Understanding Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer overview

What Is Breast Cancer?

What is cancer?

 

Cancer is a broad term for a class of diseases characterized by abnormal cells that grow and invade  healthy cells in the body.  Cells in nearly any part of the body can become cancer and can spread to other areas.

In a healthy body, natural systems control the creation, growth and death of cells. 

Cancer occurs when these systems don’t work right and cells don’t die at the normal rate. So, there’s more cell growth than cell death.

This excess growth can form a tumor.

What is breast cancer?

According to the National Cancer Institute, Breast cancer starts when cells in the breast begin to grow out of control. 

These cells usually form a tumor that can often be seen on an x-ray or felt as a lump. 

The tumor is malignant (cancer) if the cells can grow into (invade) surrounding tissues or spread (metastasize) to distant areas of the body. The vast majority of Breast cancer cases occur in women, but men are also at risk and can get breast cancer, too.

Breast tumors have a tendency to grow slowly. By the time a lump is large enough to feel, it may have been growing for as long as 10 years. (Some tumors are aggressive and grow much faster.)

A great article from Dana Farber Cancer Institute explains lumps in detail.

Between 50-75 percent of breast cancers begin in the milk ducts, about 10-15 percent begin in the lobules and a few begin in other breast tissues.

How Cancer develops

Cancer begins in the cells which are the basic building blocks that make up tissue. Tissue is found in the breast and other parts of the body. Sometimes, the process of cell growth goes wrong and new cells form when the body doesn’t need them and old or damaged cells do not die as they should. 

When this occurs, a build up of cells often forms a mass of tissue called a lump, growth, or tumor.

Breast cancer occurs when malignant tumors develop in the breast. 

These cells can spread by breaking away from the original tumor and entering blood vessels or lymph vessels, which branch into tissues throughout the body. When cancer cells travel to other parts of the body and begin damaging other tissues and organs, the process is called metastasis.

Breast Cancer in The U.S.

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Women Are Diagnosed Yearly In The USA
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Unfortunately Die Yearly From Breast Cancer In the USA
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Men Diagnosed with Cancer In The USA
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Men Die from breast Cancer Every Year in the USA

Types OF Breast Cancer

DUCTAL CARCINOMA 

IN SITU (DCIS)

Non Invasive cancer

Invasive Breast 

Cancer

Milk Ducts or Lobules

Metastic Breast 

Cancer

Stage IV Or Advanced Breast cancer

Rare Types

Of Breast Cancer

Carcinoma & Sarcoma

Non-invasive breast cancer – ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)

Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) occurs when abnormal cells grow inside the milk ducts, but have not spread to nearby tissue or beyond.

The term “in situ” means “in place.” With DCIS, the abnormal cells are still inside the ducts.

DCIS is a non-invasive breast cancer. You may also hear the terms “pre-invasive” or “pre-cancerous” to describe DCIS.

Although DCIS is non-invasive, without treatment, it can develop into invasive breast cancer.

Invasive breast cancer

Invasive breast cancer occurs when abnormal cells from inside the milk ducts or lobules break out into nearby breast tissue.

Cancer cells can travel from the breast to other parts of the body through the blood stream or the lymphatic system

They may travel early in the process when a tumor is small or later when a tumor is large.

If breast cancer spreads, the lymph nodes in the underarm area (axillary lymph nodes) are the first place it’s likely to go.

Metastatic breast cancer

Metastatic breast cancer (also called stage IV or advanced breast cancer) is invasive breast cancer that has spread beyond the breast and axillary lymph nodes to other organs in the body (most often the bones, lungs, liver or brain).

Metastatic breast cancer is not a specific type of breast cancer, but rather the most advanced stage of breast cancer.

Cancer cells can travel from the breast to other parts of the body through the blood stream or the lymphatic system. They may travel early in the process when a tumor is small or later when a tumor is large.

If breast cancer spreads, the lymph nodes in the underarm area (axillary lymph nodes) are the first place it’s likely to go.

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WhatArticles Sources

Nature Publishing – Breast cancer Genetics; What We know and What we need

Macmilan Cancer Support – What is Breast Cancer

Web MD – Understanding Breast Cancer

Maurer Foundation for Breast Health Education – About Breast Cancer

American Cancer Society –What is Breast Cancer

American Cancer Society – Imaging Tests To Find Breast Cancer section

Center For Disease Control and Prevention – What Is Breast Cancer?

National Breast Cancer Foundation –  What is Breast Cancer?

Susan G. Komen – About Breast Cancer

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