Breast cancer will affect 1 in 8 women during their lives. Breast self-examination and routine screening can help find and treat breast cancer in its early, most treatable stages.
Female Breast Cancer Overview
Breast cancer is cancer that forms in the cells of the breast. It is the most common cancer diagnosed in women in the United States.
Most lumps found in the breast are not cancer. They are usually caused by fibrosis or cysts.
The most common type of breast cancer is ductal carcinoma, which begins in the cells of the ducts. Breast cancer can also begin in the cells of the lobules and in other tissues in the breast. Invasive breast cancer is breast cancer that has spread from where it began in the ducts or lobules to surrounding tissue.
Surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and hormone therapy are often used to treat breast cancer.
Substantial support for breast cancer awareness and research funding has helped improve the screening and diagnosis and advances in the treatment of breast cancer. Breast cancer survival rates have increased, and the number of deaths steadily has been declining, which is largely due to a number of factors such as earlier detection, a new personalized approach to treatment and a better understanding of the disease.
Female Breast Cancer Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of breast cancer may include:
Female Breast Cancer Causes
The cause of breast cancer is not entirely clear. Cancer occurs when some breast cells begin growing abnormally. These cells divide more rapidly than healthy cells do and continue to accumulate, forming a lump or mass. The cells may spread (metastasize) through your breast to your lymph nodes or to other parts of your body.
Breast cancer most often begins with cells in the milk-producing ducts (invasive ductal carcinoma). Breast cancer may also begin in the glandular tissue called lobules (invasive lobular carcinoma) or in other cells or tissue within the breast.
Hormonal, lifestyle, and environmental factors may increase the risk of getting breast cancer, but it is not clear why some people who have no risk factors develop cancer and other people with risk factors never do. Breast cancer is likely caused by a complex interaction of genetic makeup and environment. An estimated 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers are linked to gene mutations passed through generations of a family, but there are several inherited mutated genes that can increase the likelihood of breast cancer. The most common are breast cancer gene 1 (BRCA1) and breast cancer gene 2 (BRCA2), both of which significantly increase the risk of both breast and ovaruan cancer.
Other factors that are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer include:
Female Breast Cancer Diagnosis
Tests and procedures used to screen for and diagnose breast cancer include:
Once your doctor has diagnosed your breast cancer, he or she works to establish the extent (stage) of your cancer by conducting tests such as blood tests, additional mammograms, magnetic resonance imaging of the breast, computerized tomography scan, and positron emission tomography. The cancer's stage helps determine your prognosis and the best treatment options. Breast cancer stages range from 0 to IV. Stage 0 indicates cancer that is noninvasive or contained within the milk ducts. Stage IV breast cancer, also called metastatic breast cancer, indicates cancer that has spread to other areas of the body.
Living With Female Breast Cancer
If you have or have had breast cancer, you can take steps to manage the stress that accompanies the diagnosis: