What is the definition of breast cancer?signs of breast cancer

Cancer develops when changes in genes that control cell development, known as mutations, occur. Mutations allow cells to divide and replicate in an uncontrolled manner.

Breast cancer is a kind of cancer that arises in the cells of the breast. The cancer usually develops in the lobules or ducts of the breast.

The glands that create milk are known as lobules, and the ducts that transport the milk from the glands to the nipple are known as ducts. Breast cancer can also develop in the fatty tissue or fibrous connective tissue.

Uncontrolled cancer cells frequently penetrate healthy breast tissue and can spread to lymph nodes beneath the arms. The lymph nodes are a major conduit for cancer cells to spread to other regions of the body.

Signs and symptoms of breast cancer

Breast cancer may not generate any symptoms in its early stages. Although a tumour may be too tiny to be felt, a mammography might nevertheless reveal an anomaly.

The first symptom of a tumour is generally a new lump in the breast that wasn’t there before. Not all lumps, however, are cancerous.

Breast cancer can manifest itself in a variety of ways. Although many of these symptoms are similar, some are distinct. The following are symptoms of the most frequent breast cancers:

a newly acquired breast lump or tissue thickening that feels distinct from surrounding tissue

breast discomfort

Your whole breast is covered with red, pitted skin.

All or portion of your breasts are swollen

a secretion from the nipple that isn’t breast milk

your nipple has a bloody discharge

Skin on your nipple or breast is peeling, scaling, or flaking.

a rapid, inexplicable change in your breast shape or size

nipple inverted

alterations in the look of your breasts’ skin

a bulge or bump beneath your arm

It’s not always the case that having any of these symptoms means you have breast cancer. A benign cyst, for example, might produce discomfort in your breast or a lump in your breast.

Even so, if you discover a lump in your breast or experience other symptoms, you should visit your doctor for a thorough examination and testing.

Breast cancer types

Breast cancer is classified into two categories: “invasive” and “noninvasive,” or in situ.

Noninvasive cancer has not expanded from the initial tissue, whereas invasive cancer has spread from the breast ducts or glands to other areas of the breast.

Other kinds of breast cancer that are less prevalent include:

Paget’s disease is a nipple illness. This kind of breast cancer starts in the nipple ducts, but as it progresses, it spreads to the skin and areola of the nipple.

Tumor of the Phyllodes. This extremely rare kind of breast cancer develops in the breast’s connective tissue. The majority of these tumours are harmless, but a few are malignant.

Angiosarcoma. This is a kind of breast cancer that develops in the blood arteries or lymph vessels.

Your treatment options, as well as your long-term prognosis, are determined by the type of cancer you have.

The most prevalent kinds of breast cancer are divided into these two groups, which include:

  • Ductal carcinoma in situ. Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is a noninvasive condition. With DCIS, the cancer cells are confined to the ducts in your breast and haven’t invaded the surrounding breast tissue.
  • Lobular carcinoma in situ. Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) is cancer that grows in the milk-producing glands of your breast. Like DCIS, the cancer cells haven’t invaded the surrounding tissue.
  • Invasive ductal carcinoma. Invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) is the most common type of breast cancer. This type of breast cancer begins in your breast’s milk ducts and then invades nearby tissue in the breast. Once the breast cancer has spread to the tissue outside your milk ducts, it can begin to spread to other nearby organs and tissue.
  • Invasive lobular carcinoma. Invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC) first develops in your breast’s lobules and has invaded nearby tissue.

Breast cancer that is inflammatory

Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is a kind of breast cancer that is uncommon yet deadly. IBC accounts for just 1 to 5% of all breast cancer incidences, according to the Trusted Source.

Cells in the lymph nodes around the breasts get clogged, preventing the lymph veins in the breast from draining normally. IBC causes your breast to enlarge, look red, and feel very heated, rather than forming a tumour. Like an orange peel, a malignant breast may seem pitted and thick.

IBC is a fast-moving disease that can be quite aggressive. As a result, if you observe any symptoms, you should contact your doctor straight soon.

