Breast cancer is a type of cancer that is found in breast tissue. Breast cancer is most often found in the lobules that supply the milk ducts with milk, or in the lining of the milk ducts themselves. Breast cancers are named for their origin: ductal carcinomas are breast cancers found in the milk ducts, and lobular carcinomas are found in the breast lobules.
With the exception of skin cancers, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer experienced by women, and is a cancer with one of the highest mortality rates for women. It is estimated that a woman has a approximately a one in eight chance of developing breast cancer, or this depends on personal and lifestyle factors, and whether breast cancer is in the family. While breast cancer is most commonly found in females, it is possible for males to fall victim to breast cancer. It is estimated that approximately one percent of breast cancer patients are male.
While breast cancer deaths rates are quite high, they have been declining over the years. This is in part because of improved breast cancer treatment approaches, and also due to increased breast cancer awareness and improved breast cancer screenings. Government awareness programs have been put into place to help women become aware of the dangers of breast cancer, and to encourage them to regularly monitor themselves for signs of breast cancer.
Breast cancer most commonly presents itself as a lump in the breast. This lump usually feels harder and firmer than other breast tissue. When monitoring for breast cancer, women should not just monitor the breast itself, but also all the way into the armpit, as breast cancer may extend this far. Other signs of breast cancer include the fact that the breast may look or feel different. For example, the breast may change shape, or may shrink or grow larger. The skin may develop a dimpled effect, and the nipple might invert. In addition, some cancer patients may also experience nipple discharge or pain.
The prognosis for first stage cancers is generally excellent, but Stage 4 cancers, known as “metastatic” cancers, where the cancer has spread, tend to have quite a poor prognosis.
Like many types of cancer, breast cancer is most often treated with surgery to remove the cancerous growth, with follow-up treatments including radiation therapy or chemotherapy. These treatments may also include hormone blocking therapy. If the breast cancer returns, the treatments will become more aggressive in nature. The strength of the treatment will depend on how advanced the breast cancer is, and whether it is a first instance breast cancer or a returning cancer. Alternative therapies have also been used in the treatment of breast cancers, and may offer some resistance against breast cancer by helping to boost the immune system.