Breast tissue contains fat and connective tissue, lymph nodes, and blood vessels. Breast cancer is a cancer that develops from breast tissues. Breast cancer most commonly develops in cells from the lining of milk ducts and the lobules that supply the ducts with milk.
Risk factors for developing breast cancer include obesity, lack of physical exercise, drinking alcohol, hormone replacement therapy during menopause, ionizing radiation, early age at first menstruation, having children late or not at all, older age, and family history.
Breast Cancer Symptoms
- New lumps or thickening in breast tissue or under the arms.
- Uncomfortable or painful nipples, nipple discharge or changes in size or configuration.
- Irritations or puckerings in the skin, dimples, scales, or new creases.
- Swollen or red breasts and/or rashes similar to the skin of an orange.
- Pain anywhere in the breast.
Possible Breast Cancer Diagnostic Studies
- Regular mammography visits should be scheduled.
- Chest x-rays may detect metastases spreading from breast to lung.
- Bone scans may detect metastases in the bones.
- Computed tomography (CT or CAT) scans may detect tumors.
- Positron-emission tomography (PET) scans may detect cancer that has spread.
Breast Cancer Therapies
- Adjuvant therapy is in addition to the primary treatment such as surgery and includes radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormonal therapies, and targeted therapies designed to eliminate any remaining cancer cells in the body.
- Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy x-ray designed to destroy any remaining cancer cells after a lumpectomy, partial mastectomy, and sometimes a full mastectomy.
- Chemotherapy refers to drugs that travel through the bloodstream and destroy cancer cells. May be administered orally or intravenously and is typically given in cycles.
- Hormonal therapy is used to manage tumors that test positive for estrogen or progesterone receptors. Blocking these hormones usually limits the growth the growth of the tumor.
- Targeted therapy consists of several new promising drugs that stop the action of abnormal proteins that cause cells to grow and divide.