The breast is a collection of glands and fatty tissues that lies between the skin and the chest wall. After skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women in the United States.
At times, the cells in the breast grow out of control and attack the nearby tissues. Without any check, this growth spreads throughout the body and becomes breast cancer. These out-of-control tissues are called tumors. Some of the tumors are harmless, as they cannot spread and threaten one’s life. So they are called benign tumors. The other harmful tumors are called malignant tumors.
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Any type of tissue in the breast can form cancer but it either comes from the ducts or the glands. It takes months or years for a tumor to get large enough to feel in the breast. Screening of the breast to check for tumors is called mammograms.
Women in North America and Europe are prone to get affected by breast cancer. In fact, every woman is at risk. Statistics prove the breast cancer in American women is the second largest and the first largest is lung cancer.
Some of the factors, which influence breast cancer are being a woman growing older, having a family history of breast cancer, or previous history of cancer and radiation therapy to the chest region, initiation of periods when still young, i.e., below 12 years of age, and starting menopause quite late after the 50s, never having children, or having children late after 30s. Hormone Replacement Therapy in some cases can also lead to cancer. Overweight or alcoholic women are prone to get cancer.
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Proper screening and early detection are the best methods in which most cancer can be treated. Regular check-ups with the physicians, and learn to perform breast self-exam is also a natural way to check for breast cancer. X-ray of the breast is called a mammogram. The breast is placed between two plates for some seconds and the x-ray is taken. If something appears abnormal or you experience breast cancer symptoms, then a better-angled film can be taken with the magnified view.
Breast Cancer Awareness
October is celebrated as the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month throughout the world. A health campaign is organized every October to increase awareness of the disease and to raise funds for treatment and research.
Every woman after the age of 40 should take a mammogram every year. Every month, one should check your breast on your own. About 15% of the tumors can be felt but cannot be seen on the regular mammography screen. Women above 20 and below 39 should go for a check-up at least once in three years. Once you detect signs of breast cancer, a diagnostic mammogram or ultrasound can be done, and then a biopsy can be sent for checking.
Breast Cancer Stages
There are four stages. In stage one, the tumor is less than 2cms. In the second stage, it is more than 2 cms but less than 5cms. In stage three, it is more than 5 cms and spread up to the lymph nodes. In stage four, it spreads outside the breast and inside the other parts of the body.
Depending upon the stages of breast cancer, doctors will decide if the treatment would be surgery, or chemotherapy, radiotherapy, hormonal therapy, and biologic therapy. Once the patient has undergone this treatment, follow-up testing is very important.