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Learn About Breast Cancer

After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.


Breast Cancer Statistics

The World Health Organization reports 7,676,965,500 cancers worldwide, with 11.6% being breast cancer. The United States estimated new cases of breast cancer at 1,806,590, and 606,520 people will die from the disease this year. This is the second most common cancer in women behind skin cancer.

The countries with the highest rate of breast cancer are Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands. The good news is the death rate has dropped from 8.3% to 4.61%. There is a great deal of research happening, and early diagnosis will save your life.

According to the U.S. News & World Report's 2020-21, the best hospitals for treatment in the United State are:

  1. University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (Houston)
  2. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (New York City)
  3. Mayo Clinic (Rochester, Minn.)
  4. Johns Hopkins Hospital (Baltimore)
  5. Cleveland Clinic

Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer happens when malignant cancer cells form in breast tissue. A history of breast cancer in your family puts you at a higher risk. A sign of breast cancer is a lump or a thickening that is unlike the surrounding tissue.

Other things to watch for include:

  • A change in the shape, size or the appearance of the breast
  • A newly inverted nipple
  • A change in the skin, such as pitting, redness or dimpling
  • Scaling, peeling, flaking or peeling of the pigmented skin around the nipple

Breast Cancer Causes

It is estimated by physicians that 5 to 10% of breast cancers are linked to gene mutations that are due to your family history. Cancer cells grow faster than healthy cells, then they form a lump or mass. These cells will spread throughout the body if they are not treated.

It is unclear why some people without risk factors develop breast cancer, and others with risk factors do not. Researchers have identified several possible risk facts, such as: lifestyle, environmental factors and hormonal causes.

There are a number of inherited genes that can increase the risk of breast cancer. The BRCA1 and BRAC2 genes significantly increase your risk of breast cancer. Your doctor will probably suggest a blood test for these genes if you have a family history. Genetic counseling is typical for those that test positive for one of these abnormal genes.

A genetic counselor can also discuss the benefits, risks and limitations of genetic testing to assist you with shared decision-making.

Breast Cancer Diagnosis

The doctor will do a physical breast exam. A mammogram or an ultrasound will be ordered. The doctor will use a specialized needle to do a biopsy. This is the only definitive method to make a breast cancer diagnosis. An MRI is another excellent way to look at breast tissue. At times a computerized tomography CAT scan or a Positron emission tomography (PET) will also be ordered.

Self-exam is The Key To Detecting Breast Cancer Early

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Risk Factors

Anything that makes it more likely for a person to get breast cancer is considered a risk factor. There are several risk factors in addition to a positive family history.

Risk factors include:

  • Being Female
  • Advancing age
  • Past history of breast cancer
  • Exposure to radiation
  • Beginning your period younger than 12 years of age
  • Beginning menopause at an older age
  • Obesity
  • Having your first child older than 30 years of age
  • Never being pregnant
  • Postmenopausal hormones after menopause (estrogen and progesterone)
  • Alcohol consumption

Reduce Your Risk

To reduce the risk of breast cancer change those things you can. Limit alcohol consumption, lose weight if you are obese, eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly. Do self breast exams regularly, and report any changes to your doctor immediately. Discuss mammograms with your doctor for routine screening. Limit post menopause hormones.


Types of Breast Cancer

There are several types of breast cancer, including:

  • A non-invasive cancer is a ductal carcinoma, which has abnormal cells found in the lining of the breast milk duct. The cancer cells spread outside the ducts into surrounding breast tissue. This is a very treatable cancer.
  • Invasive ductal carcinomas (IDC) are the most common type of breast cancer, as it is 70 to 80% of all breast cancers. It begins forming in the milk ducts that spread into other ducts in the breast tissue. This is the most common type affecting men
  • The second most common type of invasive lobular breast cancer starts in the lobules (mik glands) of the breast. This accounts for 10% of breast cancers. It spreads to the surrounding tissue. It may spread through the blood and the lymph system to other areas in the body. Mammograms are less likely to detect this cancer, but an MRI may be necessary.
  • Triple negative breast cancer means there are three common types of receptors, which are estrogen, progesterone and the hormone epidermal growth factor receptors. They will not be present in the breast tissue.
  • Inflammatory breast cancer is a very fast growing and aggressive type of cancer. This cancer infiltrates the skin and the lymph nodes. It does not produce a tumor, and it is diagnosed by the symptoms.
Invasive ductal carcinoma with marked nuclear pleomorphism.

