Lump or thickening that doesn’t go away or that changes
Swelling, puckering or dimpling of the breast
Pain or tenderness of the nipple
Bloody nipple discharge
Causes and Risk Factors
Over age 50 (75 percent of cases)
Women whose mothers or sisters had breast cancer
Women who have never borne children
Women who bore their first child after age 30
Women with inherited mutation
Recent research shows that certain genes such as BRCA1 appear to be genetically linked to a higher risk of breast cancer. Mutations or changes of the BRCA1 gene increase the chances of getting breast cancer from 60 to 85 percent. Genetic screening can help a woman find out if she has the gene.
What causes or prevents breast cancer is unknown. The best thing you can do is find the disease and get treated at the earliest stage.
There are a number of ways to determine if you have breast cancer:
Biopsies, including needle breast biopsies such as core needle biopsy or fine needle biopsy. For biopsies, a small piece of the tumor is taken and examined by a pathologist (someone who examines body tissues for abnormal cells or growths).
Breast cancer is a progressive disease that advances through many stages. Doctors use a staging system to determine the extent of the cancer and the best treatment options.
Stage 0. Stage 0 is sometimes called noninvasive carcinoma or ductal carcinoma in situ. In stage 0, the cancer hasn’t spread from the duct into the surrounding breast tissues.
Stage I. In stage I, the cancer cells haven’t spread beyond the breast and the tumor is no more than 2 centimeters in size.
Stage II. In stage II, the cancer is 2 centimeters or smaller and has spread to underarm lymph nodes, or the tumor in the breast is larger than 2 centimeters but smaller than 5 centimeters and hasn’t spread to lymph nodes under the arm.
Stage III. Stage III, or locally advanced cancer, means the tumor in the breast is larger than 5 centimeters and cancer has more considerably involved the axillary lymph nodes, causing them to be attached to each other or to other structures, or has spread to the other lymph nodes near the breastbone or other tissues such as the skin of the breast or chest wall.
Stage IV. Stage IV cancer means the tumor has spread from the breast to other parts of the body, such as the brain, lungs, bones and liver.
Recurrent Cancer. Recurrent cancer means that the disease reappears after the initial treatment, even though treatment was at first successful. This is either because undetected cancer cells remained in the body or the disease spread before treatment began.
The choice of treatment depends on the patient's age and general health, and the type and stage of cancer. The stage is determined by the size of the tumor and whether it has reached the lymph nodes of the armpit (axilla) or has spread (metastasized) to the liver, brain, lungs or bones. Oncologists may suggest one or a blend of treatments. The goal is to remove or kill all cancer cells in the body. Treatment for later-staged cancer cases aim to provide comfort and improve your quality of life.