Breast cancer is caused by breast cells growing out of control. As the number of cells grows, they form into a mass. Breast cancer that has spread from the breast to some other part or parts of the body is called metastatic cancer.

There are many types of breast cancer such as:

Invasive Ductal Carcinoma

  • Cancer cells grow from the ducts in the breasts.  

Invasive Lobular Carcinoma

  • Cancer cells grow from the lobes of the breasts.  

Ductal Carcinoma In-Situ (DCIS)/Lobular Carcinoma In-Situ (LCIS)

  • Cancerous cells found in breast tissue.
  • Unlikely to spread to other tissues.
  • DCIS cells can become can enter the breast tissue, and should be treated.
  • LCIS is a marker for a greater risk of breast cancer, but does not need to be treated.

Some factors that may contribute towards the chances of developing breast cancer are:

  • Being older in age
  • Earlier age when your period starts
  • Older age when you first become pregnant
  • Use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
  • Having dense breast tissue
  • Having other people in your family who have had breast cancer
  • Genetic mutations such as BRCA1 and BRCA2
  • Having had radiation to the chest
  • Having breast cancer in the past
  • Being overweight
  • Not exercising 

Breast cancer also occurs in men, though not as often as in women.  Things that may add to risk for breast cancer in men are:

  • Having other people in your family who have had breast cancer
  • Having Klinefelter’s syndrome
  • Having mumps orchitis (swollen testicles)
  • Estrogen (hormone) treatment
  • Obesity
  • Liver disease
  • Having radiation in the past
  • Drinking a lot of beer, wine or liquor

The initial stages of breast cancer may not have any warnings. As the mass grows in size, it can cause problems like:

  • Lump or hardening in the breast or underarm
  • Change in size or shape of the breast
  • Fluid from the nipple or the nipple turning inward
  • Redness or scaling of the skin or nipple
  • Ridges or pitting of the breast (looks like an orange peel)

If your doctor suspects anything unusual in the breast they will order some testing to be done.

  • Diagnostic Mammogram (Mammography)
  • Ultrasound
  • Biopsy

A pathology report gives an analysis of the tests conducted giving a more detailed report to the doctor.

To guide treatment, breast cancer is "staged." The stage is based on:

  • Size and where the tumor is
  • Whether cancer cells are found in the lymph nodes
  • Whether cancer cells are found in other parts of the body

Stage ranges from stage 0 (called carcinoma in situ) to stage IV (tumors that have spread to other parts of the body). The stage and type of breast cancer will help your provider plan your treatment.

Most of the time, these treatments are used:

Early/Moderate Stage (0-II):

  • Surgery is a treatment option done to remove most of the cancer. The types of surgeries done on breast cancer patients are lumpectomy (also called breast conserving surgery) or mastectomy, and lymph node tissue sample.
  • MANY patients MIGHT NEED chemo after surgery (called adjuvant therapy) to keep the cancer from coming back (called recurrence).
  • Radiation therapy is often used after breast-conserving surgery to cut down the risk of the cancer coming back.
  • Hormonal therapy may be used if the growth has positive estrogen and/or progesterone receptors.
  • Targeted therapy may be used if the growth has a HER-2 over expression.

Advanced Breast Cancer (III or IV) or breast cancers that were stage 0-II at when they were first found and have come back in other parts of the body:

  • Surgery may be used, and can be mastectomy, lumpectomy, lymph node removal, and reconstruction.
  • Chemotherapy is often used in advanced cancer.
  • Targeted therapies are meds that work against a certain target found on the cancer cells. They are used to treat cancers that are HER2+ as well as cancers that have other targets like mTor, CD4/CD6 and EGFR. You will be tested for certain targets to decide if these therapies are a choice for you.
  • Hormone therapy is used to treat cancers that are estrogen and/or progesterone receptor positive.
  • Radiation therapy can be used in a number of ways for advanced breast cancer such as: treatment after mastectomy, radiation to the lymph node area, and to treat tumors that are causing problems in other parts of the body.