Breast cancer is the most common cause of cancer in women and the second most common cause of cancer death in women in the U.S. While the majority of new breast cancers are diagnosed as a result of an abnormality seen on a mammogram, a lump or change in consistency of the breast tissue can also be a warning sign of the disease.
The disease is most commonly diagnosed in women over age 50. Very few women under age 30 develop it. Despite the rise in incidence, there has been a small drop in the number of deaths in the recent years and only about one-fifth of cases prove fatal. This reduction is due to improvements in treatment and the increased use of mammography for screening, which means that tumors can be detected early, when they often respond well to treatment.
Fibrocystic breast disease is common and usually benign condition. Symptoms include swollen, tender breasts, and/or one or more lumps. Frequently, symptoms worsen just before a woman’s menstrual cycle, subsiding near the end. For the majority of women these symptoms are a temporary discomfort, however some women experience severe pain.
Age and gender – Your risk of developing breast cancer increases as you get older. The majority of advanced breast cancer cases are found in women over age 50. Women are 100 times more likely to get breast cancer then men
Hereditary risk: It has long been known that women whose mothers or sisters had breast cancer have a higher risk of developing the disease themselves. Recently, it has been discovered that breast cancer can develop when a woman inherits a breast cancer susceptibility gene from one of her parents. The most common of these genes are the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. These genes account for about 10 percent of all breast cancer cases and in families that have these genes, the risk of breast cancer can be very high.
Family history of breast cancer – You may also have a higher risk for breast cancer if you have a close relative has had breast, uterine, ovarian, or colon cancer. About 20-30% of women with breast cancer have a family history of the disease.
The widespread use of screening mammography has increased the number of breast cancers found before they cause any symptoms. But some are still not found early.
The most common sign of breast cancer is a new lump or mass. A lump that is painless, hard, and has uneven edges is more likely to be cancer. But sometimes cancers can be tender, soft, and rounded.
Breast discharge is a common problem and is rarely a symptom of cancer. Discharge is most concerning if it is from only one breast or if it is bloody. In any case, all breast discharge should be evaluated.
Surgery is the mainstay of therapy for breast cancer. The choice of which type of surgery is based on a number of factors, including the size and location of the tumor, the type of tumor and the person’s overall health and personal wishes. Breast-sparing surgery is often possible.