Breast cancer is a type of cancer that forms in the cells of the breasts. It can occur in both men and women, however it is the most common form of cancer diagnosed in women in the United States. Breast cancer can begin in different parts of the breast and even spread to other parts of a person’s body.
There are many different types of breast cancer, including angiosarcoma, ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), inflammatory breast cancer, invasive lobular carcinoma, male breast cancer, paget’s disease of the breast, and recurrent breast cancer. Many of these types of breast cancer are quite rare and they vary in appearance, symptoms, and method by which they potentially spread through the rest of a person’s body. Ductal carcinoma in situ is the earliest form of breast cancer and is usually found during screening after a doctor finds an abnormality during a mammogram. Invasive lobular carcinoma is a type of cancer that develops in the lobules (milk-producing glands) and the cancer cells then spread to the lymph nodes and other parts of the body. Invasive ductal carcinoma is a breast cancer most often occurs and begins in the milk-producing ducts.
Risk factors for breast cancer include genetics, gender (women are much more likely to develop breast cancer), obesity, radiation exposure, and drinking alcohol. People who have a history of other breast conditions, such as an atypical hyperplasia of the breast, have a higher risk of breast cancer. Risk of breast cancer also increases as a person ages. When a woman begins her period before the age of 12 or begins menopause at an older age are at higher risk. Finally, if a woman has her first child at an older age or has never been pregnant, she is at a greater risk of developing breast cancer.
Symptoms of breast cancer vary from patient to patient. Common symptoms include changes in the size, shape, and appearance of the breast. Breast lumps or thickening that feels different from the rest of the breast may also occur. Other symptoms include newly inverted nipples, changes to the skin over the breast (i.e., dimpling), and redness of the skin over the breast.
There are many ways to prevent breast cancer or reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. Early screening, such as mammograms and self examination, are important to catch breast cancer at an early stage. Certain lifestyle choices may also reduce a person’s risk of developing breast cancer. Reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption, exercising at least 30 minutes per day on most days of the week, and maintaining a healthy weight all reduce a person’s risk. Healthy diets also reduce risk of developing breast cancer.
Breast cancer treatment ultimately depends on the type and stage of the cancer as well as a patient’s individual sensitivity to particular hormones and their age, health, and preferences. Treatment for breast cancer includes radiation therapy, surgery, chemotherapy, targeted drug therapy, and hormone therapy. Surgery options include lumpectomies (removal of the breast cancer tumor and some tissue around it), mastectomies (removing lobules, ducts, fatty tissue, nipple, areola, some skin, and sometimes, muscle from the chest and lymph nodes in the armpits), sentinel node biopsies, axillary lymph node dissections, and reconstruction (typically after one of the other surgeries).