Breast cancer that has spread across the body

Stage 4 breast cancer is often known as metastatic breast cancer. Breast cancer that has spread to other regions of your body, such as your bones, lungs, or liver, is known as metastatic breast cancer.

Breast cancer has progressed to this stage. Your oncologist (cancer doctor) will devise a treatment strategy aimed at halting the tumor’s development and spread (s).

Breast cancer that is triple-negative

According to the American Cancer Society, triple-negative breast cancer is an uncommon illness that affects only around 10% to 15% of patients diagnosed with breast cancer (ACS).

A tumour must exhibit all three of the following features to be classified as triple-negative breast cancer:

It is devoid of oestrogen receptors. These are cell receptors that bind to the hormone oestrogen and adhere to it. Estrogen can encourage cancer growth if a tumour possesses oestrogen receptors.

It is devoid of progesterone receptors. Cells that attach to the hormone progesterone are known as progesterone receptors. Progesterone can accelerate cancer growth if the tumour possesses progesterone receptors.

Its surface does not include any more HER2 proteins. HER2 is a protein that promotes the development of breast cancer.

A tumour is classified as triple-negative breast cancer if it fits all three criteria. This form of breast cancer has a faster rate of growth and dissemination than other types of breast cancer.

Because hormone treatment for breast cancer is ineffective, triple-negative breast cancers are difficult to treat.

The size of the tumor(s) and how far they have spread determine the stage of breast cancer.

Stages of breast cancer

Cancers that are big and/or have spread to neighbouring tissues or organs are in a more advanced stage than those that are tiny and/or remain localised in the breast. Doctors need to know the following information to stage breast cancer:

  • if the cancer is invasive or not
  • the size of the tumour
  • whether there are any lymph nodes involved
  • whether cancer has spread to surrounding organs or tissue
  • Stages 0 to 5 are the five primary stages of breast cancer.

Breast cancer in stage 0

DCIS is the first stage. DCIS cancer cells are restricted to the breast ducts and have not migrated to adjacent tissue.

Breast cancer in the first stage

  • Stage 1A: The primary tumor is 2 centimeters (cm) wide or less, and the lymph nodes are not affected.
  • Stage 1B: Cancer is found in nearby lymph nodes, and either there is no tumor in the breast, or the tumor is smaller than 2 cm.

Breast cancer in stage 2

Stage 2A: The tumour is less than 2 cm in diameter and has spread to one to three surrounding lymph nodes, or it is between 2 and 5 cm in diameter and has not migrated to any lymph nodes.

Stage 2B: The tumour is 2–5 cm in diameter and has spread to 1–3 axillary (armpit) lymph nodes, or it is more than 5 cm in diameter but hasn’t migrated to any lymph no

Breast cancer in the third stagedes.

Stage 3A: The disease has expanded to 4–9 axillary lymph nodes or enlarged the internal mammary lymph nodes, with the initial tumour being any size.

The malignancy has progressed to 1–3 axillary lymph nodes or any breastbone nodes, and the tumours are larger than 5 cm.

Stage 3B: A tumour has entered the chest wall or skin, and up to nine lymph nodes may or may not have been infiltrated.

Cancer has been discovered in ten or more axillary lymph nodes, lymph nodes around the collarbone, or internal mammary nodes at stage 3C.

Breast cancer in stage 4

The tumour size in stage 4 breast cancer can be any size, and the cancer cells have migrated to local and distant lymph nodes, as well as distant organs.

Your doctor’s tests will establish the stage of your breast cancer, which will influence your treatment options.

Breast cancer in men

Men, like women, have breast tissue, albeit it is normally less abundant. Men can get breast cancer as well, although it’s considerably less common.

Breast cancer is 100 times less likely in white males than in white women, according to the ACSTrusted Source. It affects 70 times fewer black males than black women.

Men who have breast cancer are, nevertheless, just as severe as women who develop breast cancer. It also exhibits the same signs and symptoms.

Survival rate for women with breast cancer

Breast cancer survival rates vary dramatically depending on a variety of factors.

