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Breast Cancer

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Breast cancer occurs when there is abnormal cell growth in the breasts. These abnormally growing cells can form into a tumor or can become malignant. This means that they spread into other healthy tissues beyond the breast. Breast cancer affects more than 200,000 women annually in the United States and claims the lives of approximately 40,000 individuals annually. One of the most important steps in decreasing the likelihood of serious harm from breast cancer is to detect the cancer early and treat it promptly and properly.

Causes, Risk Factors and Complications of Breast Cancer

The causes behind breast cancer are not fully understood, but it is known that this cancer involves the abnormal growth of breast tissue cells. When these cells begin to divide in a rapid manner, they accumulate into a tumor, overwhelming the healthy cells in the area. Breast cancer has a tendency to metastasize, meaning that it spreads beyond the breast into other parts of the body. One of the most common forms of cancer that occurs because of breast cancer metastasis is lymph node cancer. Scientists are beginning to acknowledge that at least one in every ten breast cancer cases is based on an inherited gene mutation.

There are a number of complications of untreated breast cancer, making early detection and prompt treatment absolutely essential. These complications include: breast destruction, chest wall destruction, nipple discharge, mastitis, chest pain and metastasis of the breast cancer tumors into other tissues in the body. While the most common form of breast cancer metastasis is the lymph nodes, this cancer can spread to other places such as the chest wall, lungs and heart. Metastasis can also cause liver failure, bone fractures, collapsed lungs, respiratory failure and pneumonia. The potential complications of breast cancer are severe and early detection is essential, so seek professional medical assistance if you feel you might have breast cancer.

Signs, Symptoms and Testsof Breast Cancer

Many cases of breast cancer are found during routine annual examination of the breasts rather than due to symptoms. Symptoms that physicians link to breast cancer most commonly include: thickening of tissue in the breast or a lump in the breast, bloody nipple discharge, a change in the size or shape of the breast, inverted nipple, peeling or flaking of the nipple or skin on the breast, redness or pitting in the breast skin, changes to the breast skin or severe tenderness with no apparent cause.

Some of the most common tests and examinations for breast cancer diagnosis include: mammogram, breast exam, breast ultrasound, breast magnetic resonance imaging or MRI and biopsy of the breast tissue. If breast cancer is found by the physician, then the next step is to stage the breast cancer, which indicates whether or not the breast cancer is spreading. Tests and procedures aiding in this process include: positron emission tomography or PET scan, computerized tomography or CT scan, breast MRI, chest X-ray, bone scan, mammogram and blood tests.

Treatment, Drugs and Preventionof Breast Cancer

There are many treatment options for breast cancer depending on the individual patient and the stage of cancer one is experiencing. These may include: removing the cancer itself surgically, removing the entire breast, removing a lymph node, removing multiple lymph nodes, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Physicians will often prescribe a mix of treatments to ensure that the entire breast cancer situation is removed properly.