Breast Cancer Overview

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosed in American women. It can and does strike women with breast implants, but knowing what to look out for and getting your routine mammograms (breast X-rays) can help you protect yourself.

A woman's chance of developing invasive (spreading) breast cancer at some point during her lifetime is a little less than 12 percent, according to statistics from the American Cancer Society (ACS). Breast cancer is also the second most fatal cancer in women.

The news is not all grim. U.S. breast cancer rates are finally decreasing. Experts chalk this up to the fact that women no longer use hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to combat the effects of menopause. Supplemental hormones fell from grace after a large, government-funded study known as the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) showed that the risks of HRT outweighed the benefits. The WHI demonstrated that HRT was linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, among other health conditions.

What's more, fewer women are dying from breast cancer today than ever before. This is due to early detection through screening, increased awareness and advances in treating breast cancer. There are now more than 2.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.

Breast Cancer Types

There are several types of breast cancer.

Ductal carcinoma refers to breast cancer in the cells of the milk ducts, which convey milk to the nipples. This form of cancer can be invasive, meaning the cancer has spread through the milk ducts; or in situ, meaning that it has not.

Lobular carcinoma occurs in the lobules of the breast, which are the milk-producing glands of the breast. Like ductal carcinoma, lobular carcinoma can be either invasive or in situ.

Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare and invasive form of breast cancer that is not characterized by a lump. Instead, inflammatory breast cancer makes the skin of the breast look red and feel warm.

Recurrent breast cancer means that the cancer has returned either in the remaining breast tissue or in other parts of the body such as the lungs, liver, bones or brain.

Know Your Breasts

Signs of breast cancer may include:

  • Lump or mass in your breast
  • Enlarged lymph nodes in the armpit
  • Changes in breast size, shape, skin texture or color (such as increased redness)
  • Dimpling or puckering
  • Nipple changes or discharge

Discuss any breast changes or symptoms with your physician.

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