The type of cancer you have and the stage of cancer at the time of diagnosis are two of the most crucial aspects. Age, gender, and race are all characteristics that might have an impact.

According to ResearchTrusted Source, non-white persons diagnosed with breast cancer have a greater death rate than white people. Healthcare inequities might be one cause for this.

The good news is that survival rates for breast cancer are improving.

According to the ACSTrusted Source, the 5-year survival rate for women with breast cancer was 75.2 percent in 1975. It was 90.6 percent for women diagnosed between 2008 and 2014.

Breast cancer five-year survival rates vary by stage upon diagnosis, ranging from 99 percent for localised, early stage tumours to 27 percent for late, metastatic malignancies.

Breast cancer diagnosis

In addition to a breast exam, your doctor will do a full physical examination to establish if your symptoms are caused by breast cancer or a benign breast ailment. They may also order one or more diagnostic tests to determine the source of your symptoms.

The following tests can aid in the diagnosis of breast cancer:

Mammogram. An imaging test called a mammography is the most frequent approach to view beneath the surface of your breast. Many women in their forties and fifties receive mammograms every year to screen for breast cancer. A mammogram will be requested if your doctor feels you have a tumour or worrisome area. If your mammography reveals an abnormal spot, your doctor may order further testing.

Ultrasound. A breast ultrasound creates an image of the tissues deep within your breast using sound waves. Your doctor can use an ultrasound to tell the difference between a solid mass, such as a tumour, and a benign cyst.

An MRI or a breast biopsy may be recommended by your doctor.

Biopsy of the breast

A mammogram and an ultrasound may be ordered if your doctor suspects breast cancer. If both of these tests fail to reveal whether or not you have cancer, your doctor may do a breast biopsy.

Your doctor will take a tissue sample from the questionable location to be analysed during this procedure.

Breast biopsies come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Your doctor may take a tissue sample with a needle in some of these tests. They create an incision in your breast and then extract the sample with others.

The tissue sample will be sent to a laboratory by your doctor. If the sample is positive for cancer, the lab can run additional tests to determine the sort of cancer you have.

Treatment for breast cancer

The stage of your breast cancer, how far it has spread (if it has), and the size of the tumour all play a role in deciding the type of therapy you’ll require.

To begin, your doctor will assess the size, stage, and grade of your cancer (how likely it is to grow and spread). Following that, you may talk about your therapy choices.

The most frequent therapy for breast cancer is surgery. Chemotherapy, targeted therapy, radiation, and hormone therapy are all options for many patients.


Breast cancer can be removed using a variety of surgical procedures, including:

Lumpectomy. The tumour and some surrounding tissue are removed during this treatment, while the remainder of the breast is left intact.

Mastectomy. A surgeon removes a whole breast in this surgery. Both breasts are removed during a double mastectomy.

Biopsy of the sentinel node A few lymph nodes that get drainage from the tumour are removed during this procedure. The lymph nodes in question will be examined. You may not require more surgery to remove more lymph nodes if they don’t have cancer.

Dissection of the axillary lymph nodes. If cancer cells are found in lymph nodes taken during a sentinel node biopsy, your doctor may remove further lymph nodes.

Prophylactic mastectomy on the contralateral side. Despite the fact that breast cancer may only be found in one breast, some women choose to have a contralateral preventive mastectomy. This procedure eliminates your good breast in order to lower your chances of getting breast cancer again.

Radiation therapy 

High-powered beams of radiation are used in radiation treatment to target and kill cancer cells. External beam radiation is used in the majority of radiation treatments. A huge machine is attached to the outside of the body in this approach.

Doctors may now irradiate tumours from within the body thanks to advancements in cancer treatment. Brachytherapy is the name for this sort of radiation treatment.

During brachytherapy, doctors implant radioactive seeds, or pellets, near the tumour location within the body. The seeds are only present for a brief time and function to eliminate cancer cells.


Chemotherapy is a type of medicine that is used to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be used alone in some cases, but it is frequently used in conjunction with other therapies, particularly surgery.

