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Women’s Health: Breast Cancer

Monday, October 3, 2011

According to, all women are at risk for breast cancer – research estimates that one in eight women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer at some time in their lives. Learn more about thedisease, risk factors and prevention tips:

Breast cancer is a disease in which malignant cells form in the tissues of the breast. There are three main types:


    • Ductal carcinoma – The most common; begins in the cells of
      the ducts.
    • Lobular carcinoma – Begins in the lobes and is more often found in both breasts than are other types of breast cancer.
    • Inflammatory breast cancer – Uncommon type in which the breast is warm, red and swollen.


Causes and Risk Factors
It is unclear as to what specifically triggers breast cells to grow abnormally. Medical experts attribute the development of breast cancer to a combination of both unknown and known factors including genetics, certain lifestyle choices and reproductive factors, which may include the following:


    • Older age
    • Menstruation at an early age
    • Family history
    • Having dense breast tissue
    • Never having given birth, or having first given birth at an older age
    • Having radiation therapy to the breast/chest
    • Drinking alcoholic beverages
    • Taking hormones
    • Being Caucasian or African-American


Symptoms and Screenings
The most common indication of breast cancer is discovering a lump in the breast or underarm area. Other signs include:


    • Swelling
    • Skin irritation/dimpling
    • Nipple pain/abnormalities
    • Redness or scaly skin
    • Discharge from the nipple


To detect breast cancer, the following tests and procedures may be used by physicians:


    • Mammogram – a breast X-ray.
    • Biopsy – the removal of cells or tissues so they can be viewed under a microscope.
    • Estrogen and progesterone receptor tests – to determine the levels of each hormone.
    • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) – a procedure that uses a magnet, radio waves and a computer to make a series of detailed pictures of inside the body.


Prognosis and Treatment
The chance of recovery and the treatment options depend on many factors, including the stage of cancer, how fast the tumor is growing, hormone receptor levels, and a woman’s age and general health. There are four standard types of treatment used for breast cancer:


    • Surgery, ranging from a small lump of tissue being removed to an entire breast (mastectomy).
    • Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells or to prevent their growth.
    • Chemotherapy uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells.
    • Hormone therapy removes hormones or blocks their action to keep cancer cells from growing.


It is important to give yourself a monthly breast exam (see box). Other ways to keep breast cancer at bay:


    • Limit alcohol and fats
    • Stay physically active
    • Maintain a healthy weight


Visit or for more information.

Material posted on this website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a legal opinion or medical advice. Contact your legal representative or medical professional for information specific to your legal or medical needs.

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