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Breast Cancer Information

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women, excluding non-melanoma skin cancer. About 3 million US women are living with the disease, including 2 million who already have been diagnosed and another 1 million who do not yet know they have the disease.

The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2007, some 2,030 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed among men in the United States. Of those men, about 450 men will die from the disease.



Take this short quiz to see how much you know about breast cancer.

1. Breast cancer may be described as follows:
  • Ductal carcinoma (invasive)
  • Lobular carcinoma (invasive)
  • Ductal carcinoma in situ (noninvasive)
  • All of the above

The answer is d.

When malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the breast it is called breast cancer. Infiltrating (invasive) ductal carcinoma, or IDC, starts in a milk passage or duct, breaks through the wall of the duct, and invades the fatty tissue of the breast and can spread to other parts of the body. IDC accounts for about 80 percent of invasive breast cancer. Infiltrating (invasive) lobular carcinoma, or ILC, starts in the milk glands or lobules and can spread to other parts of the body. ILC accounts for about 10 percent of of invasive breast cancers. Ductal carcinoma in situ, or DCIS, is the most common type of noninvasive breast cancer and is confined to the milk ducts. Nearly all women with cancer at this stage can be cured.

2. Some risk factors for breast cancer cannot be changed, including:
  • Genetics
  • Obesity
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
  • All of the above

The answer is a.

A risk factor is anything that increases your chance of getting a disease. Having a risk factor does not mean you will get the disease. Some risk factors cannot be changed, such as genetics or family history, aging, not having children or a first pregnancy after age 35, and early menstruation/late menopause. Other risk factors can be changed, such as the use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT), obesity, and excessive alcohol consumption. Some women with risk factors never develop breast cancer, while some women without apparent risk factors develop the disease.

3. Which of the following is a sign of breast cancer?
  • A lump in the breast
  • Unusual discharge from the nipple
  • Change in the size or shape of the breast
  • All of the above

The answer is d.

Early detection of breast cancer usually means that it is found before a woman notices symptoms and while the cancer is still small and confined to the breast. When a woman notices a change in her breast that may signal breast cancer, she should notify her physician immediately. Symptoms may include a breast lump or lump in the armpit; a change in the size or shape of the breast; abnormal nipple discharge; change in the nipple or surrounding area including a scaly and/or red appearance; or breast pain or discomfort only on one side. The earlier breast cancer is found, the greater the chance of surviving this disease.

4. Screening for breast cancer includes:
  • Barium testing
  • Mammogram
  • Magnet sensors
  • All of the above

The answer is b.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that women who are in their 20s and 30s begin a program of clinical breast examination (CBE) by a physician at least every three years. Young women can choose to begin breast self-examination (BSE) on a regular basis, thus learning how their breasts normally feel and then be able to detect change. Women at age 40 should begin mammography, and then be screened every year thereafter. In addition, women age 40 and older should have a yearly CBE and continue BSE. The ACS states that mammograms may miss seet with their physician to plan a individualized screening program.

5. A physician uses a mammogram to look for:
  • A calcification
  • A mass
  • A cyst
  • All of the above

The answer is d.

Calcifications caused by mineral deposits appear on a mammogram as tiny white spots. The calcification may be monitored with future mammograms or a breast tissue sample (biopsy) may be taken from the affected area of the breast and then sent to the lab for examination. The calcification may be caused by a non-cancerous condition, and less often by breast cancer. A cyst is a collection of fluid in a small sac in the breast, and it is rare for it to be cancerous. A mass can include a cyst and/or fibrous tissue, both of which are likely not to be cancer. However, a mass could be cancerous and a physician often recommends a biopsy.

6. When breast cancer is suspected, physicians may use the following to confirm the diagnosis:
  • Breast ultrasound
  • Fine needle aspiration biopsy
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • All of the above

The answer is d.

Physicians have a wide range of tests to select from when making a diagnosis. Tests may include an ultrasound (using sound waves to create an image) or a ductogram (determines nipple discharge). One of three types of biopsy may be performed, such as a fine needle aspiration biopsy (a thin needle draws from the cyst or solid mass), a stereotactic core needle biopsy (removes more tissue than the fine needle), or surgical biopsy (removal of all or part of the lump in order to examine it under a microscope). Other tests that may be performed include a computed tomography (CT scan), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or positron emission tomography (PET).

One out of eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. Regardless of family history, all women and men are at risk for breast cancer. In fact, in about 90 percent of cases there is no family history of the disease. Incorporate your knowledge regarding breast cancer detection into a healthy lifestyle, and make it a goal to make smart choices. Become knowledgeable about breast cancer risk factors that may apply to you, and take appropriate actions including changing behavoirs and being clinically monitored for the disease. Experts recommend that you contact your physician to develop a plan for breast cancer screening based on your personal profile.

Sources: DeKalb Medical Center, Atlanta, GA and the American Cancer Society, 2007

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