What is Breast Cancer?

Breast Cancer is the most common cancer in India.

Breast cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the breast. It can start in one or both breasts. Cancer starts when cells begin to grow out of control. Breast cancer occurs almost entirely in women, but men can get breast cancer, too. It’s important to understand that most breast lumps are benign and not cancer (malignant). Non-cancer breast tumors are abnormal growths, but they do not spread outside of the breast. They are not life-threatening, but some types of benign breast lumps can increase a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer. Any breast lump or change needs to be checked by a doctor to find out if it is benign or malignant (cancer) and if it might affect your future cancer risk.

What are the signs and symptoms of breast cancer?

Breast cancer typically produces no symptoms when the tumor is small and most easily treated, which is why monthly breast self-exam and screening are important for early detection. The most common physical sign is a painless lump. Sometimes breast cancer spreads to underarm lymph nodes and causes a lump or swelling, even before the original breast tumor is large enough to be felt. Less common signs and symptoms include breast pain or heaviness; persistent changes, such as swelling, thickening, or redness of the skin; and nipple abnormalities such as spontaneous discharge (especially if bloody), erosion, or retraction. Any persistent change in the breast should be evaluated by a doctor as soon as possible.

How is breast cancer diagnosed?

Breast cancer is typically detected either during a screening examination, before symptoms have developed, or after a woman notices a lump, women can easily notice lump if she does monthly breast self exam regularly. Most masses seen on a mammogram and most breast lumps turn out to be benign (not cancerous), do not grow uncontrollably or spread, and are not life-threatening. When cancer is suspected, microscopic analysis of breast tissue is necessary for a diagnosis and to determine the extent of spread (stage) and characterize the type of the disease. The tissue for microscopic analysis can be obtained from a needle biopsy (fine-needle or wider core needle) or surgical incision. Selection of the type of biopsy is based on multiple factors, including the size and location of the mass, as well as patient factors and preferences and resources.