Breast Cancer

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.

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Risk Factors

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:

  • Start to menstruate at an early age (before 12)
  • Have a late menopause (after 55)
  • Have not had a child or have their first child after the age of 30
  • Have lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS), abnormal cells in the breast lobules that doctors can detect in the breast
  • Have had breast cancer before

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:

  • Practice monthly breast self-exam.
  • Have your health care provider perform a yearly breast examination.
  • Have a regularly scheduled mammogram.

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Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines:

The following are general guidelines suggested by the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute.

Beginning at age 18 Perform monthly breast self-exam (BSE)
Age 20-35 Monthly BSE + Have a health care professional check your breast every year.
Age 35-40 Monthly BSE + Breast exam by your health care provider yearly+ Have your first mammogram
Age 40-50 Monthly BSE + Breast exam by your health care provider yearly + Have a mammogram every year
Age 50+ Monthly BSE + Breast exam by your health care provided + Have a yearly mammogram

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Additional Information

Breast Self Exam
To Cancer Support Highlights
Breast Cancer Links

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