Breast cancer is cancer that begins in the breast tissue. There are two main types :
Ductal carcinoma that begins in the tubes (ducts) that carry milk from the breast to the nipple. Most breast cancers are of this type.
Lobular carcinoma that begins in parts of the breast, called lobules, which produce milk.
Rarely , breast cancer may start in other areas of the breast.
Risk factors that cannot be changed include :
Age and sex. The risk of breast cancer increases as you get older. Most cases of advanced breast cancer are found in women over the age of 50. Men can also get breast cancer, but they are 100 times less likely than women to get breast cancer.
Family history. You have a higher risk for breast cancer if you have a close family member who has had breast cancer, as well as uterine , ovarian , or colon cancer.
Genes. The most common gene defects are found in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. These genes normally produce proteins that protect you from cancer. If a parent passes you a defective gene, you will have an increased risk of breast cancer. Women with one of these defects have up to an 80% chance of getting this cancer at some point in their lives.
Menstrual cycle. Women who started their menstrual periods early (before age 12) or reached menopause late (after age 55) have an increased risk of breast cancer.
Other risk factors include :
Alcohol consumption. Drinking more than 1 or 2 glasses of alcohol a day may increase the risk of this cancer.
Childbirth. Women who have never had children or who have had children after age 30 have a higher risk of breast cancer. Becoming pregnant more than once or at an early age reduces the risk of this type of cancer.
DES. Women who took diethylstilbestrol (DES) to prevent miscarriage may have an increased risk of breast cancer after age 40. This drug was given to women between the 1940s and 1960s.
Hormonal therapy. You have an increased risk of breast cancer if you have received estrogen hormone therapy for a few years or more.
Obesity. It has been associated with breast cancer, although this link has not been fully understood. Experts think that obese women produce more estrogen, which can stimulate the appearance of this cancer.
Radiation. If you had radiation therapy as a child or young adult to treat cancer in the chest area, you have a higher risk of developing breast cancer. The younger you were when you started radiation and the higher the dose, the greater the risk. This is especially true if radiation therapy was given during breast development.
Breast implants, use of antiperspirants, and wearing underwire bras do not increase the risk of breast cancer. There is also no evidence of a direct link between breast cancer and pesticides.
Early breast cancer usually does not cause symptoms, which is why regular breast exams are important. As the cancer grows, symptoms may include:
Breast lump or lump in the armpit, which becomes hard , has irregular edges, and is usually painless.
Change in the size, shape, or texture of the breasts or nipple. For example, you may have redness, holes, or puckering that looks like orange peel.
Nipple fluid. It may be bloody, clear to yellow or greenish, and look like pus.
In men, symptoms of breast cancer include breast lumpiness and breast pain and tenderness.
- Symptoms of advanced breast cancer may include the following:
- Bone pain
- Breast pain or discomfort
- Skin ulcers
- Swollen lymph nodes in the armpit (next to the breast with cancer)
- Weight loss