Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer, so it is not unusual for people to wonder just what is breast cancer. Very basically, breast cancer is a type of cancer that starts within the actual breast tissue.
Of course, there are other factors involved, and here are some of those details:
What is Breast Cancer – The Tumor
All cancers begin when a group of diseases affects cells that are already a part of the body. The cancer causes these formerly normal cells to change and grow at a very rapid rate, and soon they turn into a lump or mass that is called a tumor. Breast cancer is called breast cancer simply because the tumor begins in the breast.
A tumor found in the breast can be one of two things: benign or malignant. A benign tumor is non-cancerous and will not spread outside the breast. A malignant tumor is the cancerous type of mass. This type of tumor does have the ability to spread, or metastasize, from the breast to other parts of the body.
What is Breast Cancer – The Breast
The breast is made up of three major parts:
• lobules, the glands responsible for milk production
• ducts that carry the milk from the lobule to the nipple
• stroma, which is basically fatty tissue and connective tissue found inside the breast.
There are also blood vessels and lymphatic vessels within the breast. Most tumors start in the cells lining the ducts, and some cancers develop in the cells that line the lobules. Tumors can also begin in other breast tissues, but this is fairly uncommon.
What is Breast Cancer – The Lymphatic System
The breast contains lymphatic vessels, which are similar to veins except that they carry lymph fluid instead of blood away from the breast. The lymphatic vessels in the breast connect to the lymph nodes under the arms. This is important when dealing with breast cancer, because cancerous cells can be transported from the breast to the lymph nodes through the lymphatic vessels. If this happens, there is a greater chance that the cancer will spread to other body parts.
What is Breast Cancer – The Facts
• There are two main types of breast cancer: lobular carcinoma and ductal carcinoma.
• Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among American women.
• Breast cancer is the most common cancer that affects women.
• Although almost exclusively found in women, breast cancer can be found in men.
What is Breast Cancer – The Good News
The good news is that breast cancer is highly treatable, with great chances for survival when it is caught in the early stages. The best way to catch breast cancer early is by performing regular breast examinations and having an annual mammogram.