Breast Cancer Defined
The body is made up of many types of cells. Normally, cells grow, divide and produce more cells as needed to keep the body healthy. Sometimes, however, the process goes wrong. Cells become abnormal and form more cells in an uncontrolled way.
These extra cells form a mass of tissue, called a growth or tumor. Tumors can be benign, which means not cancerous, or malignant, which means cancerous. Breast cancer occurs when malignant tumors form in the breast tissue.
Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in American women. It is more common among older women than younger women. Men can get breast cancer too, although they account for only one percent of all reported cases.
When cancer grows in breast tissue and spreads outside the breast, cancer cells are often found in the lymph nodes under the arm. If the cancer has reached these nodes, it means that cancer cells may have spread, or metastasized, to other parts of the body.
When cancer spreads from its original location in the breast to another part of the body such as the brain, it is called metastatic breast cancer, not brain cancer. Doctors sometimes call this "distant" disease.
Breast cancer is not contagious. A woman cannot "catch" breast cancer from other women who have the disease. Also, breast cancer is not caused by an injury to the breast. Most women who develop breast cancer do not have any known risk factors or a history of the disease in their families.
Today, more women are surviving breast cancer than ever before. Over two million women are breast cancer survivors.
There are several ways to treat breast cancer, but all treatments work best when the disease is found early.
Every day researchers are working to find new and better ways to detect and treat cancer. Many studies of new approaches for women with breast cancer are under way. With early detection, and prompt and appropriate treatment, the outlook for women with breast cancer can be positive.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies.
Copyright Information: Public domain information with acknowledgement given to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.