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Breast Cancer

  • What is breast cancer?  Breast cancer is uncontrolled growth of breast cells.  These cells take on a different and bizarre appearance compared to their neighboring breast cells.  Over time, these cancer cells can grow and invade nearby healthy breast tissue and make their way into the underarm lymph nodes.  Once in the lymph nodes, they now have a pathway to other tissues in your body. 

  • Who gets breast cancer?  About 200,000 new invasive breast cancers and 63,000 non invasive (in-situ) breast cancers were diagnosed in 2009.  Only about 1% of all breast cancers will be diagnosed in men (Yes, men can get breast cancer too!)  A woman’s risk of breast cancer approximately doubles if she has a first degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer.

  • Why do we get breast cancer?  About 10% of all breast cancers are due to a genetic mutation that we inherit from our mother or father.  These are known as the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.  Women with these mutations have up to an 80% risk of developing breast cancer during their lifetime, and they are often diagnosed at a younger age.  An increase in other cancers are also associated with these gene mutations, specifically ovarian cancer is among those cancers.  All the rest of the cancers we diagnose (90%) are not due to heredity, but to genetic alterations of the breast cell due to aging and life in general.  We know that certain things we are exposed to increase our risk of breast cancer.  Hormone therapy is among those things that we know increase breast cancer risk. 
  • Where do I go for more information?  Web sites such as www.breastcancer.org* and www.nationalbreastcancer.org * are very informative.  Cancer support groups are a good source of information and we can provide you with a list of local activities.  Family members and friends who have been affected by breast cancer may be a good place to seek more information.