About Breast Cancer
Cells in the body normally divide (reproduce) only when new cells are needed. Sometimes, cells in a part of the body grow and divide out of control, which creates a mass of tissue called a tumor. If the cells that are growing out of control are more normal cells, the tumor is called benign (not cancerous). If, however, the cells that are growing out of control are abnormal, don’t function like the body’s normal cells, and begin to invade other tissue, the tumor is called malignant (cancerous).
Cancers typically are named after the part of the body from which they originate. Breast cancer originates in the breast tissue. Like other cancers, breast cancer can invade and grow into the tissue surrounding the breast. It can also travel to other parts of the body and form new tumors, a process called metastasis.
What Causes Breast Cancer?
We do not know what causes breast cancer, although we do know that certain risk factors may put you at higher risk of developing it. A person’s age, genetic factors, personal health history and diet all contribute to breast cancer risk.
Who Gets Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is the most common cancer that women may face in their lifetime (except for skin cancer). Today, about one in eight women (12.4%) will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2018, about 266,120 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer and about 40,920 will die from the disease. It’s also estimated about 2,550 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in men in 2018. A man’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is about 1 in 1,000.
Only 5-10% of breast cancers occur in women with a clearly defined genetic predisposition for the disease. The majority of breast cancer cases are “sporadic,” meaning there is no direct family history of the disease. The risk for developing breast cancer increases as a woman ages.
What Are the Symptoms of Breast Cancer?
The symptoms of breast cancer include:
- Lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm that persists through the menstrual cycle.
- A mass or lump, which may feel as small as a pea.
- A change in the size, shape, or contour of the breast.
- A blood-tinged or clear fluid discharge from the nipple.
- A change in the feel or appearance of the skin on the breast or nipple (dimpled, puckered, scaly or inflamed).
- Redness of the skin on the breast or nipple.
- A change in shape or position of the nipple.
- An area that is distinctly different from any other area on either breast.
- A marble-like, hardened area under the skin.
If you or a close blood relative (parent, child, brother/sister, aunt/uncle or grandparent) has a history of any of the following, or if there already has been genetic testing in your family and there is a known gene mutation, please ask your doctor about referring you for an appointment for genetic counseling.
- You were diagnosed with breast cancer under age 50
- You have had triple-negative breast cancer (ER/PR/Her2Neu negative)
- You have had two different breast cancers at any age
- You were diagnosed with breast cancer at any age AND you have …
- One relative with breast cancer before age 50 OR
- Ovarian cancer at any age, OR
- Two relatives on the same side of the family with breast cancer or pancreatic cancer at any age
- You or a very close relative had male breast cancer at any age
- You have never had breast cancer, but you have multiple relatives on the same side of the family with breast, ovarian and/or pancreatic cancer