Breast cancer is a disease wherein cells in the breast become abnormal and grow out of control. Both men and women can develop breast cancer and it is the most common form of cancer affecting women. Men account for 1% of breast cancers in the United States.
There are several kinds of breast cancer. The kind depends on which cells in the breast develop into cancer.
The most common kinds are invasive ductal carcinoma and invasive lobular carcinoma. Less common forms include inflammatory, mucinous, and medullary breast cancer and Paget’s Disease.
Breast cancer can also spread to other parts of the body via blood and lymph vessels. The spread of cancer is called metastasis.
How Does Breast Cancer Start?
Breast cancer can start in various parts of the breast. A breast is comprised of three main parts:
- lobules – milk-producing glands
- ducts – which carry milk from the lobules to the nipple
- connective tissue – fibrous and fatty tissue which holds everything together
Breast cancers most often begin in the lobules or ducts. It starts when some cells start to grow abnormally. They multiply more rapidly than healthy cells and form a mass or lump. Why this occurs in some people and not in others is not entirely known.
For instance, the factors which increase breast cancer risk are well-established yet some with no known risks get breast cancer while persons with multiple risk factors do not. Clearly, there remains much to be learned about this form of cancer.
What is Usually the First Sign of Breast Cancer?
The most common initial sign of breast cancer is a lump or thickening of the tissue in a breast. Sometimes the lump is benign, sometimes cancerous. Any lump should be taken seriously and checked by a physician.
Other common signs of breast cancer include:
- Change in the size or shape of a breast
- Change in appearance
- Dimpling of the skin
- A newly inverted nipple
- Redness of the skin on the breast
- Flaking, peeling, or crusting of the skin over the areola or surrounding breast skin
What Causes Breast Cancer in Women?
Although the exact causes remain unknown, there are certain factors which are known to increase the risk of a woman developing breast cancer. For instance, as with most cancers, cigarette smoking increases the risk.
Lesser known, but just as serious a risk is consumption of alcohol – in fact, women who consume more than three alcoholic drinks per week have a 15% increased chance of breast cancer compared to those who do not drink. Some research indicates that the risk increases by 10% for each additional drink per day consumed.
Of course, the biggest risk factor of all cannot be avoided, at least not by women. Although a small number of men develop the disease, it continues to mainly occur in females.
To read a more complete list of risk factors, see October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Does Wearing a Bra Cause Breast Cancer?
No one really knows how this rumor started, but this is a rumor. The belief that wearing a bra causes breast cancer appears to be tied to the notion that the underwire in many bra designs blocks the lymph vessels.
As the theory goes, this prevents proper drainage of lymph fluids and causes cancer. Although only one study has been conducted, it found no evidence to support this idea.
Can You Survive Breast Cancer?
Yes. Although breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women, it is very survivable. One key to survival is early detection. Doing those self-examinations, getting a regular mammogram (especially if over the age of 50), and paying attention to any changes to your breasts are all important steps to protecting your life. If you notice any changes, discuss them with your Kymera Primary Care Provider right away.
Kymera Independent Physicians and Breast Cancer
Since 1998, Kymera has been treating breast and other cancers in SENM. We not only treat, but also conduct independent and collaborative research into breast cancer. Our mission is not only to provide the finest cancer treatments possible for our neighbors in Roswell, Artesia, Hobbs, and Carlsbad, but to help end cancer completely.
This is why we encourage people to pay attention to the signs and symptoms, to get regular screenings, and to not act as if it is “just a small lump.” If you have a lump, know someone who does, or simply want to arrange regular cancer screenings, please contact us today.