In cancer of the breast malignant cells are found in the breast tissues. While breast cancer can occur in men, such occurances are rare. However, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, the second leading cause of cancer death for all women (after lung cancer), and the leading cause of death in women between the ages of 40 and 55.
If detected early, breast cancer can be treated effectively. In fact, about two million breast cancer survivors are alive in America today.
The most common form of breast cancer is that of the ducts. Breasts have 15 to 20 sections called lobes. Each lobe has many smaller sections called lobules. The ducts, tiny tubes that conduct fluids, connect the lobes and lobules.
Lobular cancer is that which begins in the lobes or lobules. It is more frequently found in both breasts than other kinds of breast cancer.
Inflammatory breast cancer is much less common than duct or lobular breast cancer. In this manifestation the breast is warm, swollen, and reddish in color.
Approximately 5% to 10% of all breast cancer cases are thought to be caused by hereditaty factors. Therefore women who have relatives with breast cancer may be at greater risk of developing the disease. Tests are being developed to determine who may be genetically predisposed to the development of cancer so that preventative action can be taken before any cancer appears.
Risk increases as women age. The majority of breast cancer cases occur in women over 50. However, younger women can also get breast cancer.
Research findings also suggest a link between hormonal contraceptive use and a slightly increased risk of developing breast cancer.
Some risk factors are related to a woman's personal history. Risk of developing breast cancer is greater for women who:
However, every woman is at risk for breast cancer. Over 70 percent of cases occur in women who have no identifiable risk factors.
If detected early (when the cancer is localized to the breast) five year survival statistics are very good, therefore it is important to:
Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines:
The following are general guidelines suggested by the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute.