 5 Sept. 2013. Web. 27 Apr. 2017.
  • "Diagnosis and Treatment." WHO | Diagnosis and Treatment. World Health Organization, n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2017.
  • "Breast Cancer." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 16 Aug. 2016. Web. 27 Apr. 2017.
  • "What Are the Symptoms of Breast Cancer?" Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14 Apr. 2016. Web. 27 Apr. 2017.
  • "Breast Cancer (female)." NHS Choices. NHS, n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2017.


While 5% to 10% of breast cancer diagnoses are believed to be hereditary, the majority of those who develop breast cancer have no family history of the disease. By making lifestyle changes, you can significantly lower the risk of developing breast cancer. Here are 5 ways to reduce your risk:
breast cancer awareness month


Jerry Worden and Sandi Stanford of the Alamo Breast Cancer Foundation sit down at the 2016 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium to discuss how advocates in attendance at SABCS can inform oncologists about ongoing clinical trials.
jerry and sandi ABCF breast cancer (female)


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