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Breast Cancer: Signs and Symptoms, Stages, Treatments, & Risk Factors


While it can occur in males too, breast cancer remains the most common aggressive cancer among females and the second-leading cause of death for women, behind lung cancer.

There are two types of breast cancer:

Ductal carcinoma: As the most common type of breast cancer, this starts in the milk duct area.

Lobular carcinoma: This type of breast cancer begins within the lobules of the breast.

The pink ribbon brand associated with breast cancer has become an excellent movement when it comes to raising awareness and funds around this fatal condition. Thanks to research, breast cancer technological advances in treatments and screenings have enhanced survival rates significantly since 1989, as such. Currently, there are approximately 3.1 million survivors of breast cancer across American with the risk of mortality around the illness hanging at just over two percent (that is 1 in every 37 women who develop breast cancer).

Approximately more than 252, 700 new cases were expected to emerge last year, with about just over 40,600 females dying from the condition.

Increased awareness of signs and symptoms are important, as well as screening tests with doctors. While there are many times that breast lumps don’t result in cancer, women with concerns about a lump or changes in their breast are encouraged to visit their family physician to get checked out.

Signs and Symptoms

As many might guess, the initial sign of breast cancer is general a lump in the breast, thickened tissue within an area of the breast, or a lump in a women’s armpits. Still, early diagnosis of this condition increases chances around a successful recovery, so seeing the signs and symptoms of breast cancer is key.

Below are some additional signs and symptoms of this condition:

  • Pain within the breast or armpit that doesn’t leave within a women’s monthly cycle.
  • Redness or pitting of the breast’s skin, resembling an orange.
  • A rash that develops on one or both nipples.
  • Discharge from one or both nipples, that may contain blood.
  • Inverted or sunken nipple.
  • A size or shape change in the breast.
  • Scaling, peeling, or flaking of the skin on the nipple or breast.


Doctors classify cancers in stages, and this depends on the size of tumor when it is found and whether or not it has spread to other parts of a person’s body.

When it comes to breast cancer, the condition is evaluated based on five stages, from zero to four; however, these can be further broken into smaller stages.

Stage 0: This stage is also referred to ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), which classifies the idea that the cancers are limited to the duct and have not spreads to tissues nearby.

Stage 1: At the start of this stage the tumor measures up to two centimeters in width, and at this point in the game, the lymph nodes are not affected.

Stage 2: When it comes to stage 2, the tumor measures two centimeters and at this point the cancer is spreading to nearby nodes.

Stage 3: This stage indicates that the tumor measures at five centimeters in wide and it could be spreading to lymph nodes.

Stage 4: This stage reveals that the cancer has hit other organs, especially the lungs, liver, bones, and brain.


There are a wide variety of breast cancer treatments available; however, they are determined based on the type of breast cancer and the stage a patient is in. Other factors include: sensitivity to hormones, as well as an individual’s overall health, age, and preferences.

Main breast cancer treatment options are as follows:


The choice around this treatment is decided on whether it is needed and the patient’s diagnosis. There are a few surgery choices:

  • Lumpectomy: The tumor and a small region of healthy tissue around it is removed to prevent the cancer spreading. This surgery is an option for smaller tumors.
  • Mastectomy: Simple mastectomy centers around the removal of some skin, lobules, fatty tissue, the nipple and areola; radical mastectomy involves the removal of muscle from the wall of the chest, and lymph nodes.
  • Sentinel Node Biopsy: This deals with the removal of one lymph node to ensure that the cancer does not spread.
  • Axillary lymph node dissection: This surgery depends on whether or not cancer cells are located on a sentinel node. If so, this procedure requires the removal of a number of lymph nodes within an armpit so that the disease does not spread any further.
  • Reconstruction: This would follow surgery and involves reconstruction of the breast. It can occur right after a mastectomy, or at another date. Doctors sometimes use breast implants or tissue from another part of the individual’s body.

Radiation Therapy

This is done hand in hand with chemotherapy and about four weeks after surgery. A patient is given controlled radiation dosages that focus on the tumor and aimed to eliminate cancer cells. Sessions are only a few minutes, and an individual will need about 3-5 sessions weekly for about 3-6 weeks.

Some side affects of the treatment include the breast skin darkening and may become irritated. Fatigue, as well as lymphedema, may occur.


Medications referred to as cytotoxic drugs might be used to kill cancer cells, especially if there are increased chances around spreading or recurrence. This such practise is known as adjuvant chemotherapy. Side effects of this treatment include: loss of appetite, hair loss, increased susceptibility to infections, sore mouth, fatigue, as well as nausea and vomiting.

Hormone Blocking Therapy

Hormone blocking therapy is typically done after surgery, but at times can be done to shrink a tumor. Sadly, it might be the only treatment option available for those who cannot do radiation therapy, chemo, or surgery. This treatment prevents the recurrence of breast cancers that are hormone sensitive.  At times, it can affect a female’s fertility in the future.

Biological Treatment

This treatment uses targeted drugs to eliminate certain kinds of breast cancer.



Risk Factors

While the cause around breast cancer is unclear, there are risk factors linked with the condition. They include:

  • Age: Chances of developing breast cancer increases with age. At 20 years old, the risk stands at less than one percent; whereas 70 years of age, the chances increase to just over three percent.
  • Genetics: Risks increase for those who have family members with breast cancer.
  • History: Females who have had breast cancer in the past, or noticed lumps, are likelier to develop the condition (again), versus those who have no history of lumps or the disease itself.
  • Dense Breast Tissue: The higher the density of breast tissue, the likelier breast cancer will develop.
  • Estrogen Exposure: For those exposed to estrogen over prolonged periods of time, the risk increases around breast cancer. This might be because periods started early, or menopause began later.
  • Breast Feeding: Thanks to the reduction in estrogen exposure, breast feeding in general reduces the chances around breast cancer. If done for over a year, the risk decreases even further.
  • Body weight: Those who are obese or overweight after menopause increase their risks around breast cancer.
  • Radiation Exposure: The sad reality is that individuals who undergo radiation treatment for cancers that are not breast cancer also enhance their risks of getting this type of cancer later in life.
  • Hormone Treatments: Oral birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) have been connected to breast cancer, thanks to the heightened estrogen.




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