Breast Cancer

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Breast cancer facts

  • Statistics indicate that breast cancer affects over 230,000 women each year in the U.S.
  • Risk factors for developing breast cancer include female gender, age, certain inherited genetic mutations, and personal or family history of the condition.
  • Awareness of the importance of breast cancer screening can help ensure that tumors are identified at an early, treatable stage.
  • Common breast cancer symptoms and signs include a lump in the breast, nipple discharge, and breast pain.
  • Most breast cancers are of the infiltrating ductal type.
  • Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is a form of ductal cancer that consists of atypical cells that have not spread beyond the ducts of the breasts into the adjacent breast tissue.
  • Because DCIS is not an invasive cancer, it is highly curable.
  • Inflammatory breast cancer is an uncommon, aggressive form of the disease.
  • Therapy for breast cancer depends partially upon the expression of tumor markers by the cancer cells, such as hormone receptors and the HER2 protein.
  • Surgery is a mainstay of treatment for breast cancer. Other treatments can include radiotherapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and targeted therapy.
  • Survival rates for breast cancers diagnosed in the early stages are excellent.
  • Sentinel lymph node biopsy is a technique to determine whether a breast cancer has spread to the nearby lymph nodes.

What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer is a malignancy (abnormal cells) arising in the mammary glands. It affects both men and women, although it is far more common in women. Each year, over 230,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with breast cancer, and about 40,000 women die from the disease every year. Male breast cancer accounts for about 1% of all breast cancers. This article focuses on breast cancer in women.

Picture of the anatomy of the breast
Picture of the anatomy of the breast
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/29/2014

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Breast cancer symptoms and signs include nipple discharge, a lump, or pain in the breast.

Breast Cancer Symptoms & Signs

Breast cancer does not always produce symptoms; women may have cancers that are so small they do not produce masses that can be felt or other recognizable changes in the breast. When symptoms do occur, a lump or mass in the breast is the most common symptom.

Other possible symptoms include

  • nipple discharge or redness,
  • changes in the skin such as puckering or dimpling,
  • and swelling of part of the breast.