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What Is Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer is a term used for a medical condition which ischaracterized by a malignant tumor developed from the normal body cellsotherwise located in the breast. In most cases, breast cancer occurs in thecells of the lobules or in the ducts. For those who do not know, lobules arethe glands which are in charge of the production of milk, while the ducts arecertain passages which are in charge of transporting the milk from the lobulesto the nipple. In some rare cases, breast cancer may start to develop in thestromal tissues of the breast. These stromal tissues are actually a mixture offibrous connective tissues and fatty tissues in the breast.

Symptoms of Breast Cancer

In the initial stages of breast cancer, the person usuallydoes not experience any specific symptoms. In some cases the malignant lump maysimply be too small to be felt or to cause any noticeable changes. Screeningmammogram which is actually an x-ray scan of the breast may sometimes show anabnormal area which usually calls for more tests in order to diagnose thecondition properly.

Risk Factors

There are certain risk factors which are associated with thedevelopment of breast cancer, and the most significant ones are the naturalprocess of aging and being a woman. Other types of significant risk factorsinvolved with the development of breast cancer may or may not include ionizingradiation, postmenopausal obesity, postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy,daily alcohol consumption, older than 30 years of age at first full termpregnancy, having no children, long menstrual history, genetic factors and family history of breast or ovarian cancer.In a large number of cases, breast cancer is not a hereditary medicalcondition, mostly due to certain genetic abnormalities which take place duringthe natural process of aging. There are only up to 10 percent of cases ofbreast cancer which can be associated with inherited gene mutations. The mostcommon types of such genetic mutations are the ones associated with the BRCA1and BRCA2 genes. It is commonly perceived that women who have first degreerelatives diagnosed with breast cancer are at an increased risk of havingbreast cancer themselves. There are also certain beneficial factors which maydecrease the risk of breast cancer and those include physical activity andbreast feeding.

U.S. Breast Cancer Statistics

It is a shocking fact that every eighth woman in the UnitedStates gets affected by invasive breast cancer during her lifetime. With eachyear there are more than 200,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer diagnosedin women in the United States. There are also more than 50,000 new cases of noninvasive breast cancer registered each year. Breast cancer is usuallyassociated with women, but there are more than 2,000 cases of invasive breastcancer diagnosed each year in men in the United States. The incidence of breastcancer has decreased over the past few years, mainly due to the reduced use ofhormone replacement therapy. According to these results there is a connectionbetween hormone replacement therapy and an increase risk of breast cancer. Allof this has also led to decreased death rates in the last twenty years. Increasedawareness, earlier detection through screening and treatment advances are allbeneficial factors for all those who suffer from breast cancer. In spite of allthat, breast cancer is still the one associated with the highest death ratesamong all different types of cancer. Unfortunately, it is also the mostcommonly diagnosed type of cancer among women in the United States. It is apeculiar fact that white women are more likely to develop breast cancer thanAfrican American women, but even if they do, they are less likely to die of itthan African American women. Hispanic, Native American and Asian women have aslightly lower chance of developing breast cancer than African American andwhite women. There are more than 2.5 million citizens of the United States whohave survived breast cancer.

Treatment Methods

There are several different types of treatment methods inthe United States available to all those who suffer from breast cancer. Themost commonly used ones include targeted therapy, hormonal therapy,chemotherapy, radiation and surgical interventions such as lumpectomy andmastectomy. Mammography screening can be held responsible for a dramaticincrease when it comes to the incidence of ductal carcinoma in situ. Thisdiagnostic tool cannot prevent or cure any sort of breast cancer but it can beof great help when it comes to detecting the disease before the occurrence ofany symptoms. There are certain studies which claim that some types of chemopreventive agents such as raloxifene and tamoxifen may be helpful to a certainextent in preventing the development of breast cancer in women.

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