In certain circumstances, doctors choose to provide chemotherapy to patients prior to surgery. The goal is that the therapy would decrease the tumour, reducing the need for invasive surgery.

Chemotherapy includes a lot of unfavourable side effects, so talk to your doctor about them before you start.

Hormone therapy

Your doctor may start hormone therapy if your kind of breast cancer is hormone-sensitive. Two female hormones, oestrogen and progesterone, can promote the formation of breast cancer tumours.

Hormone treatment works by inhibiting the synthesis of these hormones in your body or by inhibiting the hormone receptors on cancer cells. This approach may help delay or perhaps stop the progression of your cancer.


Certain cancer therapies target particular defects or mutations in cancer cells.

Herceptin (trastuzumab), for example, can prevent your body from producing the HER2 protein. Because HER2 promotes the development of breast cancer cells, taking a drug that inhibits its synthesis may help to delay cancer progression.

If your doctor recommends a specific treatment for you, he or she will tell you more about it.

Certain cancer therapies target particular defects or mutations in cancer cells.

Herceptin (trastuzumab), for example, can prevent your body from producing the HER2 protein. Because HER2 promotes the development of breast cancer cells, taking a drug that inhibits its synthesis may help to delay cancer progression.

If your doctor recommends a specific treatment for you, he or she will tell you more about it.

Breast cancer pictures

Breast cancer can manifest itself in a variety of ways, and different people will have various symptoms.

It might be good to know what breast diseases that are truly cancer look like if you’re concerned about a spot or change in your breast.


Breast cancer care

Make an appointment with your doctor if you see an odd lump or area in your breast, or if you have any other signs of breast cancer.

It’s quite unlikely that it’s breast cancer. Breast lumps, for example, can be caused by a variety of factors.

However, if your illness turns out to be cancer, remember that early treatment is crucial. If caught early enough, early-stage breast cancer can typically be treated and cured. The longer breast cancer is left untreated, the more difficult it gets to treat.

If you’ve already been diagnosed with breast cancer, bear in mind that cancer treatments and outcomes are improving all the time. So stick to your treatment plan and try to have a positive attitude.

How common is breast cancer?

Breast cancer is the second most frequent disease in women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source.

According to data from the American Cancer Society’s Trusted Source, about 268,600 new instances of invasive breast cancer will be identified in the United States year 2019.

Breast cancer that has migrated from the ducts or glands to other regions of the breast is known as invasive breast cancer. The illness is estimated to kill more than 41,000 women.

Men can also be diagnosed with breast cancer. According to the ACS, more than 2,600 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2019, with roughly 500 men dying from the condition.

Risk factors for breast cancer

There are a number of variables that might raise your chances of developing breast cancer. However, experiencing any of these symptoms does not guarantee that you will get the condition.

Some risk factors, such as family history, cannot be prevented. If you smoke, you can alter other risk factors such as quitting smoking. Breast cancer has a number of risk factors, including:

Age. As you become older, your chances of getting breast cancer rise. Women above the age of 55 are more likely to develop invasive breast cancer.

Taking alcoholic beverages. You’re at a higher risk if you have an alcohol use disorder.

Breast tissue that is thick. Mammograms are difficult to read due to dense breast tissue. It also raises your chances of getting breast cancer.

Gender. White women are 100 times more likely than white men to suffer breast cancer, while Black women are 70 times more likely than Black men to develop breast cancer.

Genes. Breast cancer is more common in women who have the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations than in those who do not. Other gene variations may have an impact on your risk as well.

Menstruation in its early stages. If you had your first period before the age of 12, you have a higher chance of developing breast cancer.

Having a child at a later age. Breast cancer is more likely in women who have their first child after the age of 35.

Hormone therapy is a type of hormone replacement therapy. Breast cancer is more likely in women who have taken or are taking postmenopausal oestrogen and progesterone drugs to cope with menopause symptoms.

Early stages of menstruation. If you started having your period before the age of 12, you’re more likely to acquire breast cancer.

