Breast cancer is a very common type of cancer that occurs in both men and women, though it is more common with women. Breast cancer effects the tissues of your breast with most symptoms relating to a different in breast tissue, such as feeling odd nodes or hard lumps in the breast. Breast cancer is the leading cause of death for women and the most common type of cancer that women get. The two types of breast cancer include ductal carcinoma which affects the ducts going from your breast to the nipple and lobular carcinoma affecting the part of your breast that produces milk. Women are also at risk for a third type of breast cancer called HER2-positive breast cancer which causes cancerous cells to grow rapidly.
Causes and Risk Factors
The cause of breast cancer, as with most types of cancer, is currently unknown. Some people to tend to have risk factors that raise the likelihood of getting breast cancer. Being female is the highest risk factor since about 1 in every 8 women will get breast cancer in her lifetime. Women over the age of 50 are at an even higher risk of developing breast cancer. Women (or men) with a history of breast cancer in their family are also at a high risk for this type of cancer. The BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene defects are also risk factors for breast cancer. Breast cancer tends to be more common among women who got their period early, usually before 12 years old and went through menopause at an older age of over 55. Other risks that are less known are childbirth for the first time after age 30 and drinking alcohol excessively.
Symptoms of Breast Cancer
The first and most obvious symptom of breast cancer is finding a lump or hard node in the armpit area. It usually feels hard to the touch but isn’t painful. You may also find green or yellow fluid coming from your nipple or a sudden change in the size or shape of your breasts or nipples. Other symptoms include sudden weight loss, swelling in your arm, skin ulcers, breast pain and bone pain.
Diagnosing Breast Cancer
While there are symptoms of breast cancer, it is often overlooked until it gets in the advanced stages. This is why women over 50 should get regular exams once a year, including mammograms. A mammogram will be able to locate irregularities, including a possibility for breast cancer. Breast cancer caught in the early stages have a higher chance of recovery. Additional diagnostic tests for breast cancer include a breast ultrasound, breast MRI, lymph node biopsy, biopsy of the lump and a PET scan.
Treating Breast Cancer
The stage of cancer will determine what treatment is best, but the treatment for breast cancer usually includes chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery to remove the cancerous tissue.