Breast cancer is a frightening disease. It can be fatal, and while two thirds of the cases occur among mature women, it also strikes younger females and about nine thousand males each year. The fear generated by breast cancer is intensified by the somewhat shocking reality that breast cancer has actually increased over the last fifty years. In 1940, a woman had a one-in-twenty chance of developing the disease, while today one out of every eight women will get breast cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, every three minutes somewhere a woman is diagnosed with it. Yet despite all of the media attention about breast cancer, most people don't know very much about the illness.
Cancer is a group of diseases characterized by cells that change and divide abnormally. If rapid cell division occurs when the body doesn't need new cells, an abundance of tissue is produced. This mass of tissue, known as a tumor, may be either benign or malignant.
Benign tumors are not cancerous and may even be completely harmless. Most of the time these can be surgically removed and do not grow back. The cells of benign tumors don't spread to other parts of the body and do not threaten your life.
Malignant tumors, on the other hand, are cancerous. These tumors can enter and damage surrounding tissues and organs. Cancer cells can also break away from malignant tumors and get in either the blood stream or lymphatic system. When breast cancer spreads outside the breast it usually gets into the lymph nodes under the arms. At this point it probably has already spread to other organs in the body like the liver or lungs, where it will form secondary tumors.
Two forms of cancer affect the breast they are ductal carcinoma and lobular carcinoma. Ductal carcinoma the commonest form of breast cancer, begins in the lining of the breast's ducts. The thin tubes connecting various parts of the breast and which lead to the nipple. Lobular carcinoma is found in the...
Bibliography: 1. Microsoft Encarta, 1996 "Cancer"
2. Landau, Elaine, "Breast Cancer", New York, 1995.
3. Anagnostakos, Tortora, "Principles of Anatomy and Physiology", New York, 1984.
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