Cancerous tumors found in the breast are also known as malignant breast neoplasm. These tumors are most commonly found in the lining of the breast’s milk ducts.
Breast cancer accounts for 22.9% of all non-melanoma skin cancers in women. It is 100 times more common in women than in men.
Breast tumors are classified by several factors including the size of the tumor and the stage that it has reached when it is detected. Breast tumors are measured from stage 0 through stage 4, with stage 4 tumors being the most advanced. The grade of the tumor is also looked at and this measures how the cells have differentiated themselves. The receptor status determines if the cancer calls are receptive to certain hormones. This status helps decide which treatment methods will be best.
In recent years breast cancer has received a lot of attention through public relations campaigns such as those using the pink ribbon and the development of a national awareness month in the United States.
Signs & Symptoms
Approximately 80% of breast tumors are found through self-exams and the discovery of a lump either on the breast or in the armpit. There are also forms that do not produce a lump, such as inflammatory breast cancer. This is harder to diagnose since it shares symptoms with other illnesses. Still other signs and symptoms include changes in the breast size and shape, or significant changes in the nipple.
The emphasis on diagnosing breast tumors is to catch them as early as possible. Through self-exams, mammograms, genetic screening, ultrasounds, and MRI’s, women are encouraged to have frequent screening. Although self-discovery of a lump is the most common way that breast tumors are diagnosed, by the time a tumor reaches this stage it has most likely been growing for several years.
Mammograms are the second most common tool for diagnosing breast tumors. They look for masses of irregular cells in the breast tissue. Some argue that encouraging frequent screenings causes unnecessary stress and may lead to unnecessary screenings. Others argue that frequent screening leads to earlier treatment and a better prognosis.
Treatment of breast tumors depends on the size, stage and general characteristics of the tumor. Treatments include surgery, drugs, radiation, and immunotherapy. If the tumor is detected early enough a surgery called a lumpectomy is usually performed to remove the bulk of the tumor. Radiation treatments are then given to kill any surrounding cells that may have been missed during surgery. Radiation treatments used to last for several weeks, but advances in radiation treatments has lead to very targeted treatments that may only take one week.
Chemotherapy treatments are sometimes given in an effort to prevent future breast tumors from developing. Since some breast tumors require estrogen to continue growing hormone-blocking therapy is used to deter this.
The prognosis for people with breast tumors depends largely on the size, type and staging of the tumor. When detected early enough, the prognosis for people with breast tumors is generally very good. Prognosis is determined by studying past patients and their survival rates.
An accurate prognosis is important because this is used to determine the best plan of action for treatment. If a person’s prognosis looks good their physician will most likely take the most unobtrusive (and least harmful) plan of action to treat the tumor. Up to 85% of those diagnosed with a breast tumor can survive if they are given the best possible treatment.
There are also many psychological and emotional effects of being diagnosed with a breast tumor. Many hospitals and cancer treatment centers offer support groups to help those going through the process.