Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer Summary
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women and the second most common cause of cancer death in women in the U.S. Symptoms include a lump in the breast or underarm area, nipple pain, change in breast size or shape, an inverted nipple, nipple discharge, and breast skin changes. Treatment may involve chemotherapy, radiation therapy, biological therapy, hormone therapy, or surgery.
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"Your mammogram is suspicious for breast cancer." "Your biopsy was positive for breast cancer." These are among the most terrifying words a woman can hear from her doctor. Breast cancer elicits so many fears, including those relating to death, surgery, loss of body image, and loss of sexuality. Managing these fears can be facilitated by information and knowledge so that each woman can make the best decisions concerning her care. Optimally, these issues are best discussed with the patient's doctor on an individual basis. What follows is a review of information on breast cancer intended to aid patients and their families in their navigation through the vast ocean of breast cancer information and issues. Although breast cancer can occur in men as well as in women, this article is specifically about breast cancer in women.

Breast cancer facts

  • Breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women.
  • One in every eight women in the United States develops breast cancer.
  • There are many types of breast cancer that differ in their capability of spreading (metastasizing) to other body tissues.
  • The causes of breast cancer are not yet fully known although a number of risk factors have been identified.
  • There are many different types of breast cancer.
  • Breast cancer is diagnosed with physician and self-examination of the breasts, mammography, ultrasound testing, and biopsy.
  • Treatment of breast cancer depends on the type of cancer and its stage (the extent of spread in the body).

According to the American Cancer society:

  • Over 230,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer are diagnosed each year.
  • Nearly 40,000 women are expected to die of breast cancer in 2013.
  • There are over 2.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.
  • The recommendations regarding frequency and age when women should get screening mammography differ slightly between different organizations and task forces.
  • Between 40 and 50 years of age, mammograms are recommended every 1 to 2 years (National Cancer Institute). After 50 years of age, yearly mammograms are recommended (American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and U.S. Preventive Services Task Force).
  • You should discuss with your health care professional the screening frequency that he or she recommends and what guidelines they follow.
  • Patients with a family history or specific risk factors might have a different screening schedule including starting screening mammograms at an earlier age.

What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer is a malignant tumor (a collection of cancer cells) arising from the cells of the breast. Although breast cancer predominantly occurs in women it can also affect men. This article deals with breast cancer in women.

Picture of the anatomy of the breast
Picture of the anatomy of the breast
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/25/2013

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Breast cancer in women

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

About 1 in every 8 women in the United States will develop breast cancer. The exact cause of breast cancer is not known and most likely involves many factors, including genetic, environmental, nutritional and hormonal.

Go to the following MedicineNet.com articles to get the facts:

  • Breast Cancer Center
  • Breast Cancer Questions to Ask Your Doctor
  • Doctor's View: Families with Breast Cancer
  • Doctor's View: Hormone Replacement Therapy in Survivors of Breast Cancer
  • Breast Cancer Prevention

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