There are two main types of breast cancer
- Ductal carcinoma starts in the tubes (ducts) that move milk from the breast to the nipple. Most breast cancers are of this type.
- Lobular carcinoma starts in parts of the breast, called lobules that produce milk.
Breast cancer may be invasive or noninvasive. Invasive means it has spread to other tissues. Noninvasive means it has not yet spread. Noninvasive breast cancer is referred to as "in situ."
Many breast cancers are sensitive to the hormone estrogen. This means that estrogen causes the breast cancer tumor to grow. Such cancers have estrogen receptors on the surface of their cells. They are called estrogen receptor-positive cancer or ER-positive cancer.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Over the course of a lifetime, 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer.
Risk factors you cannot change include:
- Age and gender: he majority of advanced breast cancer cases are found in women over age 50. Women are 100 times more likely to get breast cancer than men.
- Family history of breast cancer: ou may also have a higher risk for breast cancer if you have a close relative who has had breast, uterine, ovarian, or colon cancer.
- Menstrual cycle: men who get their periods early (before age 12) or went through menopause late (after age 55) have an increased risk for breast cancer.
Other risk factors include:
- Alcohol use: drinking more than 1 - 2 glasses of alcohol a day may increase your risk for breast cancer.
- Childbirth: Women who have never had children or who had them only after age 30 have an increased risk for breast cancer.
- DES: Women who took diethylstilbestrol (DES) to prevent miscarriage may have an increased risk of breast cancer after age 40.
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT): You have a higher risk for breast cancer if you have received hormone replacement therapy for several years or more.
- Radiation: If you received radiation therapy as a child or young adult to treat cancer of the chest area, you have a significantly higher risk for developing breast cancer
Breast implants, using antiperspirants, and wearing underwire bras do not raise your risk for breast cancer. There is no evidence of a direct link between breast cancer and pesticides.
The National Cancer Institute provides an online tool to help you figure out your risk of breast cancer. See: www.cancer.gov/bcrisktool
Symptoms of Breast Cancer
Early breast cancer usually does not cause symptoms. This is why regular breast exams are important. As the cancer grows, symptoms may include:
Breast lump or lump in the armpit that is hard, has uneven edges, and usually does not hurt
Change in the size, shape, or feel of the breast or nipple -- for example, you may have redness, dimpling, or puckering that looks like the skin of an orange
Fluid coming from the nipple -- may be bloody, clear to yellow, green, and look like pus
Men get breast cancer, too. Symptoms include breast lump and breast pain and tenderness.