Breast Cancer Review

Breast Tumors

Breast changes in a patient must be examined by a physician as soon as possible. For a questionable lump, the physician will order tests to determine if it is either a malignant breast tumor or a benign breast condition.

It is now estimated that over 211,000 women will be diagnosed with a malignant breast tumor in a year’s time.

How Breast Cancer Begins

A malignant cancer begins when cells start growing out of control, no longer normally dividing to repair old or injured cells, but replacing the normal cells in an area of the body with their abnormal ones. These out-of-control cells reproduce more abnormal cells, which may later travel to other parts of the body and start replacing the normal cells in that region also (called a metastasis). It has now been determined that cancerous cells have damaged DNA, whether inherited from a relative or caused by something in the person’s environment. This damaged DNA affects the genes called “oncogenes” which are responsible for cell division, making them go into abnormal cell production. Usually, these cancerous cells form a tumor -- in this case, a malignant breast tumor.

How Breast Cancer Grows

Together with the fatty tissue, each breast is divided into 15 to 20 sections (called lobes) which are then further divided into lobules. Because the lobes and lobules are connected by thin tubes called ducts, cancer in these ducts is called ductal cancer and is the most common type of malignant breast tumor (about 75% of all breast cancers are ductal carcinomas). Cancer that develops in the lobes or lobules is called lobular carcinoma. There are several other types of breast cancer that are not so common. One type, inflammatory breast cancer, is characterized by changes in the skin of the breast and is particularly aggressive.

Diagnosing Breast Cancer

After a biopsy and a sample of tissue is sent to a pathologist, he examines it under a microscope and is able to tell what type of breast tumor it is, whether it is malignant or benign. If it is determined to be of the malignant type, the pathologist will also establish whether it is the invasive type that will move into the lymph nodes or into other organs and areas of the body. This information is crucial in the determination of treatment for the patient.

A breast tumor may also be determined to be benign, not malignant. This is a very common condition with many different forms, which physicians often explain. Because this condition will not spread and become life-threatening, surgery may not be indicated. The doctor will often ask the patient to return, for a follow-up appointment only, in a few months.

Breast Cancer Resources

American Cancer Society

People Living With Cancer

United States National Library of Medicine

National Breast Cancer Foundation

Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation

Health Coverage from Health Insurance .org

WebMD Health

Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation

National Cancer Institute

Breast Cancer Research Foundation

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

Y-ME National Breast Cancer Foundation

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania

Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Foundation

Women’s Information Network Against Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer

Cancer News On the Net

Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition

Mothers Supporting Daughters With Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer Online

National Breast Cancer Coalition

Breast Cancer Fund

Breast Cancer Action

Breast Cancer Care

Breast Cancer Campaign

Cancer BACUP

Canadian Breast Cancer Network

Breast Cancer Society of Canada

Breast Cancer Action – Ottawa

Info Breast Cancer

Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation

National Breast Cancer Centre

National Breast Cancer Foundation

New South Wales Breast Cancer Institute

Early Warning Signs
Breast Tumor Information
Self-Exams & Diagnosis
Stage 3 Breast Cancer
Stage 4 Breast Cancer
Advanced Breast Cancer

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