Before we get into the details of breast cancer let us understand the anatomy of a female breast. A mature female possesses a pair of breasts. Each breast is made up of 15 to 20 lobes of glandular tissue. Each lobe is further divided into smaller lobules (lobules produce milk while a woman is breastfeeding). From the lobules the milk is delivered to the nipples via milk ducts. Breasts too like other parts of the body is made up of billions of microscopic cells that multiply under a controlled mechanism to produce new cells that replace the old ones (ones that die). In cases of breast cancer, this mechanism becomes uncontrollable which results in too many cells than normal. In simple, breast cancer starts when cells in the breast begin to multiply in an uncontrolled fashion. These cells form a tumour that can be detected in an x-ray or can be felt as a lump in the breasts. The tumour can be either malignant or benign. If the tumour is malignant (cancerous) then the cells invade surrounding tissues or organs and metastasize (spread) there.
It is a type of cancer that originates in the milk ducts.
It is a type of cancer that originates from lobules, where milk is produced.
Invasive breast cancer is the one that spreads from where it originates (either ducts or lobules) to the surrounding tissue. Another less common breast cancer is inflammatory breast cancer, where the breasts become red and swollen when the cancer cells block the lymph vessels (valved structures that carry lymph) in the skin.
Early breast cancer may not show any symptoms hence, regular breast exams and screening tests are important so that cancer can be detected earlier.
If you experience any one of the following symptoms mentioned below then contacting the healthcare provider (oncologist) is a wise decision:
• A lump in a breast
• Change in the size and shape of the breast or nipple
• Sunken or inverted nipples
• The peeling of nipple skin or breast skin (skin ulcers)
• Discharge from the nipples (it may con tain blood)
• A pain in the armpits or breast (which is not related to the woman's menstrual period)
• Redness of the skin of the breast