What is Breast Cancer?

What is Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer is a disease caused by the formation of cancerous (malignant) cells that can occur within one or more breasts. According to some sources, bladder cancer is believed to be the second most common type of cancer (lung cancer is #1). Amongst women, however, breast cancer far exceeds other forms of cancer, including cervical, as the most common cancer.

Whom is at risk for breast cancer?

Women are approximately 100 times more likely to develop breast cancer than men; women are at higher risk primarily because of growth effects of female hormones such as estrogen. In addition, those age 55 and older are much more likely to develop this cancer than those under 55. Research indicates that about two-thirds of all breast cancers occur in individuals 55 and older.

Signs and Symptoms

The most obvious and common symptom is a lump on the breast that feels different from the surrounding breast tissue. It is believed, according to studies done by Merck, that approximately 80% of all breast cancer cases are discovered as a lump by the individual. However, lumps can also be found not only in the breasts, but in the collar bone as well as the armpit.

Other signs that breast cancer may be developing include:

nipple discharge
changes in the size, shape, or feel of the breast
skin dimpling
inversion of the nipple

Warning: It is notable, that not all forms of breast cancer can be detectable by a sign or symptom during the initial stages. Periodic mammograms should be undergone by the patient as recommended by a physician.


To diagnose breast cancer, a physician will need to surgically remove and test a sample of the tissue. This is known, more formally, as a breast biopsy. The most common procedures for conducting a biopsy include:

ductal lavage
fine needle aspiration
core needle biopsy
large core surgical
open surgical incision

Once the tissue has been removed through a biopsy, it will be sent to a lab where it is examined through a microscope by a pathologist to determine if its cancerous. Fortunately, in more than half of all biopsies, the sample tissue is found to be benign (non-cancerous). If the tissue is cancerous, however, the next step that will be performed is to determine which stage the cancer is currently in.

What is Breast Cancer?

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