SolveYourProblem Article Series: Breast Cancer
Help Me Understand Breast Cancer



What Is Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers to affect women. Certainly amongst women it is the one that has proven to be the most deadly. Thousands of individuals each year will find their lives affected by this disease - whether they themselves develop it or someone close to them will have it.

Breast cancer begins in the breast, and this references an area that goes as high as the collarbone and can reach from tissue under the arm to the center of the chest. The makeup of the breast is a combination of fatty tissue, milk ducts, glands and lobules. Lobules are glands that produce milk.

The most common types of cancers in the breast are usually found in the lobules or the milk ducts. When a breast cancer is described as being 'in situ' it means that the cancer remains contained and has not begun to invade any of the surrounding tissue.

Ductal Carcinoma in situ - is when the cancer is located in the milk duct lining but it has not spread. This is a very treatable form of the cancer.

Lobular Carcinoma in situ - is when the cancer is located in a lobule but has not spread. Some in the medical community consider this to be just an early warning of possible cancer while others feel it is cancer but highly treatable as well.

Invasive Ductal Carcinoma - Is cancer that begins in the lining of the duct but has broken free to the surrounding tissue.

Invasive Lobular Carcinoma - Means the cancer has started in one of the milk producing lobules but has broken through to surrounding tissue.

Other rarer forms of breast cancer includes: Sarcoma, that involves the connective tissue of the breast, Paget's disease that concerns the nipple and the dark tissue surrounding the nipple, or inflammatory breast cancer that blocks lymph vessels near the surface of skin tissue and manifests itself by causing an inflammation. Recurrent breast cancer is cancer that has returned and may have developed in some other tissue or organ of the body.

Research throughout a good many centuries has slowly developed a better understanding of what causes breast cancer and how it can be treated. Back in the 17th century the medical community was beginning to gain a clear idea of how the body's circulatory system worked. From there they realized that when a cancer developed in the breast it was capable of quickly invading the rest of the body through the lymph nodes that are located adjacent to the breasts and under the arms.

To halt the spread of the disease it became the practice to not only remove the affected breast tissue, but the lymph nodes as well. There are recorded cases of mastectomies being performed in the later part of the 19th century. Going forward into more modern times they have developed a number of different options for treatments. Though the techniques are greatly advanced, the principle procedure remains to first remove the cancer surgically and then follow it up with an option of treatments that may involve chemotherapy, radiation, and drug therapy. However in some cases the cancer may be treated without the surgery.

It has been noted that the occurrence of breast cancer has greatly increased from the latter part of the twentieth century on. Extensive research continues into whether this is connected to the increasingly toxic environment we live in. The need to understand the causes and prevent the disease in the first place grows ever stronger.

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