Breast cancer occurs when cells in the breast grow out of control and form a tumor. Breast cancer almost always occurs in women, but occasionally is diagnosed in men.
Overview and Symptoms
Breast Cancer Symptoms
Breast cancer is usually discovered as a lump in the breast, although a lump in the breast can be caused by other benign breast conditions. Benign breast disease is much more common than breast cancer, but both cancerous and benign conditions may involve these symptoms:
- breast lumps and thickenings
- breast pain
- breast infections
- nipple discharge
- abnormal mammograms
Breast Cancer Diagnosis
Breast cancer diagnosis usually begins with imaging tests, such as mammogram, breast ultrasound, and/or MRI scans. If an abnormal breast lump or change is discovered, the affected breast tissue will be removed for biopsy. A biopsy is the only way to confirm for certain if it’s cancer.
Breast Cancer Risk Factors
We do not know why some people develop breast cancer. However, studies have found risk factors for the disease, including:
- Being a woman
- Having a strong family history in a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter)
- Inherited genetic mutation for breast cancer
- Early menarche (onset of menstruation)
- Late menopause (end of menstruation)
- Nulliparity (never giving birth)
- Giving birth for the first time over the age of 30
- Previous atypical breast biopsies, such as LCIS – lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) – or atypical hyperplasia. With LCIS, atypical (or abnormal) cells are present in the breast's milk-producing glands. These cells are a marker for breast cancer risk. Atypical hyperplasia is marked by abnormal cells in the milk ducts.
- Personal history of breast cancer – If you have had cancer in one breast, you have an increased risk of developing breast cancer in your other breast
- Radiation exposure – you received radiation therapy to your chest before you were 30 years old, you may be at increased risk of breast cancer later in life.
- Being overweight
- Alcohol use – the more alcohol you drink, the greater your risk of breast cancer
Every breast cancer is different and each case requires its own approach. Breast cancer can be treated with:
- Surgery, to remove tumors
- Radiation therapy, using high doses of radiation to kill cancer cells
- Chemotherapy and/or endocrine therapy, using drugs to target cancer cells
Many treatment plans involve a combination of these therapies. Appropriate and thorough treatment for breast cancer at an early stage reduces the risk of recurrence.
Your dedicated care team will advise you about options for local (focused on the breast) or systemic (addressing the entire body) treatment, based on several factors, including:
- the size of your tumor
- the tumor's pathological features
- the number of lymph nodes that may be involved
- your overall health
Learn MoreIf you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, our multidisciplinary team of experts is ready to care for you and your family/caregiver every step of the way.