Breast Cancer

By: Savanna Brittain

What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer is a malignant tumor that starts in the cells of the breast. A malignant tumor is a group of cancer cells that can grow into surrounding tissues or spread to distant areas of the body. This cancer occurs almost entirely in women, but it is possible for men to get it too. About 1 in 8 U.S women will develop breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.

Most breast cancers will begin in the cells that line the ducts, others sometimes begin in the cells that line the lobules. A small number start in other tissues. Over time, the cancer cells can spread and invade nearby healthy breast tissue and make their way to the underarm lymph nodes. If the cancer cells get into the lymph nodes, It will give them a pathway to other parts of the body.

Citations: "What Is Breast Cancer?" What Is Breast Cancer? N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.

"What Is Breast Cancer? |" N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.

Breast cancer symptoms

The most recognized symptom of breast cancer is a lump or mass in the breast tissue. While it is recommended that women go to their doctor after finding a lump, they should also be aware of any other changes to the breast or nipple.

Symptoms of breast cancer vary from person to person. Some common breast cancer signs and symptoms include:

  • Skin changes, such as swelling, redness, or other visible differences in one or both breasts.
  • An increase in size or change in shape of the breast(s)
  • Changes in the appearance of one of both nipples
  • Nipple discharge other than breast milk
  • General pain in/on any part of the breast
  • Lumps or nodes felt on or inside of the breast

Symptoms more specific to invasive breast cancer include

  • Irritated or itchy breasts
  • Change in breast color
  • Increase in breast size or shape (over a short period of time)
  • Changes in touch (may feel hard, tender or warm)
  • Peeling or flaking of the nipple skin
  • A breast lump or thickening
  • Redness or pitting of the breast skin (like the skin of an orange)

Citations: "Breast Cancer Symptoms." Breast Cancer Symptoms & Signs. N.p., 01 Jan. 0001. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.

What causes it?

Breast cancer is always caused by a genetic abnormality. Only about 5-10% of cancers are due to an abnormality inherited from your mother or father. There are many risk factors that can increase the chance of developing breast cancer, but it is not yet known how these risk factors can cause cells to become cancerous. There are still many things that are unknown about breast cancer, such as what causes it and how to prevent it. Hormones seem to play a role in many cases of breast cancer, but it is not fully understood how it happens.

There are steps every person can take to help the body stay as healthy as possible, such as eating a balanced diet, maintaining a healthy weight, limiting alcohol, exercising regularly, etc. While these may have some impact on your risk of getting breast cancer, the do not eliminate the risk.

"What Is Breast Cancer?" N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.

How is breast cancer treated?

The main types of treatment for breast cancer are surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy, and bone-directed therapy. Treatments can be put into broad groups based on how they work and when they are used.

How is it diagnosed?

Breast cancer is sometimes found after symptoms appear, but many women with early breast cancer have no symptoms.

A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast. Screening mammograms are used to look for breast disease in women who have no signs or symptoms of a breast problem. Screening mammograms usually take 2 views of each breast.

If there are breast symptoms or an abnormal result on a screening mammogram, the person will have a diagnostic mammogram. This will include more images of the area of concern. If the diagnostic mammogram shows that the abnormal area is more suspicious for cancer, a biopsy will be needed to tell if it is cancer.

Even if the mammograms show no tumor, if you or your doctor can feel a lump, a biopsy is usually needed to make sure that it isn't cancer.

Other ways of checking for cancer can be a breast ultrasound, or an MRI.

Application of research article

From researching this information I have learned the multiple symptoms of breast cancer and the many ways they can be treated. It also showed me just how dangerous this cancer can be. Breast cancer runs pretty strong in my family, and many close relatives have had it. Some have even had it come back more than once. From researching all this material, it make me see just how common this cancer is among women, and how high my risk for it may actually be.