Breast cancer starts when cells in the breast begin to grow out of control.
- These cells usually form a tumor that can often be seen on an x-ray or felt as a lump. The tumor is malignant (cancer) if the cells can grow into (invade) surrounding tissues or spread (metastasize) to distant areas of the body.
- Breast cancer occurs almost entirely in women, but men can get breast cancer, too.
- Cells in nearly any part of the body can become cancer and can spread to other areas. To learn more about cancer and how all cancers start and spread, see Cancer Basics.
Symptoms of Breast Cancer
- The first symptoms of breast cancer are usually an area of thickened tissue in the breast, or a lump in the breast or in an armpit.
- a pain in the armpits or breast that does not change with the monthly cycle
- pitting or redness of the skin of the breast, like the skin of an orange
- a rash around or on one of the nipples
- a discharge from a nipple, possibly containing blood
- a sunken or inverted nipple
- a change in the size or shape of the breast
- peeling, flaking, or scaling of the skin on the breast or nipple
Causes of Breast Cancer
- After puberty, a woman's breast consists of fat, connective tissue, and thousands of lobules, tiny glands that produce milk for breast-feeding.
- Tiny tubes, or ducts, carry the milk toward the nipple.
- In cancer, the body's cells multiply uncontrollably. It is the excessive cell growth that causes cancer.
- Breast cancer usually starts in the inner lining of milk ducts or the lobules that supply them with milk. From there, it can spread to other parts of the body.
Treatments of Breast Cancer
Planning Your Treatment
- What types of treatment are available, the most likely sequence of treatments, treatment options by cancer stage, and fitting treatment into your schedule.
Getting a Second Opinion
- Reasons for getting a second opinion about your treatment plan, how to go about getting one, and what to do once you’ve got it.
- Breast-conserving surgery (lumpectomy), mastectomy, and lymph node dissection, and what to expect from each. Also included: Prophylactic surgery and breast reconstruction.
- How chemotherapy works, who should get it, different types and combinations, and side effects and how to manage them.
- How radiation therapy works, who it's for, advantages, side effects, and what to expect when you get it.
- The link between hormones and breast cancer and how different groups of drugs — including ERDs, SERMs, and aromatase inhibitors — can affect that link. Also covered: Side effects of hormonal therapies.
- How different drugs work, who should get them, how they're given, side effects, and major studies.
- What is immunotherapy, different types of immunotherapy, and who it's for.
Complementary and Holistic Medicine
- How complementary medicine techniques such as acupuncture, meditation, and yoga could be a helpful addition to your regular medical treatment. Includes research on complementary techniques and ways to find qualified practitioners.
Drugs for Treatment and Risk Reduction
- A reference list of drugs used to treat and reduce the risk of breast cancer, including how they work, to whom they are typically given, and side effects.
Treatments for Pain
- Ways to treat cancer- and treatment-related pain, including types of medications and tips on talking to your doctors about pain.