Breast Cancer


Cancer is not just one disease but rather a group of diseases. All forms of
cancer cause cells in the body to change and grow out of control. Most types of
cancer cells form a lump or mass called a tumor. Cells from the tumor can break
away and travel to other parts of the body. There they can continue to grow.

This spreading process is called metastasis. When cancer spreads, it is still
named after the part of the body where it started. For example, if breast cancer
spreads to the lungs, it is still breast cancer, not lung cancer. Another word
for cancerous is malignant. So a cancerous tumor is called malignant. But not
all tumors are cancer. A tumor that is not cancer is called benign. Benign
tumors do not grow and spread the way cancer does. They are usually not a threat
to life. A few cancers, such as blood cancers (leukemia), do not form a tumor.

Most kinds of cancer are named after the part of the body where the cancer first
starts. Breast cancer begins in the breast tissue. This article refers only to
breast cancer in women. Men can also get breast cancer, although this is rare. [Women.com,
pp. 6] Inside the breasts are glands that produce and release milk after a woman
has a baby. The glands that make the milk are called lobules and the tubes that
connect them to the nipple are called ducts. The breast itself is made up of
lobules; ducts; and fatty, connective, and lymphatic tissue. There are several
types of breast tumors. Most are benign; that is, they are not cancer. These
lumps are often caused by fibrocystic changes. Cysts are fluid-filled sacs, and
fibrosis refers to connective tissue or scar tissue formation. Fibrocystic
changes can cause breast swelling and pain. The breasts may feel lumpy and
sometimes there is a clear or slightly cloudy nipple discharge. Benign breast
tumors are abnormal growths, but they do not spread outside of the breast and
they are not life-threatening. [Lawrence, pp. 54] Breast cancer is the most
common cancer among women, other than skin cancer. It is the second leading
cause of cancer death in women, after lung cancer. Many great doctors predicts
that there will be about 184,200 new cases of invasive breast cancer in the year

2000 among women in this country and about 41,200 deaths from the disease.

Breast cancer also occurs among men, although much less often. Death rates from
breast cancer declined significantly during 1992 to 1996, with the largest
decrease in younger women-- both white and black. This decline is probably the
result of better detection and improved treatment. We do not yet know exactly
what causes breast cancer, but we do know that certain risk factors are linked
to the disease. A risk factor is something that increases a person's chance of
getting a disease. Different cancers have different risk factors. Some risk
factors, such as smoking, can be controlled. Others, like a person's age or
family history, can't be changed. [Lee, pp. 124] While all women are at risk for
breast cancer, the factors listed below can increase the chances of having the
disease. Some studies suggest that long-term use (10 years or more) of estrogen
replacement therapy, sometimes called hormone replacement therapy, for relief of
menopause symptoms may slightly increase the risk of breast cancer. This risk
applies only to current and recent users. A woman's breast cancer risk returns
to that of the general population within 5 years of stopping ERT. Replacement
therapy also lowers the risk of heart attacks and bone fractures; therefore,
women should talk to their doctors about the pros and cons of using ERT. At this
time, there is no certain way to prevent breast cancer. For now, the best
strategy is to reduce risk factors whenever possible and follow the guidelines
for finding breast cancer early. A personal or family history of breast cancer
may make genetic testing an option for some women. About 50%-60% of women with
certain genetic changes (mutations) will develop breast cancer by the age of 70.

They also have an increased risk of ovarian cancer. Genetic testing can tell if
a woman has these mutated genes, but it cannot predict whether a woman will get
breast cancer. Genetic testing is expensive and is not covered by some health
plans. People with positive results might not be able to get insurance, or
coverage might only be available at a much higher cost. You need to weigh
carefully the benefits and the drawbacks before you proceed with testing. [cancer.com,
pp. 11] The drug tamoxifen has been used for many years as a treatment for some
breast cancer. Recent studies show that women at high risk for breast cancer are
less likely to develop the disease if they take tamoxifen. Another drug,
raloxifene, also blocks the effect of estrogen on breast tissue and some studies
seem to show that it lowers the risk of breast cancer. But raloxifene has not
yet been approved for this use. In some rare cases, women at very high risk
might consider a preventive (prophylactic) mastectomy. This is an operation in
which one or both breasts are removed before there is any known breast cancer.

The reasons for considering this type of surgery need to be very strong. They
would include one or more of the following: inherited mutated genes, an earlier
breast cancer, a strong family history of breast cancer, and diagnosis of
certain conditions such as lobular carcinoma in situ. While the operation
reduces the risk of breast cancer, it does not guarantee that cancer won't
develop in the small amount of breast tissue remaining after the operation. The
earlier breast cancer is found, the better the chances for successful treatment.

Because early breast cancer does not produce symptoms, it's important for all
women to follow the guidelines for finding breast cancer early. A mammogram and
a breast exam by a doctor or nurse (clinical breast examination) every year for
women over the age of 40. Between the ages of 20 and 39, women should have a
clinical breast exam every 3 years. All women over 20 should do breast self-
examination (BSE) every month. Together, these methods offer the best chance of
finding breast cancer early. Each is covered in more detail below. [Vacan, pp.

37] This paper has covered many things that people have learned and taught.

Breast cancer is a really serious type of cancer that can be treated if caught
in the early stage. I have learned many things about breast cancer such as how
to detect it, treat it, and fight it. Breast cancer is one major fear of most
women in the world today.

Bibliography

Cancer.com. Cancer Facts. New York: World Wide Web, 1994: 1-16 Feigenbeum,

Lawrence H. Women in the 90ís. Dallas: Jovanovich, 1999 Lee, Susan A. Women

Dealing With Breast Cancer. California: Harccurt, 1962 Vacan, Juile. Cancer in

Women Today. New York: Teen People, 2000: 25-37 Women.com. Women on the Web.

Florida: World Wide Web, 1998: 6-9