Invasive ductal carcinoma with marked nuclear pleomorphism.

Stages of Breast Cancer

After a patient is diagnosed with breast cancer, the healthcare team will determine breast cancer staging. This will determine the size of the tumor and if the cancer has spread to other organs. The tests will be used to stage the cancer.

Stage 0 and 1 are usually ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). In situ means “in the original place.” The three types of “in situ carcinoma” are DCIS, LCIS and Paget disease of the nipple. Stage !A is about no more than 2 centimeters. Stage 1B is .2 mm to 2.0 mm, about the size of a grain of rice.

Stage 2 means the tumor is growing but still contained in the breast. Stage 2A and 2B are also used to determine the size of the tumore. It also shows whether the tumor has spread to the lymph nodes.

Stage 3 means the tumor has reached the lymph nodes and may have invaded there or into the muscle. This stage also has an A, B and C, which depends on the size of the tumor and how far it has spread.

Stage 4 indicates the tumor has spread. While Stage 4 has spread into other areas of the body, it is treatable but not curable. It spreads to the lungs, bones or brain. New technology has extended the lives of these patients and actually manages the disease as a chronic illness.

Expedited Breast Cancer Treatment - Brachytherapy - Mayo Clinic

Breast Cancer Treatments

Chemotherapy is typically used first for Stage 2 cancer, followed by radiation and surgery. A lumpectomy will be performed for small tumors. A mastectomy is the removal of all breast tissue, which is done for the large tumors, but there are new surgical techniques used to improve the appearance of the breast following surgery. Lymph node removal in your armpit may be discussed.

When a woman is having a mastectomy of one breast they sometimes choose to have the other breast removed as the risk of cancer in the other breast is increased. Some women get an implant, using water or silicone.

Radiation therapy is another possible treatment. It uses high-powered beams of energy that kill the cancer cells.

Chemotherapy is often used before surgery to shrink the tumor. Different chemotherapy drugs are used depending on the type of cancer, so side effects also vary. Cancers that are sensitive to hormones will be treated with hormone-blocking therapy. Targeted drug treatments and immunotherapy are also sometimes used.

In Summary

There have been vast advances in breast cancer treatments, and clinical trials continue. It is so important to find and treat this disease early for the best chance at a full recovery.

Palliative care is a specialized medical care that provides relief from the symptoms and pain of a serious illness. The specialists work with the patient and their family.

Breast Cancer Questions


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2020 Pamela Oglesby


Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on December 15, 2020:

Hi Adrienna,

You ask a very good question. I was surprised about that group of countries also. I imagine research will reveal the reason at some point.

Thank you so much for your comments. Stay safe and healthy!

Adrienne Farricelli on December 15, 2020:

Breast cancer is scary, but fortunately knowledge is power. I was surprised to learn that women in Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands had the highest rates of breast cancer. I wonder whether their diets play a role.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on December 13, 2020:

Hi Sp,

You are absolutely right about more being diagnosed. I have lost 2 friends but one survived. Early diagnosis is so important.

Thanks for your comments. Have a wonderful week.

Sp Greaney from Ireland on December 13, 2020:

This is a really good article that explains everything really well. This is such a common cancer here. In the last 5 years it seems like more woman over 50 are getting diagnosed with it. Most people I know who have had it have thankfully recovered from it.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on December 13, 2020:

Hi Vidya,

It seems like everyone knows at least one person with this disease, unfortunately. I appreciate your comments. Have a wonderful week.

