What to know about breast cancer 

Breast Cancer
Breast cancer illustration

Breast cancer is the most common invasive cancer in females. It is a leading cause of cancer deaths among females. 

Breast cancer is a disease in which the cells of the breast develop uncontrollably. There are several types of breast cancer.

The kind of breast cancer is by which cells in the breast develop into cancer. Breast cancer can develop in a variety of locations within the breast.  

Illustration detailing the anatomy of a female breast. Depicted are lymph nodes (green), pectoralis major muscle (red muscle tissue), glandular tissue (brown), nipple (light pink centre point), and suspensory ligaments (light pink strands).

Anatomy of the Breasts  

A breast contains three major components: lobules, ducts, and connective tissue. Each breast is divided into 15 to 20 pieces known as lobes. They are grouped in the shape of daisy petals. 

Each lobe has several tiny structures known as lobules. These result in dozens of small bulbs capable of producing milk. 

The lobes, lobules, and bulbs are all joined together by narrow tubes known as ducts. 

These ducts go to the nipple, which is located in the middle of a dark region of skin known as the areola.  

The gaps between lobules and ducts are filled with fat. 

There are no muscles in the breast, there are muscles beneath each breast that cover the ribs. 

Symptoms of Breast Cancer 

The first sign of breast cancer is a swollen patch of tissue in the breast, a lump in the breast, or a lump in the armpit. 

Other signs and symptoms include 

  • armpit or breast pain does not change with the monthly cycle 
  • Redness in the skin of the breast 
  • a rash around or on one nipple 
  • discharge from a nipple, which may contain blood 
  • a sunken or inverted nipple 
  • a change in the size or shape of the breast 
  • peeling, flaking, or scaling of the skin of the breast or nipple. 

Most breast lumps are not cancerous. Anyone who finds a breast lump should have it examined by a healthcare practitioner. 

Is breast cancer painful? 

A lump or tumour in the breast is frequently one of the early symptoms of breast cancer. These bumps are usually painless.

Pain in the nipple or breast region that appears to be related to a person’s menstrual cycle may occur.  

Breast cancer pain is often progressive. Anyone experiencing breast discomfort, severe or chronic, should seek medical attention. 

How to do a breast exam…

Causes of Breast Cancer 

After puberty, a female’s breasts are made up of fat, connective tissue, and thousands of lobules. These are small glands that produce milk.

The milk is transported to the nipple via tiny tubes known as ducts.

Breast cancer develops by genetic mutations or DNA damage.

A healthy person’s immune system fights any harmful DNA or development. This does not happen to a cancer person. 

cells in breast tissue begin to proliferate uncontrollably and fail to die as they should.

This will make cells in breast tissue start to weak and do not perish.

This excessive cell proliferation results in the formation of a tumour, which deprives surrounding cells of nutrition and energy.  

Breast cancer typically begins in the inner lining of the milk ducts or the lobules that provide milk to them. It can spread to other sections of the body.  

Stages of Cancer 

A doctor determines the stage of cancer according to the size of the tumour and it has spread to lymph nodes or other parts of the body. 

There are different stages of breast cancer. One includes stages 0–4 with subcategories at each stage. Below, we describe each of these main stages. 

Stage 0:

Stage o of breast cancer is a ductal carcinoma in situ. The malignant cells are only found in the ducts and have not spread to other tissues.

At this stage, the tumour can be up to 2 centimetres (cm) wide. It has not impacted any lymph nodes, or there are just tiny groupings of cancer cells in lymph nodes. 

Stage 2:

The tumour is 2 cm wide and has begun to spread to adjacent lymph nodes, or it is 2–5 cm across and has not migrated to the lymph nodes. 

Stage 3:

The tumour is up to 5 cm wide and has spread to numerous lymph nodes, or the tumour is bigger and has spread to a few lymph nodes.  

Stage 4:

Cancer has spread to other parts of the body.  

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