Carcinoma of the breast .
A malignant form of cancer that develops in breast tissue.
The most common type of breast cancer begins in the lining of the ducts and is called ductal carcinoma. Another type, called lobular carcinoma, arises in the lobules. For most types of breast cancer the cause is unknown.
Recently two genes, BRC1 and BRC2 have been implicated in a familial type of breast cancer. A number of other predisposing factors have been identified including obesity, early menarche, and delayed or absent child bearing. Breast cancer may occur in men as well as women, but is much more common in women. Statistics show that one in 8 or 9 American women will develop breast cancer at some point in life, based on full life expectancy.
The risk increases exponentially after age 30. The average age of women diagnosed with breast cancer is 60 years. In general, the rate of breast cancer is lower in underdeveloped countries and higher in more affluent countries (with the exception of Japan where the rate is quite low). In the U.S., whites (especially those of northern European descent) have a higher incidence compared to non-whites. However, the incidence in non-whites, specifically blacks, is increasing, particularly in women under age 60.
Other risk factors include having a family history of breast cancer, particularly in mother or siblings; a past medical history of breast cancer , ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, or colon cancer; early menarche (start of menstruation before age 12) and/or late menopause (after age 55); no pregnancies or a first Pregnancy after age 30; and radiation exposure. Post-menopausal estrogen therapy and oral contraceptive use (such as estrogens and progestin oral contraceptives) were considered possible risk factors, but the majority of recent studies do not confirm such risk.
Research suggests that a person’s diet may affect the chances of getting some types of cancer. Breast cancer appears to be more likely to develop in women whose diet is very high in fat. Older women who are overweight also seem to have a greater risk. Some scientists believe that a low-fat diet, eating well-balanced meals with plenty of fruits and vegetables, and maintaining ideal weight can lower a woman’s risk.
There are also studies that suggest a slightly higher risk of breast cancer among women who drink alcohol. The risk appears to go up with the amout of alcohol consumed., so women who drink should do so in moderation.
The possible link between diet and breast cancer is still under study.
Most of the associated risk factors cannot be controlled, therefore eliminating a means of primary prevention. However, secondary prevention, early detection, and appropriate treatment early in the disease process, may be promoted through routine breast self-exam beginning around age 20 and screening mammography after age 40. Additionally, current research studies are evaluating the effectiveness of the drug tamoxifen in preventing breast cancer in women with a family history of the disease. Currently, tamoxifen is used to treat people with breast cancer.
An examination by the health care provider can confirm the presence of breast changes noted by the patient. The doctor can tell a lot about a lump by carefully feeling (palpation) the lump and the tissue around it. Benign lumps often feel different from cancerous ones.
Needle biopsy removes cells directly from the mass for evaluation (can be done in conjunction with the needle aspiration procedure). The material removed will be sent to a lab.
Stages of Breast Cancer (from the American Joint Committee on Cancer):
This disease may also alter the results of the following tests:
The choice of initial treatment is based upon the extent and aggressiveness of the disease. Currently breast cancer is viewed as a systemic disease that requires both local and systemic treatment.
Most women receive a combination of treatments including surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and/or hormonal therapy. Current recommendations for potentially curable breast cancer usually suggest that the best primary treatment is partial mastectomy plus axillary dissection and radiation therapy.
Chemotherapy may be used as additional, systemic treatment in patients with curable breast cancer. Hormonal adjunctive therapy includes the use of antiestrogen drugs (such as tamoxifen), which may be prescribed for individuals found to have estrogen-dependent cancers.
Lumpectomy (surgical removal of the lump) with radiation may be considered for individuals with stage 1 disease. However, axillary dissection is still recommended with the surgery.
The stress of illness can often be helped by joining a support group where members share common experiences and problems.
The clinical stage of breast cancer is the best indicator for prognosis (probable outcome). Five-year survival rates for individuals with breast cancer who receive appropriate treatment are approximately:
When the axillary lymph nodes are involved, the survival rate drops to approximately 40 to 50% at 5 years and probably less than 25% at 10 years.
Even with aggressive and appropriate treatments, breast cancer often metastasizes to distant sites such as the lungs, liver, and bones. The local recurrence rate is about 5% after total mastectomy and axillary dissection when the nodes are found not to be involved. The local recurrence rate is 25% in those with similar treatment found to have nodal involvement.
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if:
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