Having a kid later in life. Women who have their first child beyond the age of 35 are more likely to get breast cancer.

Hormone replacement treatment is a form of hormone therapy. Women who have used or are taking postmenopausal oestrogen and progesterone medicines to deal with menopause symptoms are more likely to develop breast cancer.

Breast cancer prevention

While there are certain risk factors you can’t change, living a healthy lifestyle, having frequent tests, and taking any preventative actions your doctor suggests can all help lower your chance of breast cancer.

Lifestyle factors

Breast cancer risk is influenced by a variety of lifestyle variables.

Obese women, for example, have an increased chance of getting breast cancer. Maintaining a nutrient-dense diet and exercising as much as feasible will help you lose weight and reduce your risk.

Misuse of alcohol also raises your risk. Having more than two drinks each day or binge-drinking are examples of this.

However, according to a paper based on global research, even one drink per day raises your risk of breast cancer. If you consume alcohol, talk to your doctor about how much you should drink.

Breast cancer screening

Regular mammograms may not prevent breast cancer, but they can significantly minimise the likelihood of it going undiagnosed.

For women at medium risk of breast cancer, the American College of Physicians (ACP) makes the following basic recommendations:

Women between the ages of 40 and 49 should not get a mammogram every year, but they should discuss their choices with their doctors.

Women aged 50 to 74 should have a mammogram every two years.

Mammograms are no longer suggested for women aged 75 and over.

Mammograms are also discouraged by the ACP for women having a life expectancy of fewer than ten years.

These are just suggestions.

The ACS makes different recommendations. Women should be able to start annual screenings at 40 years old, progress to yearly screenings at 45 years old, and finally to biannual screenings at 55 years old, according to the American Cancer Society.

Each woman’s mammography guidelines are different, so check with your doctor to determine if you should have frequent mammograms.

Preemptive treatment

Hereditary factors put certain women at a higher risk for breast cancer.

If your mother or father has a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, for example, you’re more likely to have it as well. This greatly increases your chances of developing breast cancer.

If you’re at risk for this mutation, discuss your diagnostic and preventive treatment options with your doctor. You might wish to be tested to see whether you have the mutation.

If you do find out you have it, talk to your doctor about any preventative measures you may take to lower your chance of breast cancer. A preventive mastectomy might be one of these steps (surgical removal of a breast).

Breast examinations, in addition to mammography, are another approach to check for indicators of breast cancer.


Many women perform a self-examination of their breasts. This exam should be taken once a month, at the same time each month. The assessment might help you have a better understanding of how your breasts generally appear and feel so you can spot any changes.

Keep in mind that the ACSTrusted Source considers these checks to be optional because current research hasn’t proved that physical exams, whether conducted at home or by a doctor, provide a clear benefit.

Breast exam by your doctor

Breast examinations performed by your doctor or another healthcare professional follow the same standards as self-exams. They won’t harm you, and your doctor could perform a breast exam at your yearly checkup.

It’s a good idea to have your doctor perform a breast exam if you’re experiencing any troubling symptoms. During the exam, your doctor will look for abnormal spots or symptoms of breast cancer in both of your breasts.

Your doctor may also examine other regions of your body to discover whether the symptoms you’re experiencing are caused by something else.

Breast cancer awareness

People are becoming more aware of the dangers linked with breast cancer, which is good news for women and men all across the world.

People have benefited from breast cancer awareness activities in the following ways:

find out what their dangers are

how they might lower their risk level

what signs and symptoms they should be looking for

what types of screenings they should have

Although October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, many people spread the information throughout the year.

Staging of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer diagnosis and staging

Breast cancer is given a stage when it is first discovered. The tumor’s size and extent of dissemination are determined by the stage.

To determine the stage of breast cancer, doctors employ a range of tests. Imaging tests such as a CT scan, MRI, ultrasound, and X-ray, as well as blood testing and a biopsy of the afflicted breast tissue, are all options.

You’ll need to know what stage your cancer is at to obtain a better grasp of your diagnosis and treatment choices. Breast cancer that is detected in its early stages has a better prognosis than cancer that is detected later.