VIDYA D SAGAR on December 13, 2020:

Hi Pamela, again a very informative and useful article. My friend has it and is undergoing treatment. I hope she recovers. A positive outlook and a cheerful countenance along with treatment helps a lot in speedy recovery say some experts.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on December 12, 2020:

Hi Manatita,

MD Anderson was listed first. I am sorry to hear your sister hs this disease, but glad she is in the top US hospital. I appreciate your comments, as always.

Much love to you.

manatita44 from london on December 12, 2020:

Well done Pamela.

I was going through it to see if I could pick something up for men, but no. Haha. My sister has it, though, and I am glad to see you putting MD Anderson as numero uno, as this is where she goes. Much Love!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on December 12, 2020:

Hi Linda,

I have also lost 2 friends and I have a friend who had a double masectomy. She survived!

I appreciate your comments. Have a wonderful weekend.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on December 12, 2020:

Hi Brenda,

Catching the symptoms early make so much difference. It is so important to know the risk factors and symptoms of this awful disease.

I appreciate your comments. Have a wonderful weekend.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on December 12, 2020:

Hi Bill,

I am sorry to hear about your experience with relatives. It is a "not-so-great topic", but women need to know the symptoms.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend also.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on December 12, 2020:

Another well written article and very important. I think everyone knows at least one family affected by this disease. I've lost 2 friends to it, and my MIL had it twice.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on December 12, 2020:


This is a very detailed article and information needed by the world.

I have known alot of people who have gotten this diagnosis.

Usually the outcome is great. They get the treatment needed.

I didn't know that risk factor was increased if over 30 yrs when you have a child or if you have no children at all.

Thanks for the article.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on December 12, 2020:

My mother had it; my ex-wife had it. It sure would be nice if a cure could be found. Sigh! Great article about a not-so-great topic.

Have a wonderful weekend, my friend, and Happy Holidays.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on December 12, 2020:

Hi Rosina,

It is good that it does not run in your family. I think the risk factors are important for sure.

I appreciate your nice comments. Have a wonderful weekend.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on December 12, 2020:

Hi MG,

I don't know of an antidote, except for a healthy lifestyle. Thanks for reading and commenting. Have a nice weekend.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on December 12, 2020:

Hi John,

I appreciate your comments. Have a nice weekend.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on December 12, 2020:

Hi Flourish,

That scenerio sounds like a sickning TV show scandal. I can't imagine anyone being so cruel.

I agree that screening and evn a second opinion if all does not seem well. Thank you so much for your comments. Have a nice weekend.

Rosina S Khan on December 11, 2020:

Breast cancer doesn't run in our family. I never had it but now I see a knowledge of the risk factors and having yearly mammograms are so important. Thank you for the splendid share, Pamala.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on December 11, 2020:

An important and informative article about breast cancer. This is a very well written and researched article, and will be helpful in spreading awareness. One should have regular health check ups, and must be watchful about the risk factors, and symptoms.

I just wish that nobody gets this.

Another wonderful health related article by you. Thank you so much for sharing.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on December 11, 2020:

Nice and informative article. I wonder if there is an antidote to prevent it from occurring?

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on December 11, 2020:

A very important subject, Pamela. Thank you for such an in-depth article on breast cancer.

FlourishAnyway from USA on December 11, 2020:

Thanks for covering this important subject. Sadly, we had a local breast cancer screening center doctor accused of simply telling patients they were fine when over 20 of them had breast cancer and some ended up dying of it. Screening is very important and questioning when something still doesn’t seem right is likewise key. There’s only one you.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on December 11, 2020:

Hi Peggy,

I think this cancer is surely a heartbreaker. I tried to cover every aspect of this cancer. I appreciate your comments, as always. Stay safe and healthy.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on December 11, 2020:

Hi Pamela,

We have lost several dear friends who first had breast cancer before it spread to other areas of their bodies. It is good that you showed risk factors and the importance of regular checkups.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on December 11, 2020:

Hi JC, Thank you so much for your comments.

JC Scull on December 11, 2020:

Very important subject. Good job Pamela.

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