Breast Cancer: Definition, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment


What is Breast Cancer?

It is a malignant tumor (uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells) that starts in the breast and can spread to other areas of the body. Breast cancer almost always occurs in women, but there are cases in men as well.

Read more: Lung Cancer

What are some of the symptoms?

* A lump or thickening of the breast or can also be in the armpit area

* A change in the size or shape of a breast

* any discharge from the nipple area

* Change in the texture of the skin of the breast including the areola

If any of these changes are found you should report them to your doctor immediately!


There are several ways the doctor can diagnose or investigate any concerns with the breast.

* A physical examination of the breasts and surrounding areas looking for changes visible to the naked eye and to the touch

* Mammogram- and x-ray of the breast that can reveal dense tissue or abnormalities to the tissue. A mammogram can find a lump before it is big enough to be found by the touch. Women 40 and over should have a yearly mammogram. The sooner a lump is found the sooner and better the prognosis is to cure it.

* Ultrasound- sound waves that enter and bounce back to determine if the lump is solid or not. Solid lumps tend to be cancerous, while fluid filled tend to be non-cancerous.

* Biopsy- when a lump is found a biopsy is typically done to determine if it is cancerous or not. In a biopsy a small amount of breast tissue is removed and examined by a pathologist to determine if cancer cells are present or not.

I have Breast Cancer, now what?

There are different stages of breast cancer, obviously the earlier the cancer is found the better the prognosis.

Carcinoma in situ the earliest the breast cancer can be found. It has not invaded any of the tissue tissue and is contained in the breast duct. It has not spread to any of the other lymph nodes.

Stage I : The tumor is no larger than 2 centimeters and has not spread to other areas.

Stage II : The tumor is between 2-5 centimeters, and has spread to under the arms

Stage III : The tumor is larger than 5 centimeters and has spread to under the arms as well as other lymph nodes or tissues

Stage IV : Cancer has spread to other organs throughout the body.

Treatments – How mice are helping in the battle against cancer.

Surgery is typically the most common treatment of breast cancer. The 2 types are breast- sparing and a mastectomy. The breast-sparing involves only removing the tumor. A mastectomy involves removing the entire breast. The type of surgery that is preformed is usually dependent of the size of the tumor. There is also Radiation therapy and Chemotherapy that is used to destroy cancer cells. One or a combination of treatments may be used dependent on the stage of breast cancer upon diagnosis.

In 2003, a team of scientists from Montreal and California has found a way to reverse breast cancer in lab mice, paving the way for drugs that could “potentially eradicate” the disease that kills one woman in North America every 10 minutes. Scientists stopped the gene from working in mice that were genetically engineered to be prone to breast cancer. They also removed it from mice with breast cancer. In both cases, it halted the growth of the tumours. The research has only been demonstrated in animal models and researchers do not yet know how it would translate to humans. Source: CTV

In July 2009, a new study published in the July issue of The Journal of Nuclear Medicine shows that positron emission tomography (PET) scans in mice can be used to determine whether a novel type of breast cancer treatment is working as intended.

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