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What Is Breast Cancer?

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

Symptoms of Breast Cancer

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

Risk Factors

There are certain risk factors which are associated with the development of breast cancer, and the most significant ones are the natural process of aging and being a woman. Other types of significant risk factors involved with the development of breast cancer may or may not include ionizing radiation, postmenopausal obesity, postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy, daily alcohol consumption, older than 30 years of age at first full term pregnancy, 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 medical condition, mostly due to certain genetic abnormalities which take place during the natural process of aging. There are only up to 10 percent of cases of breast cancer which can be associated with inherited gene mutations. The most common types of such genetic mutations are the ones associated with the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. It is commonly perceived that women who have first degree relatives diagnosed with breast cancer are at an increased risk of having breast cancer themselves. There are also certain beneficial factors which may decrease the risk of breast cancer and those include physical activity and breast feeding.

U.S. Breast Cancer Statistics

It is a shocking fact that every eighth woman in the United States gets affected by invasive breast cancer during her lifetime. With each year there are more than 200,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer diagnosed in women in the United States. There are also more than 50,000 new cases of non invasive breast cancer registered each year. Breast cancer is usually associated with women, but there are more than 2,000 cases of invasive breast cancer diagnosed each year in men in the United States. The incidence of breast cancer has decreased over the past few years, mainly due to the reduced use of hormone replacement therapy. According to these results there is a connection between hormone replacement therapy and an increase risk of breast cancer. All of this has also led to decreased death rates in the last twenty years. Increased awareness, earlier detection through screening and treatment advances are all beneficial factors for all those who suffer from breast cancer. In spite of all that, breast cancer is still the one associated with the highest death rates among all different types of cancer. Unfortunately, it is also the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer among women in the United States. It is a peculiar fact that white women are more likely to develop breast cancer than African American women, but even if they do, they are less likely to die of it than African American women. Hispanic, Native American and Asian women have a slightly lower chance of developing breast cancer than African American and white women. There are more than 2.5 million citizens of the United States who have survived breast cancer.

Treatment Methods

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

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