Breast Cancer

Breast cancer affects 10% of the world population

By Sarah Leavitt, Medical Research EditorLast modified: March 21, 2011

Breast Cancer

10% of women around the world will develop breast cancer and breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women. Breast cancer can affect men as well and of the 50,000+ people diagnosed with breast cancer yearly, 1% of those diagnosed will be men.


What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer is cancer that develops in the tissue, milk ducts and glands of the breast. All forms of cancer develop as a result of a rapidly dividing, mutant cell that damages healthy tissue and cell production. Breast cancer can develop as a tumor, or lump, however breast cancer often has no tumorous symptom.


How does breast cancer develop?

Breast cancer commonly develops in the milk glands, lobules or in the milk ducts that connect the glands to the nipples. As the cancerous cells multiply, breast cancer can spread into healthy breast tissue and also into the lymph glands located in the armpit. It is from the lymph glands that breast cancer can spread to other parts of the body. As the cancer cells mutate, the cells cluster together and a tumor forms.


What causes breast cancer?

Breast cancer is caused by a genetic mutation, however this does not mean breast cancer is always inherited. Less than 10% of breast cancers are caused by a genetically inherited gene. 90% of breast cancers are a result of a genetic abnormality that develops with age. 


Risk factors for developing breast cancer include women with a family history of breast cancer or ovarian cancer, women who take hormone replacement therapy following a hysterectomy or menopause, women over the age of 50 and women who develop breast cancer in one breast are at increased risk of developing cancer in the second breast. 


What are the symptoms of breast cancer?

Breast cancer is commonly identified by women identifying a lump in the breast. Although a tumor is almost always present with breast cancer, the initial stage of breast cancer often develops without a lump or with a lump that is too small to be felt through the breast.


Breast cancer screening through self-examination and regular mammograms  can identify breast cancer before any symptoms develop and while the cancer is in the initial stages increasing the success of treatment.


Breast cancer symptoms women should be aware of are:


  • Swelling in the breast
  • Red or itchy skin on the breast
  • Pain in the breast
  • Change to the nipple or pain in the nipple
  • Discharge from the nipple
  • A lump in the armpit

Treatment for breast cancer

The type of treatment suitable to treat breast cancer varies between women. Women who are under the age of menopause will require additional treatment to prevent the body producing oestrogen, a naturally produced hormone that can speed up the development of breast cancer. 


Treatment for breast cancer almost always involves removal of the tumor. The amount of breast tissue that must be removed to remove the lump and to prevent the cancer cells from mutating to other areas of the breast will depend on the development stage of the breast cancer when diagnosed.


Women often undergo a mastectomy when diagnosed with breast cancer, even if the cancer is confined to the area of the tumor. A mastectomy removes all or most of the breast tissue to remove any existing cancer cells and to prevent the cancer returning.


Chemotherapy is often needed when a patient is diagnosed with breast cancer. Chemotherapy treatment is commonly started before any surgery to shrink the tumor and make the surgery a more simple procedure. Chemotherapy may also follow surgery to ensure there are no remaining cancer cells in the lymph glands.


Radiotherapy is sometimes an option for women whose breast cancer is detected during the early stages of the disease. Radiotherapy is given to women who undergo a lumpectomy to remove the tumor itself from the breast but leave the remaining breast tissue.  


For more information about breast cancer and treatment advice, please contact an oncologist





Symptoms Of Breast Cancer

Common Symptoms Of Breast Cancer Include:-

  • Itching in the armpit or around the breast region
  • Ridges and thickened areas of the skin of nipple or breast
  • Appearance of a bruise that does not go away
  • Nipple getting inverted
  • Breast is warm to the touch
  • A discharge from the nipple

How to perform a breast examination

Breast cancer affects 10% of women worldwide. The earlier breast cancer is diagnosed, the higher the success rate of treatment. It is recommended that all women perform regular self-examination of the breasts to monitor any changes.Learn how to perform a breast exam here.

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This article was written by the medical research team at does not intend for any of the information on this site to be regarded as medical advice - it is meant as a starting point for understanding treatment details and options before contacting a registered, licensed doctor. We advise all patients to seek medical advice from a doctor.
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