Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women, after skin cancer. One in eight women develops breast cancer in her lifetime. It is also the second leading cause of cancer death in women after lung cancer. Encouragingly, the death rate from breast cancer has declined a bit in recent years, perhaps due to greater awareness and screening for this type of cancer, as well as better treatments.
Breast cancer is a disease that occurs when cells in breast tissue change (or mutate) and keep reproducing. These abnormal cells usually cluster together to form a tumor. A tumor is cancerous (or malignant) when these abnormal cells invade other parts of the breast or when they spread (or metastasize) to other areas of the body through the bloodstream or lymphatic system, a network of vessels and nodes in the body that plays a role in fighting infection.
- Breast cancer symptoms and signs include
- a lump in the breast or armpit,
- bloody nipple discharge,
- inverted nipple,
- orange-peel texture or dimpling of the breast’s skin,
- breast pain or sore nipple,
- swollen lymph nodes in the neck or armpit, and
- a change in the size or shape of the breast or nipple.
- Breast cancer is diagnosed during a physical exam, by self-examination of the breasts, mammography, ultrasound testing, and biopsy.
- Treatment of breast cancer depends on the type of cancer and its stage (0-IV) and may involve surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy.