Normally, the cells in the body reproduce new cells only when they are needed.
However, in particular areas of the body, cell proliferation becomes uncontrollable that eventually, it develops into a mass of tissue. This lump or mass is known as tumor.
If the uncontrollable cells turn out to be just normal cells, then the tumor is called benign, meaning they’re not cancerous.
However, if the cells that have rapidly proliferated turn to be abnormal and doesn’t work like other cells do, then the tumor is called malignant or cancerous.
Just like any other types of cancer, breast cancer can invade the entire area of your breast. Likewise, it can potentially travel to other parts of the body and metastasize.
What are its causes?
Until now, scientists have not fully identified what really causes breast cancer. However, several factors have been found to increase one’s risk of developing the disease. This includes age, health history, diet, and genetic factors.
What are its symptoms?
Breast cancer remains asymptomatic when the tumor is still small. In this case, it can still be treated easily.
That being said, it’s vital to follow the recommended screening guidelines for breast cancer to detect the presence of abnormal cell proliferation at an earlier stage.
Other symptoms of the disease include the following:
- A lump or mass that feels like a pea
- An unusual change in the size, contour, or shape of your breast
- Lumps that can be felt in the underarm or breast and don’t go away even after your menstrual period
- An abnormal discharge (clear or bloody fluid) from your nipple
- Swollen skin around the nipple or breast
- An abnormal change in the appearance of the breast around the nipple (they could either appear scaly, swollen, dimpled or puckered)
- An unusual change in the shape of the nipple
How is it diagnosed?
Aside from asking for your medical and family history, your physician will have to perform a breast exam. In some cases, he or she will recommend that you undergo screening procedures like ultrasound of the breast or mammogram.
An MRI on the other hand would be needed by a physician if he finds out that you are predisposed to developing breast cancer.
If the abovementioned tests produce an abnormal result, your doctor will most likely recommend a biopsy and have the tissues examined by a pathologist.
This type of doctor specializes in analyzing tissues, ensuring the accuracy of lab tests, and interpreting the results.
When cancer is detected, the pathologist would be able to identify what type it is—either lobular or ductal carcinoma.
What are the types?
The most common types of breast cancer include the following:
Infiltrating (invasive) lobular carcinoma
This type of cancer attacks the lobules of the breast where milk is produced.
Ductal carcinoma in situ or (DCIS)
This is ductal carcinoma in stage 0. “In situ” means the cancer cells have not metastasized yet.
While often curable, ductal carcinoma in situ can potentially become invasive if left untreated.
Invasive ductal carcinoma
This type often develops in the milk ducts of the breast. Eventually, it will invade the wall of the duct as well as the breasts’ fatty tissues. Invasive ductal carcinoma is considered the most common type of breast cancer.
Lobular carcinoma in situ or (LCIS)
This is the type that attacks only the lobules of the breast. While not considered as real cancer, LCIS still increases the risk of developing breast cancer in the long run.
Women with LCIS should undergo regular mammograms and breast exams as preventative measures.