Breast cancer is a malignant tumour that develops in the cells of the breasts. These cells may form a tumor that can be detected on an x-ray or found as a lump. These may start as small lumps but may grow overtime and begin to invade nearby tissues and organs.
Breast cancer can occur in both men and women but these are more common in women. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is the most common cancer among women in the United States. According to some other statistics, it is the second most common cancer in women in the US after skin cancer.
This article is focused on breast cancer in women. For breast cancer in men, please read the article here: Breast Cancer in Men.
Recently, survival rates for patients with breast cancer have increased significantly mainly due to increased awareness, research funding, and advanced diagnostic techniques that help in early screening and detection of cancers. Consequently, the number of deaths has steadily been declining over the last decade.
How Does Breast Cancer Spread?
Breast cancers can start from different parts of the breast. Sometimes, they begin in the ducts that carry milk to the nipple (called as ductal cancers). Some cancers start in the glands that produce milk (lobular cancers). Some other types of breast cancer also exist but they are relatively less common. For example, a small number of cancer cases start in other tissues of the breast and are called as sarcomas and lymphomas. These are though not generally considered as breast cancers.
Not all breast lumps are cancers. Some of them are benign. Benign tumors or lumps are abnormal growths. But they do not spread beyond the breast and are not life threatening. However, some benign lumps may put a woman at high risk of developing a cancer.
Breast cancer spreads when the cancer cells are carried into your blood or lymph system and are to other parts of the body from the blood or lymph system. The lymph system is a network of vessels distributed throughout the body. Lymph vessels carry fluid and connect various lymph nodes. There is a high chance that the cancer cells may have been carried to various body parts through the lymph system if the cancer cells have already spread to your lymph nodes. This is called metastatic cancer.
Prevalence of Breast Cancer
More than 232,000 American women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year. About 40,000 American women die because of it every year. It is the second leading cause of cancer deaths after lung cancer in American women. It is not known clearly why some women get breast cancer, but others do not get. There are though many risk factors but one cannot guarantee a person not getting breast cancer if he or she is not at high risk.
It is important to keep aware about the breast cancer and examine your breasts regularly so you can identify any changes as soon as possible. This will make it much easier to identify potential problems. You should meet your doctor if you notice any of the symptoms or warning signs. The first warning sign of breast cancer is often a breast lump and can be identified through a mammogram.