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Everything You Need to Know About Breast Cancer

By uds uds | January 4, 2019

Everything You Need to Know About Breast Cancer

Breast cancer forms in the cells of the breasts. It is the second-most-common cancer in women, after skin cancer. Though more common in women, it can also occur in men.

Breast tumors may be detected by mammography or felt as a lump in the breast area.

The most common types of breast cancer are ductal carcinoma in situ, invasive ductal carcinoma, and invasive lobular carcinoma.

In 2018, the number of new cases of female breast cancer was estimated at 266,000.

How Many Different Types of Breast Cancer Are There?

Breast cancer can start in the milk ducts, the lobules (milk-producing glands), or the tissue in between (glandular tissue). The term “invasive” or “infiltrating” describes breast cancer that has spread into the surrounding breast tissue, while “in situ” is reserved for cancer that has not spread.


Common Types of Breast Cancer

Invasive Breast Cancer

In Situ Breast Cancer

Less Common Types of Breast Cancer

What Is the Most Aggressive Kind of Breast Cancer?

Aggressive breast cancer is a term usually associated with metastatic cancer and cancer with poor prognosis. Therefore, the most dangerous types are invasive breast cancers that can spread to other parts of the body.

Inflammatory breast cancer is an extremely aggressive form of breast cancer. Due to lack of initial symptoms, it has typically spread to distant parts of the body by the time it is diagnosed, making it harder to treat successfully.


How Do I Tell If I Have Breast Cancer?

Breast Self-Exam

Self-examination is a convenient, no-cost tool that can be used regularly at any age to detect breast cancer at an early stage. It consists of looking at and feeling each breast for unusual changes such as size, shape, color, and lumps.

Breast Lumps and Breast Pain

Non-cancerous lumps or lumpy areas often appear in breasts, due to a variety of causes like hormonal changes. In some cases, however, lumps are the first sign of breast cancer.

A breast cancer lump is typically painless and usually feels hard and/or uneven to touch. Occasionally, they are tender, soft, and rounded.

If you notice a lump or other breast change that lasts more than a month, don’t hesitate to bring it to your doctor’s attention.

What Are the Most Common Signs of Breast Cancer?

The most common symptom of breast cancer is a new lump or mass.

Other possible symptoms include:

In the early stages, breast cancer may not cause symptoms, but abnormal areas show up on a screening mammogram. Different types of tests and tools exist for the screening, diagnosing, and monitoring of breast cancer.

Causes and Risk Factors

Researchers have identified hormonal, lifestyle, and environmental factors that may increase the risk of breast cancer. Having one or several risk factors does not necessarily mean you will develop breast cancer.

Risk factors associated with an increased risk of breast cancer include:

Breast Cancer Genetics

Up to 10% of all breast cancers are thought to be due to inherited abnormal genes. Women or men who inherit a mutation in any of the genes BRCA1 (breast cancer gene one), BRCA2 (breast cancer gene two), and PALB2 (partner and localizer of BRCA2) have a much higher-than-average risk of developing breast cancer


Screening and Genetic Testing

Breast cancer screening tests and procedures include:

Genetic testing is usually done on a blood or saliva sample and involves screening of the genes BRCA1, BRCA2, and PALB2 for abnormalities.


Treatment and Management Options

Depending on the type of breast cancer, how advanced it is, and your personal health, different treatment approaches may be considered.


The two main types to remove breast cancer are:

Breast cancer surgery carries a risk of adverse reactions such as pain, bleeding, infection, and arm swelling (lymphedema).

In addition to surgery, many women consider breast reconstruction, either with breast implants or their own tissue.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is often prescribed after breast cancer surgery or chemotherapy.

The two main types of radiation therapy are:

Side effects of radiation therapy may include fatigue, breast swelling, and skin changes in the treated area similar to a sunburn (e.g. redness, skin peeling, darkening of the skin).


Chemotherapy may be recommended before or after breast surgery, as well as for advanced breast cancer. Anti-cancer drugs are administered intravenously or orally.

The most common side effects of chemotherapy include hair loss, nail changes, mouth sores, loss of appetite, weight changes, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Hormone Therapy

Hormone therapy is most commonly used after breast surgery to reduce the risk of cancer recurrence. It may also be initiated before surgery or used to treat recurrent/metastasized breast cancer.

Hormone therapy utilizes drugs that either lower estrogen blood levels or stop estrogen from stimulating cancer cell growth.

Side effects may include hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, and vaginal dryness. More serious side effects include a risk of blood clots and bone thinning.

Targeted Therapy

Targeted therapy utilizes drugs which are designed to attack specific abnormalities within cancer cells. Targeted medications are used for advanced breast cancer or after surgery to reduce the risk of cancer recurrence. Though the side effects of targeted drugs are generally mild, heart damage, shortness of breath, leg swelling, and severe fatigue are more serious ones.


Breast Cancer Statistics & Survival Rates

The outlook for patients depends on the breast cancer stage and type. In general, survival rates are far better for patients with earlier stage cancers.

Between 2007 and 2013, the estimated 5-year relative survival rate for people diagnosed with breast cancer was:

Survival rates are not perfect predictors for individuals and are based on previous outcomes of large groups of people.


Breast Cancer Medications

Prescription Drugs Approved to Prevent Breast Cancer

Prescription Drugs Approved to Treat Breast Cancer

Medication Combinations Often Used to Fight Cancer

Drug combinations are widely used in treatment plans. However, not all are FDA-approved.

These are several known cancer drugs that are prescribed by physicians to be taken together:


Most Common Chemotherapy Drugs for Breast Cancer

Before and After Surgery

For Advanced Breast Cancer

How Long Can You Live After Being Diagnosed with Breast Cancer?

Each person’s outlook is affected by factors such as age, overall health, the type of cancer, treatment received, and how well cancer responds to said treatment.

To understand better your specific situation, speak with your oncologist.



The information contained in this article is compiled from a variety of sources and is not considered complete. A healthcare professional should be consulted before taking any drug, changing any diet, or commencing or discontinuing any course of treatment.

Always seek the advice of a physician or other licensed health care professional regarding any questions you have about your medical condition(s) and treatment(s).



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  2. Drugs Approved for Breast Cancer. Accessed 18 Nov 2018
  3. Breast Cancer Symptoms and Causes. Accessed 18 Nov 2018
  4. Arpino, Grazia et al. Features of aggressive breast cancer. The Breast, 24 (5):594 – 600,
  5. Li J, Xia Y, Wu Q, et al. Outcomes of patients with inflammatory breast cancer by hormone receptor- and HER2-defined molecular subtypes: A population-based study from the SEER program. Oncotarget. 2017;8(30):49370-49379.

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