Breast cancer staging

The staging method assesses if breast cancer has migrated to other regions of the body, such as lymph nodes or major organs. The TNM method of the American Joint Committee on Cancer is the most widely utilised.

Cancers are categorised using the TNM staging approach into three stages: T, N, and M.

The letter T denotes the tumor’s size and the extent to which it has spread within the breast and to adjacent locations.

The number N denotes how far it has progressed to lymph nodes.

M stands for metastasis, which refers to how far the cancer has spread to distant organs.

Each letter in TNM staging is assigned a numerical value to indicate how far the cancer has progressed. Following the determination of TNM staging, the data is integrated in a procedure known as “stage grouping.”

The most common staging method is stage grouping, in which stages range from 0 to 4. The lower the number, the more advanced the stage of cancer.

Stage 0

This stage refers to breast cancer that is noninvasive (“in situ”). Stage 0 cancer is referred to as ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). Precancerous cells may have just begun to grow in DCIS, but they haven’t moved beyond the milk ducts.

Stage 1

This is when invasive breast cancer is discovered for the first time. The tumour is no more than 2 cm in diameter (about 3/4 inch) at this phase. Based on a variety of parameters, these breast tumours are split into two types (1A and 1B).

The tumour must be 2 cm in diameter or less, and the malignancy must not have spread outside the breast.

Small clusters of breast cancer cells are seen in the lymph nodes in stage 1B. Typically, no identifiable tumour is observed in the breast at this stage, or the tumour is 2 cm or less.

Stage 2

This stage refers to invasive breast tumours that have one of the following characteristics:

Although the tumour is less than 2 centimetres (3/4 inch) in diameter, it has migrated to lymph nodes beneath the arm.

The tumour measures 2 to 5 centimetres (about 3/4 inch to 2 inches) in diameter and may or may not have migrated to lymph nodes beneath the arm.

Although the tumour is more than 5 centimetres (2 inches) in diameter, it has not migrated to any lymph nodes.

Breast cancer bigger than 2 millimetres is discovered in 1–3 lymph nodes beneath the arm or around the breastbone, but no identifiable tumour is seen in the breast.

There are two types of stage 2 breast cancer: 2A and 2B.

In stage 2A, there is no tumour in the breast or the tumour is less than 2 cm in diameter. At this phase, cancer may be discovered in the lymph nodes, or the tumour may be larger than 2 centimetres but smaller than 5 cm with no evidence of lymph node involvement.

The tumour may be bigger than 2 centimetres but smaller than 5 centimetres in stage 2B, and breast cancer cells have been discovered in the lymph nodes, or the tumour may be larger than 5 centimetres but the cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes.

Stage 3

Stage 3 malignancies have progressed to more breast tissue and the surrounding tissues, but not to other parts of the body.

Stage 3A tumours can be any size and have migrated to one to three lymph nodes beneath the arm, or they can be any size and have spread to many lymph nodes.

Any size stage 3B tumour has progressed to tissues around the breast, such as the skin and chest muscles, as well as lymph nodes within the breast or under the arm.

A tumour of any size that has progressed to 10 or more lymph nodes under the arm, lymph nodes above or behind the collarbone, and lymph nodes near the neck on the same side of the body as the afflicted breast is considered stage 3C cancer.

lymph nodes in the breast and lymph nodes beneath the arm

Stage 4

Breast cancer in stage 4 has spread to other regions of the body, including the lungs, liver, bones, and brain. Cancer is considered advanced at this point, and treatment choices are restricted.

Because key organs are impacted, the cancer is no longer treatable. However, there are therapies available that can help you enhance and preserve your quality of life.


Because cancer doesn’t often show signs early on, it’s critical to have frequent tests and alert your doctor if something doesn’t seem right. The earlier breast cancer is detected, the greater your chances of a successful treatment.

The news of a cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming and even frightening. Connecting with those who understand what you’re going through might make you feel better. Seek out the help of those who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.

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