About Breast Cancer
What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer occurs when cells in breast tissue begin to grow out of control.
Under normal circumstances, cells that wear out replace themselves with an exact replica. When a group of mildly incorrect cells grows slowly and stays contained, it forms a benign tumor. Benign tumors are not dangerous.
However, when the damaged cells are growing quickly and out of control, they form a malignant tumor-breast cancer
Breast cancer begins in the cells of the lobules, which are milk-producing glands or in the milk ducts, which carry milk from the lobules to the nipple.
Read an article from our health library about breast cancer.
How common is breast cancer?
In the United States, breast cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in women. An American woman has a one in eight chance of developing breast cancer over her lifetime. This risk changes based on factors like age, ethnicity, genetic makeup, environment, lifestyle, reproductive history and family history.
Breast cancer also occurs in men, but it is a rare occurrence. Fewer than one percent of the cases of breast cancer diagnosed annually appear in men.
Who is at risk for breast cancer?
Women who have certain inherited genetic mutations (BRCA1 or BRCA 2 mutations) are at much greater risk for developing breast cancer. These genes have been isolated, and there are blood tests to see if you carry those genes. However, even if you are a gene carrier, it does not mean with certainty that you will develop breast cancer.
Most women who develop breast cancer (85 percent) do not have a gene mutation. Other factors, such as the environment, ethnicity and family history play a bigger part in the development of breast cancer.
The overwhelming majority of breast cancer cases are due simply to aging and the natural breakdown of cells over time.
What are breast cancer screenings?
Breast cancer caught in its earliest stages has a better chance of being successfully treated. Breast cancer screenings can be performed in three ways:
- Breast self-examination (BSE) can begin for women in their 20s. BSE is a tool for women to discover lumps in their breast or changes in their appearance between visits to a health care professional. Read an article about how to perform a breast self-exam from our health library.
- Clinical breast examination (CBE), done by a medical professional at a regular appointment, is recommended at least once every three years for women in their 20s and 30s and yearly for women in their 40s. A CBE is a physical examination (by look and by feel) of the breasts and a discussion of any changes.
- Mammograms are recommended on a yearly basis for women starting from age 40. A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast. Women at higher risk for breast cancer due to their family history or other factors might benefit from mammograms beginning at an earlier age.
If you find a breast lump
If you find a breast lump during a BSE, please know that 85 percent of breast lumps are non-cancerous. Please make an appointment to meet with one of our physicians. He or she will recommend imaging studies (like mammograms or a breast ultrasound), and if necessary, a breast biopsy will be recommended.
To make an appointment, or find out more about The Breast Center, please call 443-777-6500.