What Is Breast Cancer?

Like most cancers, this type happens when cells grow too quickly and don’t die. Cancer is named for where it starts out. With breast cancer, most often it starts as a small tumor that grows in your breast or breast tissue near it.

When it’s caught early, it can be very treatable. Chances of survival are based on the stage of your cancer. If it hasn’t spread yet, it can usually be treated successfully before it does.

While treatments are improving, breast cancer can be deadly -- it’s a leading cause of cancer death in women, second to lung cancer. Once cancer begins to spread, it is more difficult to get rid of it. Doctors use a system called staging to sort how far cancer has spread and how serious it is.

How Do You Spot It?

You might notice changes in your breast each month that go along with your period. Most lumps you notice on your own are not cancerous. They are called benign.

If you do feel a lump and it doesn’t go away after your next period, or you notice other suspicious symptoms, give your doctor a call. They can check it out for you. You’ll get peace of mind or your doctor can start you on a treatment plan, if you need it.

You should also know that most breast cancers are found by a doctor after a mammogram. They can octen see tumors using this type of X-ray before you can feel a lump.

Which Part of the Breast Is Most Likely to Get Cancer?

Breast cancers are most commonly found in two places:


Cancerous tumors are called malignant tumors. They grow out of control and can invade nearby tissues and have the potential to metastasize, or spread. Once this kind of tumor grows to a certain size, it is more likely to shed cells that spread to other parts of the body. It does this through the bloodstream and lymphatic system.

Different types of breast cancer grow and spread at different speeds. Some take years to spread beyond the breast, while others move quickly. That’s why it’s best to get checked if you think something is wrong.


Who Gets Breast Cancer?

Two-thirds of women with breast cancer are over 50. But younger women can and do get it, too.

Men can also get breast cancer. But breast cancer is about 100 times less common in men.

Among women, breast cancer is the most common cancer after skin cancer. If eight women were to live to be at least 90, one of them would be expected to develop the disease at some point during her life.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on March 04, 2018




WebMD Medical Reference from the American College of Physicians: "Oncology: Breast Cancer."

National Cancer Institute. 

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