Breast Cancer

The third deadliest form of cancer in the US is breast cancer. It killed 206,983 people between 2003 and 2007. And while there have been much attention focused on the disease and improved treatments, the death toll for 2012 is expected to be around 40,000, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). This is far too high but we will discuss these details further and review some important facts.

Breast cancer primarily affects women since it most often begins in the tissues of the breast.  The two main kinds of breast cancer include ductal carcinoma which begins in the ducts which move milk from the breast to the nipple.  And the other primary type of breast cancer is lobular carcinoma which begins in the parts of the breast which produces milk.

Breast cancer can remain localized or it may spread to other tissues or organs.  Breast cancer is such a common disease in women that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer over their lifetimes.

The key risk factors for breast cancer include: following:

  • Age and gender – The disease can strike men but it is rare. And the risk factors increase for women as they age. Most of the advanced cases of breast cancer are found in women over 50.
  • A person’s family history can play a significant role
  • Defects in certain gene are a factor
  • And women who began to menstruate early in their lifetime or who went through menopause later in life (after age 55) have an increased risk.

In the early stages of breast cancer, there are very subtle or minimal symptoms.  But as the cancer grows, symptoms may include: following:

  • Lumps in the breast or armpit which may have uneven edges and which do not generally hurt
  • Changes in the size, shape and feel of the breast or nipple
  • Unusual fluid coming from the nipple

There are a number of diagnostic tests used to detect breast cancer.  The most common is a mammogram which is a type of x-ray.  A breast MRI may be used to identify breast lump or analyze an abnormal feature more fully.  A breast biopsy is often used to sample the tissue which is suspected to be cancerous.

If one of the tests indicates the presence of breast cancer, further tests will be ordered to better understand the extent of the cancer and whether it has spread to other organs.

There are a number of treatment options.  The specific one chosen will be based on the severity and size of the cancer.  But commonly chemotherapy is used to kill the cancer cells.  Radiation therapy may also be used to kill cancerous tissue.  And surgical procedures may be used to remove the cancerous tissue.  This can range from a portion of the breast to the entire breast and lymph glands depending on the severity.

There have been some impressive strides in the treatments for breast cancer.  Much attention on the disease has encouraged many women to get screened regularly and seek medical attention when there is evidence of a problem.

And treatments have gotten more sophisticated and effective.  One example is targeted therapy which uses special drugs to attack cells which show changes.

There are many other important and effective treatment options and you are encouraged to search for more details throughout the Internet.  However keep in mind that the best prospects for survival occur with early detection and treatment.

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