BREAST CANCER FACTS
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women and is second only to lung cancer as the leading cause of cancer deaths among women in the United States. It affects one of every eight American women.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 192,370 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, and the number of new cases has declined over the past decade. More than 40,000 women lose their lives to this disease annually.
Men can develop breast cancer, but it happens much less often than in women. Nearly 2,000 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year.
Breast Cancer Types
There are two main types of breast cancer. Breast tumors may have a single type of cancer, a combination of types, or a mixture of invasive and noninvasive (in situ) cancer.
Less common types of breast cancer
Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is a rare, aggressive form of breast cancer that affects the dermal lymphatic system. Rather than forming a lump, IBC tumors grow in flat sheets that cannot be felt in a breast exam.
Triple-negative breast cancer is usually an invasive ductal carcinoma with cells that lack estrogen and progesterone receptors and do not have an excess of HER2 protein on their surfaces. These types of breast cancers tend to spread more quickly and do not respond to hormone therapy or drugs that target HER2.
Recurrent breast cancer is cancer that has returned after being undetected for a time. It can occur in the remaining breast tissue or at other sites such as the lungs, liver, bones or brain. Even though these tumors are in new locations, they still are called breast cancer.
Breast Cancer Risk Factors
If you have any of the risk factors listed below, talk to your doctor about getting these tests more often and adding more tests, including breast MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and genetic testing.
Anything that increases your chance of getting breast cancer is a risk factor.
Other breast cancer risk factors include:
Not everyone with risk factors gets breast cancer. However, if you have risk factors, it’s a good idea to discuss them with your doctor.
BREAST CANCER SYMPTOMS
Breast cancer symptoms vary from person to person. The best thing to do is to be familiar with your breasts so you know how “normal” feels and looks. If you notice any changes, tell your doctor. However, many breast cancers are found by mammograms before any symptoms appear.
Breast cancer symptoms may include:
These symptoms do not always mean you have breast cancer. However, it is important to discuss any symptoms with your doctor, since they may also signal other health problems.
BREAST CANCER DIAGNOSIS
If you have symptoms that may signal breast cancer, your doctor will examine you and ask you questions about your health, your lifestyle, including smoking and drinking habits, and your family history. One or more of the following tests may be used to find out if you have breast cancer and if it has spread.
Biopsy: A small sample of the suspicious area of the breast is removed for examination under a microscope. Biopsies for breast cancer may be done in one of the following ways:
Surgical biopsy: An incision (small cut) is made in the breast. Surgeons find the tumor by touch or with a CT (or CAT, computed axial tomography) scan, ultrasound or mammogram. In an excisional biopsy, the entire mass is removed. In an incisional biopsy, part of the tumor is removed.
Fine needle aspiration (FNA): A thin, hollow needle is inserted into the breast. Fluid and cells are removed from the tumor and looked at with a microscope. While this test can help to determine if breast cancer is present, it cannot determine if the cancer is invasive. Additional biopsies may be needed if breast cancer is found.
Core biopsy: A thicker needle is used to remove one or more small cylinder-shaped tissue samples from the tumor.
Sentinel lymph node biopsy: Lymph nodes are olive-sized glands that are part of the lymphatic system that circulates lymph fluid throughout the body. The lymphatic system also can carry cancer cells from the tumor site to other areas of the body. In breast cancer, the first nodes to be affected are under the arms.
In a sentinel lymph node biopsy, a radioactive blue dye is injected into the area before surgery. The dye shows up in cancerous lymph nodes. The node with the highest amount of blue dye is the “sentinel” node. The surgeon removes all nodes with blue dye.
Sentinel node biopsy can spare healthy lymph nodes, which results in fewer side effects such as lymphedema.
Imaging tests, which may include:
BREAST CANCER STAGING
Staging is a way of determining how much disease is in the body and where it has spread. This information is important because it helps your doctor decide the best type of treatment for you and the outlook for your recovery (prognosis).
BREAST CANCER STAGES
Stage 0 (carcinoma in situ): Cancer has not spread from the site of origin. There are two types of breast carcinoma in situ:
Stage IA: The breast tumor is no more than 2 centimeters (no more than 3/4 of an inch) across. Cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes.
Stage IB: The tumor is no more than 2 centimeters across. Cancer cells are found in lymph nodes.
Stage IIIA: Breast cancer is found in axillary lymph nodes that are attached to each other or to other structures. Cancer may be found in lymph nodes near the breastbone; or
Stage IIIB: The tumor may be any size and breast cancer:
Stage IIIC: The breast cancer can be any size, and:
Stage IV: The tumor can be any size, and cancer has spread to other organs of the body, most often to the bones, lungs, liver or brain.
The treatment for breast cancer depends on the type and stage of cancer. In general, breast cancer treatments may include:
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