Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer starts when cells in the breast begin to grow out of control. These cells usually form a tumor that can often be seen on an x-ray or felt as a lump. The tumor is malignant (cancerous) if the cells can grow into (invade) surrounding tissues or spread (metastasize) to distant areas of the body. Breast cancer occurs almost entirely in women, but men can get it, too.

Many types of breast cancer can cause a lump in the breast, not all do. There are other symptoms of breast cancer you should watch out for and report to a health care provider.p>

It’s also important to understand that most breast lumps are not cancer, they are benign. Benign breast tumors are abnormal growths, but they do not spread outside of the breast and they are not life threatening. But some benign breast lumps can increase a woman's risk of getting breast cancer. Any breast lump or change needs to be checked by a health care provider to determine whether it is benign or cancer, and whether it might impact your future cancer risk.

The main factors that influence your breast cancer risk are being a woman and getting older. Simply being a woman is the main risk factor for breast cancer. Men can have breast cancer, too, but this disease is about 100 times more common in women than in men.

Other risk factors include—

  • Changes in breast cancer-related genes (BRCA1 or BRCA2).
  • Having your first menstrual period before age 12.
  • Never giving birth, or being older when your first child is born.
  • Starting menopause after age 55.
  • Taking hormones to replace missing estrogen and progesterone in menopause for more than five years.
  • Taking oral contraceptives (birth control pills).
  • A personal history of breast cancer, dense breasts, or some other breast problems.
  • A family history of breast cancer (parent, sibling, or child).
  • Getting radiation therapy to the breast or chest.
  • Being overweight, especially after menopause.