What is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer, a frequent cancer among women is a malignant (cancerous) tumor that starts from cells of the breast. Women are most affected by this disease but in rare instances, men are also affected. The information here pertains only to women. This is the leading cause you may need breast surgery.
A woman’s breast is made up of glands that make breast milk (lobules), ducts (small tubes that carry milk to the nipples), fatty and connective tissue, blood vessels, and lymph vessels.
Most breast cancers begin in the cells that line the ducts, (ductal cancer). Some begin in the lobules (lobular cancer), and the rest in other tissues.
The lymph system is important because it is one of the ways in which breast cancers can spread. This system has several parts.
Lymph nodes are small, bean shaped collections of immune system cells that are connected by lymphatic vessels. Lymphatic vessels are like small veins, except they carry a clear fluid called lymph (instead of blood) away from the breast. Breast cancer cells can enter lymphatic vessels and begin to grow in the lymph nodes.
Most lymph vessels of the breast lead to lymph nodes under the arm. These are called axillary nodes. If breast cancer cells reach the underarm lymph nodes and continue to grow, they cause the nodes to swell. Once cancer cells have reached these nodes, they are more likely to spread to other organs of the body. Knowing whether cancer cells have spread to lymph nodes is important because if they have, there is a higher chance that the cells have also gotten into the bloodstream and spread to other places in the body. This could affect the treatment plan.
Most breast lumps are benign. That is, they are not cancer. Benign breast tumors are abnormal growths, but they do not spread beyond the breast and they are not life threatening. Some benign breast lumps can increase a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer.
Most lumps turn out to be fibrocycstic changes. Cysts are fluid-filled sacs. Fibrosis is the formation of scar-like tissue. Such changes can cause breast swelling and pain. The breasts may feel lumpy, and sometimes there is a clear or slightly cloudy nipple discharge.
Other than skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States. After lung cancer, it is the leading cause of cancer death in women.
According to data compiled by the American Cancer Society, about 178,000 women incur invasive breast cancer each year. About 40,000 women will die from this disease each year.
The chance of a woman having invasive breast cancer some time during her life is about 1 in 8. The chance of dying from breast cancer is about 1 in 35. Breast cancer rates are going down. This is most likely the result of finding the cancer earlier and improved treatment methods.
Right now, there are about two and a half million breast cancers survivors in the United States.
American Cancer Society – A lot of information about cancer/breast cancer
American Society of Breast Surgeons – General Information about the society
Knowledge is power. Breast360.org’s goal is to engage, educate and empower our readers.
Xray Associates of New Mexico – Information about breast imaging, mammography ultrasound and MRI
Susan Komen Foundation – Events and general foundation information
Myraid – Genetic testing for breast cancer genes
National Cancer Institute – general information about cancer
Breast Cancer org – news, information, chat rooms and support
Facing Our Risk – for women at high risk for breast cancer
Y-Me – a national breast cancer advocacy with peer support, information and empowerment
Your Disease Risk – Find out your risks of developing cancer
Linda A Smith Office Tutorial for Breast Cancer Patients – patient education
Watch On-line Tutorial