Breast cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the cells of the breast. Breast cancer can begin in different parts of the breast, though most cases are ductal cancers—wherein malignant cells form in the ducts that are responsible for carrying milk to the nipples. Lobular cancers are breast cancers that originate in the glands that produce milk. If cancerous cells reach the bloodstream or lymphatic system, breast cancer can metastasize to other parts of the body. Breast cancer occurs chiefly in women, but men can be diagnosed, as well. The likelihood of a breast cancer diagnosis increases with age.
Signs and symptoms may include one or more of the following:
- Change in size or shape of the breast
- Change in texture or redness of skin around the breast
- Detection of a lump in the breast or lymph nodes
- Nipple tenderness, discharge, or retraction
- Swollen breast or lymph nodes
The exact underlying cause or causes of breast cancer are unknown. There is a significant correlation with a family history or breast or ovarian cancer, mutations in BRCA1 or BRCA2, and hormone replacement therapy. Other factors that may increase the risk of breast cancer include age, obesity, poor diet, heavy smoking and alcohol use, and exposure to radiation. The stages of breast cancer (0, IA/B, IIA/B, IIIA/B/C, IV) indicate if the cancer cells have spread locally or distantly from the original tumor. As in most cases, if detected early, chances for recovery increase immensely. Treatment for breast cancer will vary depending on the stage and the age and overall general health of the patient.
Treatment options for breast cancer may include one or more of the following:
- Hormone therapy
- Targeted therapy
- Radiation therapy