Cancer of the breast becomes common with age, with approximately 80% of breast cancers occurring in women over the age of 50.
In breast cancer the cells in part of the breast grow in a chaotic way. Instead of growing and dividing in a regular way, they become out of control. If the cancer is not treated, the cells can spread within the breast or even break off and travel to other parts of the body.
If the cancer cells have not spread at all, not even into the surrounding breast tissue, this is called non-invasive breast cancer.
Depending on whether the cancer cells develop in the ducts or lobes of the breast, these cancers are called ductal carcinomas in situ or lobular carcinomas in situ.
If the cancer cells have spread into the surrounding breast tissue, this is called invasive breast cancer and this is what is usually meant when people talk about breast cancer. Invasive breast cancer can be of different stages depending on how deep it is, if it has spread to the lymph glands in the armpit or if it has spread further within the body.
Various factors are thought to increase the risk of breast cancer. These include:
- A close relative with a history of breast cancer.
- Early start to menstruation (before the age of 11) and late menopause (after age 54)
- Having a first child late
- Having no/few children
- Not breastfeeding long term
- Having benign breast disease in the past
- Exposure to radiation
- High fat intake
- Obesity and
- Moderate to heavy drinking of alcohol.
Oral birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy may very slightly increase the risk of breast cancer.
Other sources of information for these topics.
BreastCancer.org - Breast Cancer Treatment Information and Pictures
Breast Cancer information from a nonprofit organization.
Breast Cancer Information from National Breast Cancer Foundation
Breast cancer information including early signs and symptoms of breast cancer, myths, early detection, breast cancer research and much more from the ...
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