The breasts of a woman
play many functions in her life, physiologically and esthetically. From puberty to menopause, the breasts are the object
of attention and unfortunately fears. Women love to be
complimented for their breast. The same, the discovery of a lump
can cause psychological impact, although most breast lesions are benign (non-cancerous).
Anatomically, the breast
is composed of mammary gland, suspensory
fat (adipose tissue), as well as
nerves, blood and lymph vessels which filter germs and protect the breasts against infection and
disease; the entire organ is covered by the skin.
The breasts are located over the pectoral muscle. Each
mammary gland is divided into 15 to
20 sections called lobes,
compounds of lobules, which produce milk.
These are connected to the ducts that go
to the nipple.
Breast cancer can develop in a lactiferous duct, a lobule as well as in the lymph nodes.
Breast cancer is a
general term used to refer to any form of malignant tumor of the mammary gland. That is, the malignancy
develops in the breast tissue whose function is to secrete milk, the ductal-lobular
unit of the breast. Although
the disease also affects men, it is mainly referred to women given it is diagnosed mostly in women, about 200
times more often than in men. Therefore, all cases of breast cancer in men combined are account for less than
1% of all cases in both men and women.
The development of cancer begins when a group of cells become belligerent and start multiply abnormally and
uncontrollably. When it comes to breast cancer, the malignant cells can remain in the breast for a long time before
spreading throughout the body through the blood or lymph vessels to form other cancers (metastases). In fact, the
progression of certain types of breast cancer can take several months or even years before becoming metastatic, and
advanced and life-threatening stage.
Breast cancer is the most diagnosed cancer in women worldwide, both before and after menopause. It is not a
condition that women can take slightly. It is estimated that about 1 in 9 women will be diagnosed with a form of
breast cancer during her lifetime; as a result about 1 in 27 will die. But this is a tumor of good prognosis. The
five years survival rate after diagnosis varies from 80% to 90%, depending on age and type of cancer.
Although the tumor also
develops in young women, in most cases, breast cancer occurs after 50 years. Considering the generality of
the disease, every woman has a good reason, regardless of race and geographic area, to start taking necessary
or preventive measures from young ages to prevent its occurrence in their life. For more info on prevention
methods, please visit our Cancer Prevention Section.
Different Types of Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is
classified in different types depending on the group of cells affected or the characteristics of the tumor.
Pathogenically, breast cancer can be non-invasive or invasive. Each of these various types develops
Non-invasive Breast Cancers
carcinoma in situ(DCIS). As the name suggests, this tumor develops in the milk ducts of the breast.
It is the most common form of noninvasive breast cancer in women. The tumor is slow to spread, although
without treatment, it can become invasive, infiltrating outside the milk ducts. It seems DCIS is increasing
with the extensive use of mammography. The good news is the fact it responds well to treatment; complete
healing is obtained in almost all cases.
These forms of cancer
tend to occur in the lobules or the ducts of the breast. Usually, the
tumor invades the tissues
around the milk ducts but remain inside the breast. But without proper treatment to stop it, the cancer can
spread to other parts of the body (bone, lung, liver and others) to form metastases. Metastatic breast cancer
is a serious stage; the tumor is more difficult to be successfully treated and prognosis is not good. Among
common types of invasive breast cancer include:
• Invasive Ductal Carcinoma
(IDC). In this condition, the cancer cells start forming in the milk ducts, and then spread into other parts of the breast
tissue. This is the
most common form of invasive breast
carcinoma, accounting for up to 80% of all breast cancer cases. Ductal carcinoma is also
the most common men breast cancer.
• Invasive Lobular Carcinoma (ILC). In this form of tumor, the
formation of the cancer cells begin in the
lobules, grouped in the lobes. Without an appropriate therapeutic intervention to stop their progression, the
malignant cells will pass through the wall of the lobules to attack the surrounding tissue. ILC is
the second most common
form of invasive breastcancer, coming right after invasive ductal
Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare malignant tumor
characterized primarily by a diseased breast that may become red, swollen and hot. The disease can make the
breast skin to take the form of an orange peel. This is a very aggressive form of tumor which tends to grow
fast. It is very rare in men, but can occur in women of any age. Inflammatory breast
cancer does not respond well to treatment. The good news, the disease is not common; it is account for less
than 5% of all breast cancer cases
in the US, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Please find out more on inflammatory breast
• Other carcinomas. Some other rare types of breast cancer
include medullary breast cancer
5%), tubular breast cancer (about 2%), mucinous (colloid)
breast cancer (less than 2%),
and papillary breast cancer (less than
disease. Also known as
Paget disease of
the breastand Paget's diseaseof the nipple, this tumor
is rare and characterized by
a small wound on the nipple that does not heal. As the cancer progress, the lesion extends to the
areolamammae, the colored circle of skin around the nipple. Without
appropriate treatment, any simple
Paget disease of the breast can turn to be serious.