Breast cancer is cancer cells that start in the breast. The breast is made up of lobules and ducts. The lobules are surrounded by fat blood vessels, and lymph and connective tissue. Breast cancer can start and grow in all these areas. Some types of breast cancer are:
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Cancer happens when cells divide without control or order. These cells grow together to form a tumor. They can then invade and damage nearby tissues. Cancer can also spread to other parts of the body.
It is not clear what causes changes in the cells. It is likely a combination of genes and environment.
Breast cancer is most common in women over 40. Other things that may raise the risk are:
Some breast cancers have no symptoms. Others may eventually cause:
Breast cancer may be found during a mammogram screening.
Breast changes may also be found during a regular health visit. The doctor will ask about your symptoms and past health. A physical exam, breast exam, and blood tests will be done.
Images may show abnormal growth or changes in the breasts. Tests may include:
A biopsy of abnormal area will be done. A sample of tissue and nearby lymph nodes will be taken and tested for cancer cells. This can be done with:
Diagnosis is confirmed by the tests. Blood and other tissue tests may be done to look for more information about the type of cancer. The tests can show what type of receptors the cancer has. This is called the biomarker. The cancer is also given a grade to show how likely it is to grow and spread.
The test results, biomarkers, and grade will be used to determine the stage. The stage will help determine the treatment plan.
The goal is to remove the cancer and stop it from coming back or spreading. Treatment is based on the person's health and the stage and type of cancer. One or more treatments may be used.
Options may be:
Avoiding risk factors may help to decrease risk of cancer. The risk of breast cancer may be lowered by:
Women with a very high risk may benefit from hormone therapies or other treatments.
Canadian Breast Cancer Network
Canadian Cancer Society
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Last reviewed January 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP Last Updated: 3/25/2021