Breast cancer occurs when certain cells in the breast become malignant and form a tumor. Breast tumors generally appear in the lobules or in the milk ducts that lead to the nipple.
Second only to lung cancer in cancer deaths, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among women in the United States. One out of eight U.S. women will get breast cancer during her lifetime.
Breast cancer is being spotted earlier, and with quick treatment, the outlook for women with breast cancer is excellent.
Male breast cancer is rare, but can also be cured or controlled if found early and treated right away.
Source: American Cancer Society, Cancer Facts & Figures 2015
Here are the signs of breast cancer:
- Lump or thickening that doesn't go away or that changes
- Swelling, puckering or dimpling of the breast
- Skin irritation
- Pain or tenderness of the nipple
- Bloody nipple discharge
There are a number of ways to determine if you have breast cancer:
- Biopsies, including needle breast biopsies such as core needle biopsy or fine needle biopsy. For biopsies, a small piece of the tumor is taken and examined by a pathologist (someone who examines body tissues for abnormal cells or growths).
- An exam by a doctor.
- Ultrasound to find the location of the tumor.
- Excision of the lump
Stages of Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is a progressive disease that advances through many stages. Doctors use a staging system to determine the extent of the cancer and the best treatment options.
- Stage 0. Stage 0 is sometimes called noninvasive carcinoma or ductal carcinoma in situ. In stage 0, the cancer hasn’t spread from the duct into the surrounding breast tissues.
- Stage I. In stage I, the cancer cells haven’t spread beyond the breast and the tumor is no more than 2 centimeters in size.
- Stage II. In stage II, the cancer is 2 centimeters or smaller and has spread to underarm lymph nodes, or the tumor in the breast is larger than 2 centimeters but smaller than 5 centimeters and hasn’t spread to lymph nodes under the arm.
- Stage III. Stage III, or locally advanced cancer, means the tumor in the breast is larger than 5 centimeters and cancer has more considerably involved the axillary lymph nodes, causing them to be attached to each other or to other structures, or has spread to the other lymph nodes near the breastbone or other tissues such as the skin of the breast or chest wall.
- Stage IV. Stage IV cancer means the tumor has spread from the breast to other parts of the body, such as the brain, lungs, bones and liver.
- Recurrent Cancer. Recurrent cancer means that the disease reappears after the initial treatment, even though treatment was at first successful. This is either because undetected cancer cells remained in the body or the disease spread before treatment began.
The choice of treatment depends on the patient's age and general health, and the type and stage of cancer. The stage is determined by the size of the tumor and whether it has reached the lymph nodes of the armpit (axilla) or has spread (metastasized) to the liver, brain, lungs or bones. Oncologists may suggest one or a blend of treatments. The goal is to remove or kill all cancer cells in the body. Treatment for later-staged cancer cases aim to provide comfort and improve your quality of life.
Early breast cancer is treatable by: