Breast Cancer

Breast cancer
Breast cancer 2
Breasts like all other body parts are made up of cells. Sometimes when breast cells make copies of themselves (normal cell behavior), they make mistakes and produce mutants (abnormal-acting cells). Most of the time our bodies are very good at killing off these bad-actors. As our bodies and immune systems age, however, they become less efficient at keeping mutant cells at bay. If allowed to grow unchecked, abnormal cells form tiny clumps and eventually lumps (tumors) that can be felt through the skin or be seen on mammogram.

The risk of breast cancer goes up as people age. In fact, the two biggest risk factors for breast cancer are aging and being female. Men can get it, but it is rare.

True or False?

Not all breast lumps are cancer and not all breast cancers cause lumps.

This is true. Most breast lumps (80%) are not cancer. They are benign (B-9) tumors. It is also true that some breast cancers do not form distinct lumps that are easy to feel. Mammography, ultrasound and biopsies help determine what sort of tumor a person has.

True or False?

Breast cancer is just one disease.

This is false. There are several different types of breast cancer. Some grow very slowly and stay in the breast. Some grow quickly and spread to other parts of the body. Some need female hormones (estrogen and progesterone) to grow, others don't. There are types that run in families and those that occur in people without a family history of cancer.

True or False?
Breast cancer is curable.

This is hard to answer, because as we already discussed, there are different types. What we can say is early treatment leads to better outcomes. This is why screening is so important. The sooner you, your healthcare provider, or your mammogram find a cancer, the better your chances for successful treatment. Women who do not check their own breasts, forego exams by their doctor, and refuse mammograms are apt to find cancers later when they are more difficult to treat. To create your personal screening plan, click here.

For more information, visit the following sites:

National Cancer Institute
American Cancer Society

Worried about paying for a mammogram? Click here.

(Updated 4/23/2019)